Good to see you back in the blogs again! Okay, let’s discover how a doctor can “hear” the unheard patient and how this makes all the difference…
When spending more appointment time with an unheard patient, I listen carefully to them. I then paraphrase their key points back to them to show that I both hear and understand them.
At this point, I use the particular phrases and concepts that my childhood dentist discussed with me when I was accepted into medical school years ago. I call these “Anything else?” sessions. (See ANEL – ANYTHING ELSE? story in the “Lessons Learned and Shared” blog — https://wipediseases.org/articles/page/2/).
I ask the unheard patient these questions:
- Anything else? Is there anything else I can help you with today?
- Do you have any other questions?
- What else? What else would you like me to know?
I continue to ask these questions until there are no more issues to discuss with the unheard patient.
To be clear, my goal for our first appointment is not to solve all of these problems or issues — although I would like to.
Instead, my goal is to ensure that unheard patients leave the office feeling that I have heard their concerns. Then, I address individual concerns and problems in future visits.
Many times, I share with unheard patients that we doctors don’t have all of the answers. I often add that I wish I had a Star Trek tricorder that could give me the answers to fix their problems! But since this doesn’t exist yet, we have to use our current tools to address their symptoms.
I further explain that we may not be able to fix their problems. However, I want to work as a team with them. As a team, we will identify problems that may be dangerous to their health and improve what is possible to improve.
Year after year, I’m absolutely amazed how these “Anything else” sessions often bring about such a change in many patients’ attitudes.
Many unheard patients transform from being a complaining spectator to being an active, problem-solving member of their healthcare team.
Key Point: Really listening to people on a personal level and continuing to ask if there’s “Anything else?” often makes a huge, positive impact on “unheard” patients’ attitudes. In turn, their improved attitudes positively impact our future appointments.