Doctors Talking with Patients/Patients Talking with Doctors: Improving Communication in Medical Visits

By Debra L. Roter; Judith A. Hall | Go to book overview

9
Improving Talk through Interventions

Imagine you are a man in your fifties, suffering a long two days in the hospital before your coronary bypass surgery. You have many questions about what's about to happen, and naturally you have fears too. Your hospital roommate is also awaiting surgery, but his is for fusing of the vertebrae in his back following a long history of disc trouble.

Suppose you are an eighty-year-old woman living in a nursing home. You can get around with your walker, but you often wonder what the point is--you seem to be losing some of your interest in things. One day the director, speaking to you and others from your floor, reminds you that you have responsibility for this as your home and should decide how you want your room to look.

Now, imagine you are a man of seventy-five, quite alert and energetic, but burdened with a growing list of ailments for which you regularly see your doctor. Sometimes you get confused about the increasingly complex explanations and drug regimens your doctor offers. In fact, the last time your daughter asked about your health, you found you didn't have the answers to several obviously important questions and had to admit you were not sure you were taking all the drugs you were supposed to.

How wonderful it would be if one could decrease the anxiety of the man in the hospital, increase the zest of the woman in the nursing home, and improve the elderly man's understanding of his regimen. Is it possible? And at what cost? How elaborate or intense an effort would have to be made by someone--doctors, social workers, psychologists--to achieve these gains? Has anyone tried?

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