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Physician-Patient Communications Lesson for Internal Medicine Marketing (and everyone else)

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

–George Bernard Shaw

Male doctor talking through a mega phone

Failure to Communicate

Doctors and patients don’t agree about how well they are communicating with each other. This according to a study published in the August Archives of Internal Medicine. We suspect this physician-patient communications failure isn’t limited to internal medicine or internal medicine marketing.

Granted it was a small survey, but the communications gap was big. It's a practical reminder that physician-patient communications may not be working as well as you think.

The survey group (physicians and patients at a hospital in Connecticut affiliated with Yale University School of Medicine), 67 percent of the doctors thought patients knew their name, but only 18 percent of the patients got the doctor’s name right.

Most (77%) doctors thought patients knew their diagnosis, but only 57 percent of patients did. Nearly all physicians (98%) stated that they at least sometimes discussed their patients' fears and anxieties, compared with 54% of patients who said their physicians never did this.

The bottom line: “Significant differences exist between patients' and physicians' impressions about patient knowledge and inpatient care received. Steps to improve patient-physician communication should be identified and implemented.”

In the interest of full disclosure, Cool Hand Luke did not participate in this study, but previously observed: "What we've got here is (a) failure to communicate." It's a universal lesson in healthcare marketing.

ABSTRACT: Communication Discrepancies Between Physicians and Hospitalized Patients Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(15):1302-1307. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2010.239

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