Barriers For The Doctor and The Patient

Certain barriers, if not recognized or corrected, can hamper or destroy effective communication. Some of them are listed below.

The Doctor

  • Withholding information or giving information in a cold, tactless manner.
  • Raising his or her voice.
  • “Talking down” to patients.
  • Using medical terms unfamiliar to patients.
  • Holding discussions with the patient while standing in the doorway, signaling he or she is really too busy to give you the time you need.
  • Discussing serious or personal matters with the patient or family in busy hospital halls, busy waiting rooms, etc.
  • Pressing the patient to make a serious medical decision without adequate knowledge or time to think about it.
  • Belittling patients who ask questions that are important to them.
  • Not making available pen and paper in the waiting room and examination room so patients can organize their questions and take notes.

The Patient

  • Withholding information (not telling your doctor about current medical problems, or that you’re not taking your medicine properly, or that you are taking complementary therapies, or about major personal problems that could affect your treatment).
  • Raising your voice.
  • Forgetting that doctors deserve your respect—not your worship.
  • Pretending you understand when you really don’t. (Ask for explanations in terms you can understand, since you want to work with your doctor in your treatment and recovery. Keep asking until you understand.)
  • Taking an inordinate amount of the doctor’s time (at the expense of other patients) when it’s possible for you to schedule a separate period of time for in-depth discussion.
  • Allowing the doctor to discuss sensitive matters in inappropriate places. (Instead, be polite but interrupt and suggest moving to a more private area).
  • Being reluctant to ask for more time to make a decision that could affect you for the rest of your life. (Ask how much time you can reasonably take for decision-making without reducing the chance that your treatment will be most effective.)
  • Being embarrassed to ask a question about your body or treatment that’s important to you.
  • Being afraid to ask a “dumb” question. (If you are thinking about it, it’s not a dumb question.)
  • Not making a list of questions prior to seeing the doctor.
  • Not taking notes while talking with the doctor.
  • Not analyzing the doctor’s responses to questions and asking follow-up questions.

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