22 May 2013


Can Better Communication Improve Medical Care?

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By Lisa Weber, CHC, Student in the Master’s Program at Emperor’s College

Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency room physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a clinical fellow at Harvard Medical School and author of When Doctor’s Don’t Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests, recently took time out of her book tour to visit Emperors College and share her vision for what Western medicine can do to improve patient care, and what patients can do to ensure they get the most from their doctor.

Lisa Weber

Lisa Weber, CHC

Though a traditionally-trained MD, Dr. Wen’s advocacy for deepening patient-practitioner communication hits at the heart of Oriental medicine, and sheds light on the movement within Western medicine to refocus on the whole person, not merely the collection of a patient’s symptoms and diagnoses. Dr. Wen even draws inspiration from traditional Chinese medicine which further excites us and demonstrates Western medicine’s growing interest in collaborating with other healthcare providers for the betterment of patient outcomes.

Lisa Weber, first-year student of the master’s of traditional Oriental medicine at Emperor’s College, read When Doctor’s Don’t Listen and attended Dr. Wen’s presentation at Emperor’s College. She shares her insights from both below.

Want to win a copy of Dr. Wen’s book, When Doctor’s Don’t Listen?
Tweet the hashtag #emperorscollege and tell us why you’re interested in the book.
We’ll pick 5 winners by June 18, 2013.

 

When Doctor’s Don’t Listen

When Doctors Don’t Listen is a title that demands attention. Is this a book that demeans doctors and our current health care system or is it railing against Western medicine? Perhaps it’s simply a collection of stories about failed doctors?

The book is actually none of those things and yet entails so much more. It is a message to both medical providers and patients about how health care outcomes can be improved by focusing on two-way communication.

When speaking at Emperors College, Dr. Wen started with three powerfully moving stories about doctors who relied so heavily on diagnostic tests to rule out a checklist of possible syndromes that they missed the entire picture of the patient’s health. And of patients who did not actively engage with their doctor or missed an opportunity to be an integral partner in the diagnostic process.

What is the solution? According to Dr. Wen, patients and providers must focus on creating a partnership based on communication. Medical providers need to do a better job listening to what is being said as well as what not is being said, and patients need to show their desire to be informed and involved in their medical care.

When Doctors Do Listen

As an Oriental medicine student and health coach, asking open-ended questions and utilizing good listening skills are foundational to all patient interactions. We are trained to open our eyes a little wider and seek to view the whole person instead of focusing on a singular issue or part of the body. Only when the physician begins the patient interaction with “tell me about you” can the full picture come into focus.  As Dr. Wen said so beautifully, “Healing disease isn’t enough. We have to heal the whole body.”

Photo of Dr. Leana Wen + Lisa Weber

Dr. Leana Wen (left) + Lisa Weber

Changing how we interact as patients and practitioners on the basic level is very achievable. It comes down to two-way communication: the art of active listening and the skill of engaging proactively. In order for us as patients to be heard, we must want to be involved in the decisions regarding our health, not be afraid to ask about the pros and cons of each test or treatment prescribed, and be willing to ask what the alternatives are. Simply said, we must be willing to form a partnership with our medical provider. After all, this is your body and your healthcare practitioner truly wants to be a healer.

So everyone, take charge! Be proactive in your health. After all, in the words of Dr. Leana Wen: “All medicine is personal.”

Dr. Wen’s lecture confirmed what I’ve learned so far as an Oriental medicine student and practicing health coach: Medicine is both an art and a science. Oriental medicine, at its core, emphasizes the need for healers to be good listeners. Because when doctors do listen, patients almost immediately begin to feel better just by knowing they have someone on their side.

Lisa Weber is a Health Coach who offers nutrition and lifestyle programs for men and women who want to lose weight, gain energy and heal recurring health issues. Graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, she is currently studying Oriental Medicine at Emperor’s College in Santa Monica, CA and loves sneaking leafy greens into any dish she can! For more information or to sign up for her newsletter, visit her website at www.HealthByLisa.com.

Want to win a copy of Dr. Wen’s book, When Doctor’s Don’t Listen?
Tweet the hashtag #emperorscollege and tell us why you’re interested in the book.
We’ll pick 5 winners by June 18, 2013.

 

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One Response to “Can Better Communication Improve Medical Care?”

  1. Reply Dr. Leana Wen says:

    Thank you, Lisa, for your beautifully-written post! It was my honor to speak at Emperor’s College and to learn from all you. I look forward to staying in touch and working with you all in the future.

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