Another of the highlights of Nance’s book Why Hospitals Should Fly involves the importance of unambiguous communication and the need to seek clarity from others. The line that really caught my attention was, “I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure if you realize that what you heard wasn’t what I meant?”
All too often, in medicine and in life, miscommunications occur. When we say something, it comes from the context in which we are currently thinking. The receiver of the message may interpret the words in some completely different context. This can result in dramatic degrees of miscommunication between health care professionals and between physicians and their patients. These kinds of miscommunications are one element discussed in my book, Compartments: How the Brightest, Best Trained, and Most Caring People Can Make Judgments That are Completely and Utterly Wrong (www.compartmentsbook.com).
Nance points out that we should listen to people repeat back what they said to us. That’s one helpful approach. Having a buddy come with the patient to record key points is another. Written instructions may be the most valuable way to assure good communication between doctors and patients.