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Joe and Terry Graedon interviewed me about my book Compartments on the People’s Pharmacy: Compartments and Communication.

Our interview was about how misperceptions can lead to communication difficulties that interfere with good health care. When people are operating within their own area of expertise, they may find it hard to understand what the big picture looks like from another person’s perspective. Whether the differences lie between doctor and patient or between different health care providers, the results can be unfair judgments and missed opportunities.

This  attitude can affect the way doctors interpret the results of placebo-controlled trials and how they feel about home remedies. We also discussed the pros and cons of e-mail communication between doctors and patients, and how to choose a good doctor.

Listen here and let me know what you think.

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One of the big efforts to improve the quality of medical care in the United States is the implementation of electronic health records. By putting our medical charts into electronic media, doctors will have more uniform access to our health histories, can be given ticklers for important screening tests, and can be told of potential drug interactions with medicines that were prescribed by other doctors, along with many other potential benefits. You can learn more about the advantages [and disadvantages] of electronic health records on my Getting Better Health Care radio program: “Will the electronic medical record revolutionize health care?.

These benefits may help improve patient satisfaction, too.

However, electronic health records have the potential to negatively impact patients’ medical experiences.  DrScore.com research has shown that the No. 1 factor that drives patients’ satisfaction with their doctors is the patient knowing he or she is seeing a friendly, caring doctor.  If patients find their doctors buried in a computer screen, punching buttons and typing, it could take away from the sense that the doctor is providing the patient personal attention.

There are some things doctors can do to manage the situation.

  • First, don’t put the computer on one side of the doctor’s chair and the patient on the other.  If you do place things that way, the doctor has to  turn their back to the patient to see the chart, and that is simply not good for patients’ impressions of their doctor.  I know, because that’s how things are arranged in my new office!
  • The other thing that doctors can do, especially if their office is like mine, is to acknowledge the problem to the patient. Tell the patient, “These new electronic health records are helpful in so many ways, but one thing I don’t like about them is that I have to turn my back to you to look at your chart.  I hope you will understand and don’t mind.”  Comments like these let patients clearly know that they are being seen by a physician that cares about them and about their feelings.  Letting patients in on one of these little secrets about medical office functioning also lets them feel like they are a part of the process. And they are part of the process — they are the very center of it.

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February — the month of Valentine’s Day and love. In the next week, we will be releasing who is America’s Most Loved Doctor, a doctor who had a significant number of ratings, along with the highest average rating, during 2010.

Last year’s America’s Most Loved Doctor was Thomas Selznick, DO, a family practitioner in Livonia, Michigan, with Livonia Family Physicians. His overall score was a 9.96 out of 10, and patient after patient described how ‘caring’ he was, how he takes time with the patient, listens and doesn’t hurry.

Who will be this year’s most loved doctor? I’ll give you a hint — it’s a doctor from the south this year, and it’s not a family practitioner.

Do you have a favorite doctor that you would like to see as America’s Most Loved Doctor for 2011? The way to do it is to provide feedback about your doctor through a DrScore.com survey. Rate your doctor and encourage other patients to rate him or her, too!

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Pissed off patients aren’t the only ones who rate doctors — happy ones do, too.

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“You can cite all the statistics you want but I am telling you, that a pissed off patient is about 20 times more likely to post than a happy patient!”

I hear this type of comment quite often from doctors who think doctor reviews and online doctor rating are bad things.  However, I’ve run against the current on many issues in the past.  I don’t mind doing it.  My research found that tanning beds had addictive properties years before it became conventional to think so.  My research on how poorly patients used their medicine changed a lot of thinking in dermatology about how to best treat patients.  Some doctors still don’t believe me when I tell them online doctor rating is good for patients and for doctors.

Looking at individual ratings, on a 0-10 scale where 10 is the best score, the most common score a doctor gets on DrScore.com is a 10.  The next most common score is a 9.  The average score of doctors with 20 or more ratings is OVER 9 out of 10.  It amazes me that anyone familiar with these data believes that only unhappy patients rate doctors.

I can’t say that unhappy patients aren’t more likely to rate their doctor.  What I can say is that doctors have so, so many happy patients that doctors who have 20 or more ratings have an average score of over 9 out of 10.  Doctors shouldn’t be afraid of doctor reviews and online ratings; doctors should embrace online ratings and encourage all patients to rate their doctors.  Doctors have nothing to hide. Letting the public see a representative score of how doctors are doing will help the public see what a good job U.S. doctors are doing.

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A dark side of medical care?.

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Doctors strive to give their patients great medical care, but Dr. Evan Levine, author of the book, What Your Doctor Won’t (or Can’t) Tell You, and of the blog, Healthcare – A Behind the Scenes Look, believes there’s another side to the story:

Doctors engaging in unethical practices and taking advantage of patients to make money.

Hear from Dr. Levine and find out what he thinks you should watch out for on Getting Better Health Care.

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