“Mrs. S said to me that no one had ever told her she had heart issues, and I tried my best to explain further. Yet I couldn’t be entirely sure that she understood, accepted, or even truly wanted me to be explaining this to her in that moment in time. She looked at me, smiled, nodded, and offered a polite, ‘Thank you.’ But in a few weeks or months’ time, will she ask her next doctor the same question, and might they also wonder, as I did, where her previous doctors went wrong?
“As much as we must ask how much our patients understand about their illness, we must also ask ourselves how much we understand about our patients. Patients do not always remember what we say, but they will always remember the way we made them feel.
“We need to do better at knowing what to say, how to say it, and when to say it if we want communication to truly work.”
1. Lin, AH et al. “Repeat Hospitalizations Predict Mortality in Patients With Heart Failure.” Mil Med. 2017 Sep;182(9):e1932-e1937.
2. O’Leary, Kevin J et al. “Hospitalized patients’ understanding of their plan of care.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings vol. 85,1 (2010): 47-52.
NOTE FROM CAROLYN: I wrote much more about doctor-patient communication in my book, “A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease”. You can ask for it at your local bookshop, or order it online (paperback, hardcover or e-book) at Amazon, or order it directly from my publisher, Johns Hopkins University Press (use the JHUP code HTWN to save 30% off the list price).
Q: Can you relate to Mrs. S, who believed she’d never been told about her heart condition?