Is Your Doctor Taking the Time to Listen?

houston podiatrist listens to patients goals and needsLast week I had the privilege to lecture the 1st and 2nd year medical students at the Kent State University College of Podiatric Medicine in Cleveland, OH. I always find it energizing to spend time with my soon-to-be colleagues and discuss the great profession of podiatry. In the second year class, we were discussing the importance of communication with our patients. The most crucial skill is listening.

 

There should never be a situation where you feel that your doctor doesn't hear what you have to say. The truth is, listening is often deficient on both sides...studies have shown that patients only retain 25% of what doctors tell them. That said, when I'm in a treatment room with a patient, my goal is to be 100% present.

 

I recently saw a woman who came in for a second opinion about a painful bump on the top of her foot. The cause of the bump was a bone spur on top of the great toe joint, which reduced the motion of the joint. The podiatrist she went to originally had suggested a fusion of the joint, which is a viable option for pain of this sort. By eliminating the motion of the joint, the pain is managed well. She, however, was concerned about the stiffness of the joint.

 

I then asked her what her goal of surgery. She responded that she wanted to wear her high heels again without pain. That being the case, a fusion of the joint would certainly not meet her goal. A fused joint will significantly limit the shoes she could wear. Knowing this information, I was able to offer her several alternate foot surgeries to treat her painful great toe joint. Of course, I can't guarantee any procedure will completely relieve her pain, but looking at her x-ray, I anticipate a great success with relief of pain and restored motion to the joint.

 

If the previous doctor did the joint fusion, which I again emphasize is an appropriate procedure for this issue, he could have performed a flawless surgery with a perfect result. Unfortunately, his patient would still be upset, because her goals weren't met. If he had taken the time to listen what she wanted to get out of the surgery, he could have offered the very same alternatives.

 

You should never feel that you are not heard by your doctor. If you are, get a second opinion! If you live in the Houston area, contact Dr. Andrew Schneider to assess your foot or ankle pain. He will be able to give his opinion on the best treatment for your condition.

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