May 20, 2015 – Physician Communication


Anchor lead:  Being aware of communication issues helps patients get the best care they can, Elizabeth Tracey reports

No one likes to hear bad news from their physician, but it may be surprising that physicians also may not be especially adept at delivering it.  That’s one message given recently by Tony Back, an oncologist and healthcare communication expert at a recent Johns Hopkins symposium on how to have those difficult conversations.

Back: When you’re talking about serious illness there’s always an undercurrent of emotional stuff happening. I’m often talking to people about news nobody would want to hear. And so I have to be really aware that when I start to talk about that kind of big news the most common reaction is for people to go oh my gosh! And then they go off line because their emotional brains run away with them. And if I’m not alert to that then I’ll end up giving this big explanation, very complete, very scientific, and it’s a complete waste of time.   :31

Back says this is one reason patients may bring an advocate along who may not be as emotionally involved.  At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.