Coaching Helps Ask Right Questions

The review of 33 studies looked at question checklists for patients and in-office coaching. Asking more questions during a visit to the doctor might help patients get care that is more satisfactory, but many patients are not sure where to start.

When interventions took place immediately before a consultation, they resulted in a small but significant increase in the duration of the office visit. Interventions that occurred some time before the consultation had no effect. In general, interventions produced small increases in patient satisfaction, plus a possible reduction in patient anxiety before and after visits. Coaching had a slightly larger benefit in patient satisfaction than providing question checklists.

“Patients need to have the courage and confidence to ask questions,” said Sherrie Kaplan, Ph.D., co-director of the Center for Health Policy at the University of California, Irvine. “Many patients don’t want to look stupid.”

The review also looked at the value of refresher courses in communication skills for doctors. Doctors can underestimate their patients’ information needs for a variety of reasons, according to the review authors. When treating patients with serious or life-threatening illnesses, doctors might be reluctant to dispense information that they feel could be harmful or disturbing. Alternatively, they sometimes focus so hard on confirming a diagnosis that they do not take the time to encourage patient involvement in constructing more individualized treatment approaches.

The review found small increases in consultation time when doctors received training, but found no significant increase in patient satisfaction. Ultimately, the review recommended more studies to compare methods of intervention, intervention timing and the possible benefits of additional training for health care providers.

MEDICA.de; Source: Health Behavior News Service