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Cultivating Empathy Between Doctors and Patients

This post was written by CommunicateHealth intern Sam Lashof.flip the clinic

Have you ever left your doctor’s office wishing the experience had been different? Maybe you wish the doctor had addressed your concerns more directly or sensitively — or maybe you felt like your appointment was too rushed and wish the doctor had given you some more time.

Chances are doctors have probably had similar feelings after an appointment — perhaps wishing patients were able to more clearly articulate questions or concerns, or that their patients recognized that they’re providing the best care they can.

Thanks to Flip the Clinic, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation project based in San Francisco, both patients and clinicians recently had the opportunity to articulate their wishes for patient-provider interactions, and to read and respond to each other’s comments.  The organization took to Twitter with the hashtags #IWishMyDoc and #IWishMyPatient to spark this important dialogue between doctors and patients.

What the conversation makes clear is that there’s an intense need for this kind of dialogue in order to improve the quality of patient-provider interactions — and that a lot of it comes down to both parties having empathy for the other’s experience.

Here are a few of our favorite tweets from the conversation:

  • @kmccarty76 #IWishMyDoc would see the whole me not just the symptom I present
  • @aneto #iwishmydoc would consider how much anxiety a chronic diagnosis can cause and refer newly diagnosed to mental health resources
  • @DrBobbylsln #iwishmypatient understood the anguish I experience when something untoward occurs, and the overwhelming joy I feel when they do well.
  • @JackWestMD #IWishMyPatient would open up w/their concerns during a visit so I can address them directly, rather than avoid asking Q

Clearly, there’s a pretty serious gap in terms of how doctors and patients are connecting with one another. And that’s a big problem, since high-quality care can often hinge on effective patient-provider communication. Flip The Clinic helped start a conversation about how to bridge that gap — and at CommunicateHealth, we’re confident that everyone has a lot to gain from keeping that conversation going.

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