Doctors cannot treat patients unless they listen. It is that simple. And doctors know it. Patients know it. However, a recent study by the Journal of General Internal Medicine reveals that doctors may not be listening well enough. The Journal focuses on the kind of doctor that we usually see: the family doctor, the primary care doctor, the internal medicine doctor. The internal medicine doctor acts as ‘gatekeeper’ under HMO insurance and must refer you to a specialist. It is also the doctor that most people go to first with a new symptom, sickness, injury or just an annual physical.
Internal medical doctors arguably need to spend the most time listening to their patients. Surgeons know the problem and the plan: repair a broken bone or replace a joint. Anesthesiologists must also speak to their patients, but usually just come in to choose safe anesthesia medicines right before a patient goes under the knife. Internal medicine is much more like a mystery investigated by a detective: they have to listen for clues, hear what the problems are, and even read between the lines because patients do not understand medicine as well as they do.
That is why it is disturbing that doctors are interrupting patients so quickly. They have heard the same thing so many times, seen the same blood test results so many times, had the same conversation so many times…that they believe they already know the answer. Doctors are under pressure. They have to see more patients in less time, order tests, monitor results, and keep the office flowing. But cutting corners and assuming that they know what you’re going to say next is dangerous for the obvious reason: they may guess wrong. Medicine is complicated. And details matter.
Sometimes the failure to listen carefully can lead to tragic results. And that is why the lawyers at Coogan Gallagher listen as carefully as possible to the details. It is true that we have heard some things before, and will have advice to offer. But we have not heard your story yet. We work on medical negligence cases and deal with the unique challenges in those cases. Our obligation is to listen carefully and take the time necessary to understand what has happened and give you our best plan for what to do next.