Does YOUR doctor listen to you? But, really listen?

By Shlomo  Maital


Does your doctor listen to what you say? I mean, REALLY listen? And ask you a lot of questions?

   I’ve just finished reading a fascinating book, Reaching down the Rabbit Hole: A Renowned Neurologist Explains the Mystery and Drama of Brain Disease, by Dr. Allan H. Ropper, and Brian David Burrell. (St. Martin’s Press, 2014). Basically Burrell, a wonderful writer, was a fly on the wall, and wrote down stories about how Ropper figured out what went wrong with people’s brains.

   A key point Ropper stresses is this:   The technology for scanning brains has advanced tremendously. MRI and CT scans reveal a great deal. But nonetheless, a great doctor still needs to listen to the patient, observe and ask questions.   Dr. Ropper writes:

   “Many [patients] have driven for an hour or two, even three, to [Boston], and they want to be heard. What they hope, what they expect, what they decree, is that we take the time to listen, because the act of listening is therapeutic in itself. When we do it right, we learn details that make us better doctors for the next patient. The residents may not get this yet. They are focused on diagnosis and treatment, on technology, on scales, titers, doses, ratios, elevation, and deficiencies. All well and good, I tell them, but don’t forget to listen!

   Does your doctor listen to you. Really listen? If not – and who can blame them, many times they are required to see X patients per hour, leaving no more than 10 minutes per patient — try to find one who does.

   As I’ve noted before, even in modern medicine, technology comes last, not first.