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B. Tips for Improving Doctor-Patient Communication

Narrator: This is Science Today. In today's managed health care environment, too often patients have less time to spend with their doctors. At the same time, patients are expected to be more pro-active in their care. Dean Shillinger, a primary care physician at the University of California, San Francisco says this raises some concern.

Shillinger: As we place more and more demands on patients, it becomes more and more incumbent upon us to ensure that what we've explained can be recalled, comprehended and then acted on correctly when the patient goes home. That's a pretty tall order to ask in any brief communication encounter.

Narrator: Shillinger conducted direct observation studies of doctor-patient communications and came up with a few tips for doctors.

Shillinger: You want to avoid the yes, no answers. You want to activate the patient - to sort of give them the space, say the thing that they're going to do. To really say, OK, when you go home, what are you going to tell your granddaughter about the reason that you're going to need this operation? Just to make sure that she can really say it in her own words and understand it at that level.

Narrator:For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.