Does your Doctor Listen?

Dr Joseph MaroonWhen a person comes into a doctor’s office they are always under a some type of stress.  They have come to you for a problem they often know very little about, are typically in pain or discomfort and desperately trying to remember everything they want to say about their condition.  With that backdrop physicians are often tempted to help the patient by asking questions, seeking out pointed facts, writing notes and discussing a possible diagnosis with the nurse or colleague in the room.   Sound right?  We have all witnessed this but is it the best way to find out what is really going on?   New research shows that despite good intentions the detective method of interviewing patients can fall short and leave gaps in knowing what is actually wrong with the patient.  Many hospital systems, including UPMC, have been working to improve this process to improve patient-physician satisfaction and encourage a better communication strategy ultimately to improve healthcare.  During the patient interview, without the added stress of answering questions, a physician who is carefully listening can often learn where to start on the path that will hopefully lead to a successful treatment plan.

UPMC for several years has been surveying patients after their physician visit to gain insight on patient-physician communication.  In the most recent poll for FY 2014 Dr Maroon was rated by his patients as having the highest score of patient satisfaction with physician communication in the Department of Neurosurgery.  With an over all score of 94.6% patients surveyed rate Dr Maroon in the following categories: 

  1. How often your doctor listened carefully to you?
  2. How often your doctor explained things to you in a way you could understand?
  3. How often your doctor treated you with courtesy and respect?

“When I talk with my patients I try not to focus only on their presenting condition,” states Dr Maroon, “I want to learn about the person first, such as where they live and what they do, and then discuss the medical problem.”  Often during this initial discussion people tend to relax and can begin to focus on why they are here and what is their expectations for their potential treatment.  I will often ask about their nutritional health as well and seek alternatives therapies such as omega-3 fish oil to help joint pain.”

As healthcare continues to evolve the physician/patient relationship will continue to be the foundation for making better healthcare solutions.  Consider when you meet with your physician to have notes to refer to, an up to date list of your medications and allergies, try to accurately know dates of changes in your health and consider keeping a health diary if you can’t remember.  If you become intimidated or feel rush tell your doctor.  The goal of both the physician and patient is the same – to help you stay healthy.  Through better team work and communication we can help to meet this goal.


Tri-State Neurosurgical Associates-UPMC
Office Addresses:
Administrative Oakland Office
Presbyterian University Hospital
Department of Neurosurgery
Suite 5C
200 Lothrop Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Phone: 1-888-234-4357

© 2014 Tri-State Neurosurgical Associates – UPMC