A lot has been written about how and why physicians don’t listen to patients and the frustrations and real health problems that can result. Every major media outlet seems to have an article on it, and they are typically titled something like “When Doctors Don’t Listen…” (read in your best Wolf Blitzer voice). Many of them offer tools and strategies for how to get your doctor to listen, or more dramatically “how to break up with your doctor.”
Curiously, I cannot find much about “When hospitals don’t listen to doctors.” In fact, I just keep finding more about doctors not listening.
But, according to researchers at The Advisory Board Company and the results of their physician engagement survey, the lowest ranking “engagement driver” reported by physicians is: “This organization is open and responsive to my input.” In other words, physicians are telling us their hospital isn’t listening (so it obviously can’t respond).
So, perhaps the listening problem is more pervasive in healthcare than we have been willing to discuss or, at least, write about. Perhaps, not listening is a full-blown cultural problem that starts at the top of the organization and trickles all the way down into the patient experience.
Listening is the point at which communication starts. So, as we work to improve communication between hospitals and physicians and between physicians and patients, we should start by investing in listening and the tools and processes that support timely, actionable feedback, topical discussion, and relevant forums for physician input.
If we don’t start listening, we will never get communication right.