Thursday, January 03, 2008
Survey shows what patients want from physicians

By Anthony Policastro, M.D

As a member of the Board of Medical Practice for the State of Delaware, I receive a medical journal that talks about physician behavior. The latest issue had the results of a patient survey. The survey asked patients about what they expect from a doctor. There were seven characteristics that patients want to see in their physician. The first of those is confidence. The physician should refer to state of the art medical practices. There should be evidence that the physician has experience treating the condition that the patient has. There should be a welcome attitude in discussing what patients have read or heard from sources like the Internet. That is true even if the source appears to be inaccurate. They should feel at ease with the patient and their accompanying family members. The second quality is that the physician be empathetic. That includes good eye contact with both the patient and the family. It includes paying attention to both the verbal and nonverbal (body language) concerns of the patient. It includes repeating the patient's concerns. That ensures that they understand them. It includes sharing relevant personal stories. It includes speaking in a sympathetic and calm tone of voice. The third characteristic is being humane. This is manifested by appropriate physical contact. It is manifested by being attentive. That means attentiveness to the patient and the situation. The physician should indicate a willingness to spend adequate time with the patient by not appearing to have hurried movements. The physician should arrange non-medical assistance for the patient when needed. This may include social work of chaplain services. The fourth characteristic is being personal. The physician should ask the patient about their lives. The physician should discuss his/her own personal interests. There should be appropriate humor. There should be an acknowledgement of the patient's family. There should be evidence of remembering details about the patient's life from previous visits. The physician should be forthright. Information should be presented factually. It should not be sugarcoated. There should not be a lot of medical terms used. There should be time spent on both the pros and cons of treatment. The patient should be asked to restate the conversation to make sure there is understanding. The sixth characteristic is being respectful. The physician should apologize if the patient is kept waiting. The physician should listen carefully and not interrupt when the patient is describing concerns. The physician should provide choices and be willing to list the preferred choice when asked. The physician should solicit patient's input in treatment options and scheduling. The physician should take care to maintain the patient's modesty during the exam. The last characteristic is being thorough. This includes detailed explanations. This includes giving instructions in writing. This includes following up as expected in a timely manner. This includes using consultants when necessary. This includes looking up information in the medical literature when necessary. While all of these are important, it is very hard to do them all at each visit. However, when a patient sees a physician for a series of visits, these are the kinds of characteristics that they are looking for. The best doctor in the world may not present this way. That will give patients a bad impression even when that is not appropriate.

Depression support group in Laurel
The Mental health Association in Delaware will be sponsoring a Depression Support Group in Laurel on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month. The meetings begin at 7 p.m. The purpose of the Laurel Depression Support Group is to share experiences related to living and coping with depression. The group is confidential and offered at no charge. The MHA encourages anyone dealing with a depressive disorder to attend. Register in advance by calling 1-800-287-6423.
  • Peer support groups sponsored by Mental Health Association of Delaware are not intended to replace professional mental health treatment. To maintain the privacy of our members, MHA does not publish support group locations; locations are provided with registration.

  • Stroke support group
    Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will offer free monthly Stroke Support Group meetings designed for individuals who have survived a stroke and their families and caregivers. Meetings are held the third Thursday of each month at Nanticoke Cancer Care Center, from 1:30 - 3:30 p.m. The meetings will consist of guest speakers and breakaway sessions, in which caregivers and survivors will meet in two groups to discuss concerns, provide support and networking. Refreshments will be provided. Sheila Brant and Joan Burditt, occupational therapists at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, will facilitate the support group meetings. Pre-registration is not required. For more information, call 629-6611, ext. 5121.

    Alzheimer's holds training
    The Alzheimer's Association Delaware Valley Chapter is sponsoring a training program for family caregivers at LifeCare at Lofland Park in Seaford on Friday, Jan. 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The program includes a medical overview; legal and financial issues; challenging symptoms, daily care issues; and information on getting the help you need. The session is free and lunch will be provided, but pre-registration is required by Jan. 11. For more information or to register, call Jamie Magee, branch office coordinator, at 854-9788.

    Respite Care Services can help
    Millions of Americans provide unpaid assistance each year to elderly family, friends and neighbors to help those individuals remain in their own homes for as long as possible. Like paid employees, these caregivers need time off to relax or take care of other responsibilities. Often that is not practical or even possible. This is where respite care can be helpful, and can allow caregivers a break without compromising the care and attention that their loved ones require. The Sussex County Advisory Committee on Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities invites the public to attend the committee's next meeting at 10 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 14. Sally Beaumont, program director for adult day health services at Easter Seals of Delaware, Georgetown, will provide information about respite services available in Sussex County. She will also talk about the growing need for these services. An open discussion about these services and the anticipated need in the area will follow the presentation. The Sussex County Advisory Committee for the Aging & Adults with Physical Disabilities is an 11-member panel established by the Sussex County Council to be an advocate for programs and policies that benefit older and disabled residents. The committee meets on the third Monday of January, March, May, July, September and November. All meetings are open to the public. The Advisory Committee's mission is to increase dialogue, make recommendations to Sussex County Council, and to give support, assistance and advice on significant issues and programs that may affect the lives of the county's aging and adults with physical disabilities populations.

    Safe Sitter Classes
    Safe Sitter classes for girls and boys aged 11 to 13 will be offered at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital. The course will be held from 9 a.m. till 3 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21. The Safe Sitter program is a medically-accurate instructional series that teaches youngsters how to handle emergencies when caring for younger children. The cost is $35. Participants are to bring a bag lunch. To register your son or daughter or your child's babysitter, call 629-6611 ext. 2540. The goal of Safe Sitter is to reduce the number of accidental and preventable deaths among children being cared for by babysitters. Thousands of young adolescents across the country have been trained by Safe Sitter to handle life-threatening emergencies. All medical information will be taught by a certified professional. During the course, students get hands-on practice in basic life-saving techniques so they are prepared to act in a crisis. Instructors also provide tips to make sitters more confident caregivers. They teach safety and security precautions, such as what to do if a stranger comes to the door and when and how to call for help. They give information on child development and suggest age-appropriate activities. Participants will learn about the business aspects of babysitting. For more information about Safe Sitter, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital at 629-6611 extension 2540.