Saturday, September 19, 2009

Making Meatloaf

Sharing information between medical professionals and patients and families is similar to sharing a meatloaf recipe. We can request the recipe from someone for their delicious meatloaf, but if they don’t share the recipe in detail, every detail that we need to know, we won’t get the same outcome.

If even one item or description is left out (how much bread crumbs, how large an onion or what cut of chopped meat), then the recipe will be incomplete and the outcome will be different.

The information being shared, and being heard, is filtered through 3 basic areas: Trust, Expertise, and Life Experience.

Trust is how much you can believe or count on someone. As the listener, you decide whether you can trust someone. Trust that the information is accurate. Trust that the information is complete. We even trust in ourselves that we have all the information we need without checking further.

Expertise is the knowledge that we each have about a particular subject. The listener may have expertise in an area so they do not pay close attention to the speaker. For example, an early childhood specialist may be a fine teacher but not know about childhood diseases.

Life experience focuses on your past experience. Have you been diagnosed with the flu in the past so now you may not listen carefully enough to what the doctor is saying to do for these symptoms? Or, perhaps the doctor treated a patient who has been noncompliant in the past, so now he spends less time with that patient.

By recognizing that we are filtering information constantly, we can avoid missing important information by being sure that what we say is being heard accurately. We can ask the doctor to repeat back what he heard us say. And we can repeat back what the doctor said to us.

A medical professional can easily miss a diagnosis if we forget to share all important information. The healthcare professional should repeat back the symptoms we have told them. The same goes for what we have heard them explain.

What time of day to take the medication and how many pills need to be taken at once can mean the difference between a positive outcome and one that has disastrous results.

So next time you get information from the medical professional treating you, or whether you are sharing a meatloaf recipe, be sure to repeat back what you “think” you heard so the outcome is what you want.

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