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Hey, doc, are you listening?

Los Angeles Times/Tribune Newspapers, July 7, 2011

Good communication is critical to good medical care. When a physician listens respectfully, asks questions and picks up on clues, patients tend to be more involved in their care, more open about what's wrong, and better informed and more satisfied with their visit. Satisfied patients also have fewer hospitalizations, doctor visits and lab tests. "Inadequate communication," according to a 2010 study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, "is associated with worse patient satisfaction, worse trust, more complaints and malpractice claims." Any good physician will be competent and possess the clinical skills in whatever area of medicine she practices — you should expect that, says Diane Pinakiewicz, president of the National Patient Safety Foundation. But there's more to being a good doctor. "A good doctor communicates effectively with the patient and whoever else the patient includes in the process (such as family)," she says.