Simple Tool Improves Communication Between Patients, Hospitalists


Hospitalists at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor have developed a tool to help facilitate patient communication with physicians and to "actively participate in their treatments," says Aaron Farberg, MD. "Their treatment plans will, in turn, be more effective," Dr. Farberg adds.

Called Dear Doctor (DD) notes, the tool is a pre-formatted notepad placed on a bedside table for hospital patients to consult throughout their stay. Patients can write down questions under three suggested prompts: diagnosis and treatment, tests and procedures, and medications. Such a simple tool is "absent in the inpatient setting, and can have an impact on a patient’s perceived and actual medical care," Dr. Farberg says.

Family members of patients can also benefit from DD notes by voicing their questions or concerns to the physicians. “Often their active participation in the healthcare plan is an essential element in successful treatment,” Dr. Farberg says.

Surveyed patients experienced better communication with hospitalists and had an enhanced experience with their providers and hospital. Patients and their families were happy their questions were answered and not forgotten. They had a sense of control and accountability in their own care. The study urges hospitalists and care providers to be mindful of the patient’s entire experience throughout hospital stay. TH

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