An Ophthalmologist “Nails It” Regarding Physician-Patient Communication

Head shot of Dr. David Friedman. Credit: NOVA

I first published this story on March 17, 2011, but believe it’s equally relevant today. I think you’ll agree.

Meet Doctor Friedman

David S. Friedman, MD, MPH, PhD, is a prominent and powerful advocate for enhanced physician-patient communication. Doctor Friedman is an ophthalmologist whose primary practice is located at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. He discussed the current state of physician-patient communication during his recent presentation at the Richard A. Ellis Lecture at the Wills Eye Institute Alumni Conference.

He delivered his remarks within the context of increasing patients’ adherence to glaucoma medication regimens, but I believe his insights are applicable to all physicians, especially his comments regarding educational interventions to help practitioners learn more effective communication skills:

We do a terrible job. We’re not good at talking to our patients, and you can do better. Changing the way we talk can improve outcomes. I view this area as an area of tremendous opportunity.

Talking To Patients

Dr. Friedman cited data from the Glaucoma Adherence and Persistency Study, which revealed that 10% of patients admitted to not using drops as directed. He also discussed several recent compliance studies that revealed the following (via OSN SuperSite):

Physicians spent an average of six minutes speaking with patients, and [only] 18% asked their patients open-ended questions about disease and treatment.

After educational intervention, 82% of physicians asked open-ended questions. In addition, 78% of physicians detected non-adherence, compared with 25% before intervention, Dr. Friedman said.

Intervention strategies included educational videos, text messaging, and weekly telephone calls to remind patients of scheduled office visits.

More About Doctor Friedman

You can learn more about Dr. Friedman’s life and career in this wide-ranging interview from the NOVA Doctors’ Diaries series. The following passage is especially illustrative of his philosophy regarding physician-patient communication:

Q: Is the desire to be connected to other people part of why you enjoy being a doctor?

David: Absolutely. Part of that search for connectedness is fulfilled in the patient-doctor relationship. There’s this true intimacy. You’re alone in a room, talking about life. Probably every week, somebody cries to me about something that happened in his or her family.

Thank you, Dr. Friedman. Your message is critically important and must be heeded by all of us who are involved in patient/client/consumer care. They deserve no less than our best.