Improving Communication With Your Asthma Doctor In The New Year

Better Communication Better Asthma Control

Doctor in discussion with patient in exam room
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While improving doctor-patient communication is an easy win for your asthma, I find too often that neither doctors or patients put much effort into this.

Good communication can lead to improved:

  • Asthma outcomes
  • Asthma control
  • Satisfaction with your asthma care
  • Knowledge of asthma and your treatment plan
  • Comfort with self monitoring and treatment

While you cannot necessarily improve your doctor’s communication skills and may ultimately need to change doctors, there are several things you can do to improve doctor patient communication.

By taking some of the following actions you will be able to force your doctor to improve communication.

3 Questions To Improve Communication

Clear communication is essential for optimal asthma care. You need to be informed about your asthma, understand a number of complicated topics for optimal asthma control, and be able to take action. Asking the right questions concerning your asthma to your healthcare providers will help you identify what you need to know and what you need to do in order to achieve optimal asthma control.

In order to facilitate communication with your asthma doctor, make sure that you can answer the following 3 questions:

  • What is my main problem related to asthma?
  • What actions do I need to take related to my asthma?
  • Why is it important for me to take these steps?

You need to understand your main problem in order to take action. Your asthma may not under good control because you are not taking your medications as directed or maybe you need to avoid triggers.

Without understanding you will not be able to take action. After you understand the problem it is important that your doctor clearly outline the steps you need to take. Do not be afraid to say “Could you explain that to me again” or “could you be more specific.” Finally, you want to understand the why because we are all more likely to put off things if they do not seem important now.

Is My Doctor A Good Communicator?

Doctors who communicate well and effectively generally display a number of specific communication behaviors. Doctors will clarify problems by restating what they have heard in their own words and ask you if they are correct. For example, a doctor may say something like “so you are waking up more frequently having problems getting a restful nights sleep?” Likewise they will display certain behaviors like not interrupting you and look directly at you during your visit

What Steps Can I Take?

If you want to improve communication with your doctor consider implementing one of the following:

  1. Ask and make sure you understand the answers to the three questions outlined earlier in this article.
  2. Bring someone with you to your next doctor’s appointment to act as a second pair of ears to make sure you understand what the doctor tells you.
  3. Make a list of questions or problems to discuss with your doctor.
  4. Bring your medications (or at least an accurate list) and how often you have been using them.
  1. Ask your doctor to watch you use your inhalers and see if your technique is correct.
  2. Ask your pharmacist to provide you education even if you no not have specific questions about how to take your asthma medications.

Sources

National Patient Safety Foundation and The Partnership for Clear Health Communication . Consumer information. Ask Me 3.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma

Maguire P, Pitceathly C. Key Communication Skills And How To Aquire Them. BMJ 2002;325:697–700.

Gordon GH. Defining. The Skills Underlying Communication Competence. Seminars In Medical Practice 2002; 21–28.

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