How good communication helps me deliver better care to my patients

People never want to be just a number, a chart or a diagnosis. They want their doctors to know them — to see them as real people and not just as patients. That’s why the first thing I do when I meet a new patient is listen. I want to hear people’s stories, so I can find out what they’ve been through that has gotten them to this point. Whether it’s an abnormal lab result, a suspicion of cancer, or a late-stage diagnosis that requires urgent treatment, my priority is opening up a line of communication. That way, not only can I figure out what’s going on; I can also start building trust by answering any questions patients might have and explaining the steps necessary to move forward. Listening well is a critical part of caring for cancer patients Doctors already have access to a fair amount of records they can review before seeing a new patient. But in my experience, it’s always better to get the story straight from the source. So, the first time I meet a patient, I always ask, “What brings you in to see me today?” Our cancer patients are fighting for their lives, and they need to know that I understand this. So, I listen closely to what they have to say, and repeat any lab tests or scans necessary to confirm their cancer diagnoses before proceeding. That last part is especially important, because the order of your treatments — and the type of treatment you get first — really matter. Each cancer treatment you select can affect your options further down the...