How long does the average doctor give a patient to tell her or him what’s wrong?
“Eight seconds,” says Dr. Danielle Ofri, an internist at Bellevue Hospital in New York and bestselling author.
How long would the patient speak if not interrupted? “Half a minute,” she says.
How important is listening? “Very important,” Dr. Ofri told her audience, in a recent presentation to the staff in the Pediatrics Department of Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem.
Dr. Ofri’s lecture confirmed what patients might have guessed: if doctors heard the entire story, they would be able to make better evaluations and avoid ordering many unnecessary tests. In addition, studies have shown that just paying attention to people and allowing them to be heard can make them feel better. “I know people always feel negative about placebos, but we don’t have the answers to everyone’s aches and pains. Sometimes, just talking them through with a doctor provides a sense of relief.”
Dr. Ofri’s latest bestseller is called What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear and is aimed at refocusing conversations between doctors and patients to improve health care.
“The lecture was fantastic,” said Prof. Shimon Reif, head of the Pediatrics Unit at Ein Kerem. “It raised our consciousness about listening and was particularly important for young staff members who are apt to rely on technology.”
In addition to her work as an internist at Bellevue Hospital and her teaching position at New York University, Dr. Ofri is the Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of the first medical literary magazine, The Bellevue Literary Review. She invited Hadassah staff to submit their writings.
A life member of Hadassah, Dr. Ofri and her husband live in Manhattan with their three children. She wrote her latest book during a year’s stay in the town of Zichron Yaakov in Israel.