How many times in life have you lamented, “This would be so much easier if you could read my mind!” Well, what if our doctors could read our minds? Or, what if technology allowed the effect of doctors knowing our thoughts? What a huge difference that would make in the exam room!

Indulge me a bit … imagine pre-appointment symptom reporting, in a relaxed setting, at your own pace – your own unhurried thoughts – direct from your uncluttered brain to your doctor’s laptop by video.

Doesn’t that sound like heaven? Communicating symptoms clearly, effectively, and comprehensively is a challenge on a day when everything in the universe is reasonably aligned. Now, just throw one wrench in the mix, and effective communication becomes an unattainable goal – particularly in the health care setting.

Why? Many of us have an across-the-board dread of doctor appointments. Each has his or her reason, but for starters, we’re sick! Or, we’re following up on a problem we truly don’t like to think about. One of mine main sources of dread, besides wearing nothing but a paper towel, is that it seems completely up to luck whether or not I truly communicate with my doctor. The deck is stacked against it.

See if this sounds familiar: you fight horrible traffic to the doctor’s office and are flustered on arrival. Or perhaps you are on time and all is well, but you grow frustrated waiting on the doctor who has been called to the hospital for an emergency. You eventually go into the exam room, recite your medications to the nurse and explain your symptoms. She may or may not transcribe the symptoms and concerns with 100% accuracy in the chart. But how would you know? Your chart is hanging in a file bin on the hallway side of the door. (I can’t count the number of times my hand has been smacked for peeking.)

After an additional waiting period, the doctor arrives and asks “so what brings you here?” or “so how are you?” Which means you describe your symptoms and concerns once more to him. Personally, knowing that I don’t have much time with the doctor, it can be nerve-racking to clearly explain myself or remember everything (I always bring a list, which helps a little). However, I’ve had doctors get frustrated with me because of my list! So now we’re both stressed out while I’m attempting to communicate details that may be vital to my health, but perhaps he’s interpreting as whining or hysteria.

So let’s take that whole mess out of the equation. Patients with video capability on their smart phones or computers could videotape a pre-appointment message of symptoms and concerns, which is then emailed (or uploaded to an account?) for review before the exam room encounter. Doctors and patients could work together to develop guidelines to keep the reporting on point and at a reasonable length. These video logs would be excellent documentation, also, of health status over time.

For those without computer capability, why not create a “video booth” in the office waiting room to provide the same function? After signing in with the receptionist, the patient goes to a private space where he calmly explains symptoms and concerns to the video camera before any of the actual stress of the visit begins. The video goes to the doctor’s laptop for review, and then the appointment can begin with each party ready to discuss solutions, not rehash symptoms. Hopefully, the video preview helps the doctor streamline patient assessment, while giving the patient confidence to participate in the process.

OK … step right up! Who will be first to tell me how implausible this idea is?! Yet, by exploring new technology and social media, there has to be a way to improve communication between patient and doctor.

Let’s create allies – not adversaries – in the exam room.

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