New Book Aids Physician, Patients

Having the title “doctor” before your name or the initials “R.N.” after your name do not automatically make for the perfect physician or nurse.

What does set a doctor or any health care provider apart can be his or her communication skills with patients and other health care professionals.. That’s the thinking behind the latest publication, “Medical Communication, Defining the Discipline,” written by Dr. E. Phillips Polack, a Wheeling plastic surgeon and clinical professor of surgery at West Virginia University, and Theodore A. Avtgis, professor of communications studies and chair of surgery at Ashland University and adjunct associate surgery professor at WVU.

This straight-forward, easy-to-read publication is more than a manual or textbook. It delves into areas only glanced over in more traditional medical training scenarios, according to the authors.

The book, published by Kendall Hunt Publishing Co., also serves as a helpful guide for patients seeking better ways of communicating with their physicians and others in the medical field.

Dr. David Kappel with the West Virginia State Trauma System, said the book “deserves a place on the bookshelf of everyone in health care – nurses, physicians, administrators, and those shaping its future. As a reference, it should become well worn and treasured.”

From his office at Wheeling Hospital, Polack observed that the book is designed for the “contemporary classroom but also for non-health science majors and the public.

“For those not in the medical field, you can be a better, smarter health consumer (by reading the book),” Polack said. “There is so much information that people need to know … chapters on informed consent, organ donations, ethics and even religious concepts. None of us should ever stop learning.”

Polack said he loves when a patient comes to him with a list of questions before a procedure. “It makes us both better informed,” he said.

Avtgis, who taught at WVU with Polack in one of his classes, said the book does not tell people what to do but offers information for better decision-making.

“On average, you are touched by 10 sets of hands before you even see a doctor,” Avtgis pointed out. “You should know what to ask. You own your body, you need to be responsible” when interacting with the health care providers.

For health care professionals, Polack and Avtgis approach medical communication in depth with suggestions for listening skills and in talking with patients.

Polack noted that physicians need to be aware of their patients’ ability to understand and communicate their concerns. For instance, Polack said that 25 percent of the population can’t read, so physicians need to be able to explain procedures, prescriptions and other information in ways each patient can comprehend.

Sometimes that can be accomplished by simply changing words such as “adverse” to “bad” or “lesion” to “sore.”

The book also addresses the use of humor in medicine and the increasing risks health care providers face in today’s volatile world. With at least 650 references, countless hours of research and question-and-answer options, the book offers an expansive amount of information.

“Medical Communication, Defining the Discipline” can be found at any online book seller including Amazon.