linkedin twitter 


This login popup box will appear when a user tries to access content that is for members only. If you are not a member yet, please register for a membership. We’d love to have you be part of our community.

  • Basic/free members will have access to a limited amount of site content.
  • Premium/paid members will have access to all site content.

All users will have to be logged in to access the content. Become a member and gain access to exclusive features.


Behind Worry Lines: Anticipating Patient Concerns

Wednesday, January 02, 2019
Geri Lynn Baumblatt MA “Will a colonoscopy hurt if I have a hemorrhoid?”
“Will a hip replacement make it possible for me to have sex again without pain?”
“What happens to the space where my uterus was?”
After reading a brief description of how organs in the body shift to fill in the space, the woman (who had a hysterectomy many months ago) was thrilled. “No one explained that to me.” she said. “And it’s really been bothering me. This puts my mind at ease.”


As much as we encourage people to prepare questions, they know there’s limited time. And they feel like questions about things like scars will come off as vain, or they’re embarrassed to ask questions about things like bowel movements or sex. Sometimes just knowing the answer is reassuring. Other times, issues like hip pain during sex is one of their main reasons for having a procedure. In fact, most people want more info about sex after hip replacement.
Even confident people who interview scientists for a living don’t feel comfortable asking questions when they’re in the patient’s seat. On an episode of the podcast Hidden Brain, Alan Alda describes being flummoxed and afraid to ask questions about oral surgery he’s about to have. It ends up affecting his smile, something he wished he’d understood as an actor.
While we can’t anticipate all questions, we can anticipate many of them. And this does a few things:
  • It normalizes asking uncomfortable questions. If you bring up questions about sex, hemorrhoids, or scars, people realize these must be common questions others have. It puts them at ease, and they feel more comfortable asking other questions.
  • It lets them know you care about them and their concerns. They’re often incredibly grateful. It builds the relationship and can foster more intimacy.
  • It can make the conversation more efficient – people don’t spend time dancing around their questions, building up courage, and figuring out how to broach a topic.
  • It builds trust. When people see their caregivers get it and know what concerns them, they’re more likely to trust other information.  
  • When you answer questions up front, they not hanging over people. So this can make it easier for them to focus on the rest of the conversation.
How do you learn about and capture patient and family concerns?
If you haven’t done this already, try it, see what you learn, and then notice how integrating it into conversations changes them.

Geri Lynn Baumblatt MA, For the last 20 years, Geri has worked to help people understand health conditions and procedures, orient them to their diagnoses, make more informed decisions about their care, and partner with their care teams.  She oversaw the creation of the Emmi program library, and she regularly speaks and serves on patient engagement, patient experience, health literacy, shared decision making, health design, family caregiving, and heath communication panels for organizations like AHRQ, the Brookings Institute, Stanford Medicine X, and the Center for Plain Language. She serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Patient Experience, is on the board of the Society for Participatory Medicine, and published a chapter in Transformative Healthcare Practice through Patient Engagement (IGI Global). She currently consults on patient engagement, family caregiving, and health communication. Follow her on Twitter @GeriLynn


Tags: communication, patient education, expectations, engagement, patient
Blog post currently doesn't have any comments.