Is your doctor/embryologist/nurse a good communicator? Why or why not?

May 3, 2013Carole 5 Comments »

So today (May 3, 2013) marks 3 years since my first post  and the beginning of Fertility Lab Insider- my 3 year Blogaversary if you will 🙂  My blog started out slowly–I didn’t advertise or promote it– and for the longest time, I was sure that I was blogging only for myself. But at the 3 year mark, nearly 180,000 visitors from all over have stopped by and read the site. WOW! Thank you!!! Many of you have left comments, or asked me questions here or via info- which is fabulous!!! The first time I got a comment or question, I was shocked to realize that someone was actually reading my posts!

The blog started as an accident. I started Fertility Lab Insider in the months after I was “downsized” out of a job and replaced with a cheaper off-site consultant. I was devastated because I loved the people I worked with. At the time, I didn’t feel I could uproot my family yet again to move across the country and find another position. There aren’t a lot of IVF lab director jobs in any one city so moving or changing fields is often the choice a lab director has to make.  Reaching out to patients through the blog and explaining the work I did and loved as an embryologist was balm to my soul and helped me keep doing what I loved- although in a different way.

Over time, I gave more thought to effective communication because I realized from reader’s comments/questions that I wasn’t always clear. How can I communicate more effectively through my blog?  Some posts are better than others. Some posts are simply too long or too technical to be effective. I am still a work in progress on that front. Usually my Mom lets me know if I am too technical. My husband lets me know if my blog is too long- “split that post into 3 parts!”   🙂

I think effective patient education is so very important because I think it leads directly to patient empowerment which leads directly to better outcomes. But effective communication is hard.  It is not easy to communicate clearly with patients, particularly when they are struggling with infertility -which is not only physically but emotionally difficult.  As embryologists (or nurses or doctors) , we need to remember that although we have said the same clinical message a thousand times before, each patient is hearing the message for the first time. It’s never old for them. It is a good thing for me to improve my communication as a blogger- but it is critically important in the clinic and can make the difference between cycle success and failure.

So, how can health care providers in the clinic (doctor, nurse and embryologists) do a better job of communicating with patients?

I’d like you to help me answer that question. You are experts at what good communication (or poor) communication looks like because you are at the receiving end. I need your help on a research project I am doing. To celebrate my blogaversary, I decided to look at the three years of data for Fertility Lab Insider based on Word Press statistics and also use Google Analytics data to try to understand which lab topics elicit the most comments or questions. I have done that and found some interesting trends in top landing pages and so forth. But I think it would be especially valuable to ask you directly about your healthcare communication experience with your IVF doctor, your clinic or your embryologist. So here’s your chance to give your feedback about what communication methods/styles worked for you and what didn’t.

As always, I welcome feedback on the blog- good or bad -and feel free to comment on this too  because I’d want to make the blog better.  But hopefully- your healthcare provider is your primary source of medical information for your case and so that is where good communication is most important- and that is a more important topic for research.

So here are some of the things I’d like to know about your experience with health care communication and how it helped or hurt your treatment outcome. Please don’t identify anyone by name.  Comment anonymously or with a pseudonym. If I include your actual comment in a presentation of the responses, I will not use your name.

Here are some questions to consider regarding effective communication methods– but feel free to comment outside of these questions. Part of the problem with effective communication is also understanding what questions someone else may have. (I am currently teaching my teenager to drive and I have found that understanding what they don’t know is a critical first step!! I think that may apply here too so if these questions are poor or irrelevant- substitute your own).  Answer one or more of these or just put in your two cents. Use the comment box or email me privately. I am listening. 🙂

  • What lab topics are of most interest to you?
  • Who was your primary communicator for lab info?- your doctor, your nurse, or lab staff?
  • Was there anything about your clinic’s communication with you that was exceptionally good- or exceptionally bad?
  • Did you feel that you had all your lab questions answered?
  • Was your health care provider pleased/annoyed/disappointed when you asked for more information about lab topics?
  • Did you want more or less lab information than you received- give an example.
  • Why do you end up looking for more information on this blog? Was it to get primary info, to add to what you get from the clinic, or to verify the info from the clinic?

I hope that you will ALL participate. Everyone has experiences here that could help others.  I will summarize the comments and blog stats in a future post. Thanks!!!

 

© 2013, Carole. All rights reserved.

5 Responses to this entry

  • Claire Says:

    What lab topics are of most interest to you?
    I’m interested in almost everything you write. Probably the only things that I sometimes skip are the posts about US based politics relating to fertility. As I am not based in the US, these don’t always have a lot of meaning for me. I have found the information you’ve posted about embryo quality really interesting, and I like that your site is a good balance between factual information and thought provoking issues.

    Who was your primary communicator for lab info?- your doctor, your nurse, or lab staff?
    Both the nurse and the lab staff. The nurse was the main contact, but we got phone calls from the embryologist on day 3 and 5 with updates. Prior to egg collection and frozen embryo transfer, the embryologist came in to see us.

    Was there anything about your clinic’s communication with you that was exceptionally good- or exceptionally bad?
    The good: the embrylogists visited us prior to EC and FET to explain what was going to happen, and to see if we had any questions. This was fantastic because we did have some questions and we weren’t made to feel silly.
    The clinic usually texts out instructions following a blood test, because it is discreet for patients and easy for the clinic, this works really well.
    On the day we were due to get our results, we asked the nurses to call and leave a voicemail with the results so we could listen at the end of the day together. I really appreciated that they were happy to deliver the results however you preferred.
    Finally, I liked that the clinic had a schedule of when you could expect a call.
    The bad: although the embryologists called us directly at day 3 and 5, they were obviously very busy, and on day 5 didn’t have the details in front of them. I wasn’t able to ask questions and this made me feel terrible as I felt incredibly disconnected from what was happening in the lab. The 5 days of embryo growth felt worse for me than the two week wait. I felt alone and disconnected. Someone in a lab was ‘growing my babies’ and I couldn’t get the information I wanted. I had really wanted a picture of my embryos before they were frozen, but was told they didn’t do this (and was too late as they had already gone into the freezer). As we had to do a freeze-all, and wait 2 months, I was devastated that we had been through this huge process, and I felt empty at the end. A photo to ‘prove’ to myself what I had achieved would have been wonderful.

    Did you feel that you had all your lab questions answered?
    Was your health care provider pleased/annoyed/disappointed when you asked for more information about lab topics?
    Face to face they were always happy to have us ask questions, but over the phone updates were brief and I didn’t wasn’t able to ask the questions I wanted.

    Did you want more or less lab information than you received- give an example.
    I would like more, because I am the sort of person who likes to base my opinion on facts, I felt I didn’t always have all the facts (such as quality of the embryo). Although we got a picture prior to frozen embryo transfer, I would have liked a picture earlier. My absolute ideal would be if you could log in to a website and see a real-time picture of your embryo, with a daily (or 3 & 5 days) comment from the embryologist!

    Why do you end up looking for more information on this blog? Was it to get primary info, to add to what you get from the clinic, or to verify the info from the clinic?
    To understand more about what the embryo growth should be like, and what the terminology and different states meant.

  • Carole Says:

    Hi Claire,
    Thanks so much for your thoughtful feedback!! I was especially interested in your clinic’s use of text messages for instructions and that they were flexible about how you wanted to hear your preg results (you preferred a voice mail message you could hear together). I thought that your observation that you would have liked to have a photo of the embryos- particularly in the case of a freeze-all to have some tangible result from your cycle is extremely important. Many programs offer a photo when there is a transfer, precisely to have a tangible something to hope on for the two-week wait. But it is a good point that the same should apply to a freeze all cycle. Real-time photos are possible now with the time-lapse photography systems that three different vendors provide currently. I did a previous post on this topic http://fertilitylabinsider.com/2012/10/time-lapse-embryo-imaging-how-it-may-change-ivf/. I don’t think anyone has considered a way to make it available to patients in the same 24/7 way. An interesting idea. I think the only downside would be if embryos suddenly stop looking so good and there is no medical guidance at the time to interpret the visuals. Thanks so very much for your feedback!! I hope that your comments will inspire other patients to chime in and add their voices too. Best Wishes. Carole

  • Dr Amiruddha Malpani, MD Says:

    Dear Carole,

    You are doing a great job with promoting IVF literacy – keep it
    up !

    In our clinic , we email patients the photos of their embryos. This way they have the images for their reference – and they can process the information at their leisure. This is easier for the embryologist as well !

    Dr Aniruddha Malpani, MD
    Malpani Infertility Clinic, Jamuna Sagar, SBS Road, Colaba
    Bombay 400 005. India
    Tel: 91-22-22151065, 22151066, 2218 3270, 65527073

    Helping you to build your family !

    My Facebook page is at http://www.facebook.com/Dr.Malpani

    You can follow me on twitter at https://twitter.com/drmalpani

    Watch our infertility cartoon film at http://www.ivfindia.com

    Read our book, How to Have a Baby – A Guide for the Infertile Couple,
    online at http://www.DrMalpani.com !

    Read my blog about improving the doctor-patient
    relationship at http://blog.drmalpani.com

  • Carole Says:

    Thanks Dr. Malpani,
    Thank you for your comment! I think it is fair to say that we share a belief that education leads to patient empowerment and better patient care. I hope to hear from more patients in this comment thread (or at my info email) regarding what worked, what didn’t work for them regarding their communications with their health care providers (doctor, nurses, lab staff). Of course, patients should make their concerns known to their providers as they arise but I hope that this anonymous forum might make it easier to speak up so that everyone might learn from their experiences, good and bad.

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