Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

The Importance Of Open-Ended Questions

I can spend 20 minutes interviewing a parent about their child and still not really understand them. During a consult, my interview centers on the objective elements in a child’s history. When evaluating a child for abdominal pain, for example, I have a panel of questions that cover what I need to know to generate a starting hypothesis.

But none of it helps me understand Mom.

Understanding where the parents are at is critical to both understanding a child’s problem as well as pitching a plan of care. Whether it’s revealed to me or not, parents often come to me with an agenda. If my plan doesn’t meet with their view of the situation, it’s going to be much harder for me to help that child get what she needs.

So at the end of my interview (usually when washing my hands) I launch one or all of the following questions:

  • Is there anything you forgot to mention?
  • What’s your biggest concern?
  • What do you understand about what’s going on with your child?

Despite having a few years under my belt I’m always amazed at my inability to predict what’s worrying a mother. This is why I ask. And trying to get at what a parent understands gives me a jumping off point for the education part of the visit.

The experts call these open-ended questions. In medical school I thought the open-ended question was academic nonsense. Now it makes my life a whole lot easier. It gives me what I need to know when helping a family navigate their child’s problem.

From what I understand these questions are equally helpful with adults.

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

You may also like these posts

    None Found

Read comments »

Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »