Dr. Levin: Listening to patients first, then helping them receive the right care during Right Care Action Week

September 7, 2016

By Judith Garber

Murray Levin, MD, former professor of Medicine at Northwestern University, understands the value of communication between doctors and patients. Not only has Levin taught and practiced medicine for decades, but also he has established many friendships with patients.

“If you don’t establish a personal relationship, both you and the patient are losing out,” says Levin. So for Right Care Action Week (October 16-22), Levin will be doing what he does best — talking with people about their health, listening to their concerns, and forging personal relationships. He plans to set up a table at the Sachs Recreation Center in Deerfield, IL, to listen to what community members have to say about their experiences with the health care system as they go in and out of the gym, and offer tips for patients to assure they receive the right care.

Levin first got involved in the Right Care Alliance in 2013 because he was interested in reducing health care costs. He has since worked with the Right Care Alliance on other issues, such as patient-doctor relations and medical overuse. One of Levin’s primary goals in working with the Right Care Alliance has been to change the way in which physicians and patients relate to each other. Levin has seen both positive and negative changes in doctor-patient communication over the years. The good news is that doctors today are more accepting of feedback; the bad news is that they rarely have time to talk to patients.

“In a 15 minute appointment you cannot do a decent medical history, physical examination, or have a [substantive] discussion with the patient, and make an insertion into the medical record,” said Levin. At the tabling event, Levin hopes to give patients advice for relating to their doctors about tests and procedures. For example, patients can ask their doctors these questions before tests: ‘Why are you doing this test?’ and ‘What will you get out of the results?’

“If the doctor hasn’t thought that through,” says Levin, “the test can wait.”

Levin is especially concerned about unnecessary treatment in end-of-life care. Part of the problem is that few people have written advanced directives, instructions on how to proceed with end-of-life care. Levin plans to talk with people at the RCAW event about the importance of making arrangements for end-of-life care for themselves and family members. Doctors should inform patients about comfort measures, advises Levin. And patients should feel comfortable asking their doctor about any procedures that are recommended.

Learn more about Right Care Action Week, and get involved here!