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When Your Barista Listens Better Than Your Doctor

When Your Barista Listens Better Than Your Doctor

I miss the days when my doctors took the time to get to know me. Prior to 2010, my doctors knew me. They knew that I was married, how many kids I had, about my hobbies, and so on. Now I don’t know if there was a shift in the universe or if it has to do with the fact that I moved from Arizona to California at the time, but something changed. Not one of the doctors that I have seen for any amount of time since moving here would be able to tell you anything about me without looking at my chart and not one piece of information would be personal.

While I understand and sympathize that they are overwhelmed by the number of patients they see, the lack of personal connection or care is a big part of what is wrong with our healthcare system. The baristas at my local coffee shop could tell you more about me after one or two visits than any of my doctors could! It’s not that I spend any more time with them than I do my doctors, but instead that they ask the right questions. Imagine how productive our doctor appointments would be if they resembled our coffee bar experiences!

Ask with the intention of getting an answer

How are you doing today? A simple question right? And yes, my doctors usually do ask this, but 99% of the time it is said as a greeting and not a question. Instead of listening to my answer, they either cut me off to talk about test results or ignore me as they read my chart. Before 2010, my doctors not only gave me time to reply, they listened! That simple question gives so much insight into what a person is dealing with. I have had baristas draw a little something to pick me up when my short answer expressed that I was having a rough day. If doctors actually listened to the answer to this question and stopped using it as a greeting, they could learn a lot about their patients. They might see that their treatment or pain management plan isn’t helping the patient the way it should. They might pick up on the fact that their once peppy and happy patient is now depressed and suicidal.

Look me in the eye!

Part of listening to a patient is looking at them! Yet, my doctors rarely make eye contact. They typically have their nose pressed up to a computer screen reading my medical records. Why? Because they don’t know me! I have had the same primary physician for 4 years and I can guarantee that he would not be able to list any of my diagnoses or tell you anything about me without looking at my chart. Even if a patient doesn’t verbally express how their pain or illness is affecting them, their eyes will tell the truth. I don’t always have to express that I am running ragged or am feeling down to my baristas, just by looking at me, they can tell by my body language what kind of a mood I am in. A good listener has a sense of when something is not right, they pick up on what is not being said.

Allow me to speak

I have been cut off when answering questions about how my treatments are going or how I am coping with my illnesses. One doctor even said that she didn’t want anything more than yes or no answers to her questions. You can bet I never went back to her! It is impossible for a doctor to understand how the patient is doing if they are only going to allow one-word answers or if they continually cut them off. Patients need to know that they are being heard! Can you imagine my barista cutting me off after I uttered the word coffee? Of course not, even if it drives them batty, they calmly wait and listen to my customized order.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • JJPool
    6 months ago

    You are so right! I’ve had exactly the same experiences here in Texas. I used to have a wonderful internist. It’s been quite disheartening to try and find a new doctor that stops looking at their screen long enough to actually make eye contact and listen.

    My doctor friends tell me they dislike having to look at the screen so much so I don’t understand why they don’t insist on a better system. Thanks for sharing your experience and letting me know I’m in good company!

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