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Drawing Pictures

By William K. Feinstein, MD

The importance of good communication with patients cannot be overestimated.  I find it to be extremely important in the treatment process, not only for patient compliance, but also for the patient’s overall treatment experience.  If the patient feels like he/she is able to communicate well back and forth with the treating physician, he/she will be more apt to understand his/her diagnosis and his/her treatment plan.  Good communication can help the patient make informed decisions, and the patient is then, in my mind, more likely to have a positive experience and a favorable response to treatment.  

When tasked with the question, “What is your best tip for good patient communication?”, I tried to come up with a communication technique that was perhaps not obvious or intuitive, a technique that has become useful to me, but that I suspect is underutilized in general.  My best tip for good patient communication is to draw pictures.  As a hand surgery fellow at the Indiana Hand Center, Dr. Bill Kleinman suggested that I draw diagrams of the anatomy and surgical steps for a procedure, immediately after the procedure as a method for myself to retain information and really learn what had just happened during an operation. I found this to be extremely helpful in learning about hand surgery, and I also became quite good at drawing the diagrams.  Once I started private practice, I found it to be a very valuable and effective way to communicate with patients about what was going on in their hands, wrists, or upper extremities, and how I was going to correct their pathology.  Now I am accustomed to just drawing on the paper on the examination table, and I allow the patients to ask questions as I go. Often times, the patient will take a cell phone photo of the drawings, or they might just tear off the paper to take home with them.  

I highly recommend other clinicians give this a try.  I believe the patients really benefit from this technique of communication, and a lot can be said in a diagram or drawing.  A picture is truly worth 1000 words.

Dr. William K. Feinstein, MD
Orthopedic Associates
St. Louis, MO

Comment (1)
Scott Brandon
December 17, 2021 3:04 pm

I do this exact same thing! Invaluable. I also draw on my own hand. Many days I will walk out of the office with pulley system inked on one of my fingers or the first dorsal compartment or the scaphoid etc.

Thanks for sharing your tip.


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