Instead of a diagnostic test, try listening more closely
Whenever Dr. Denis Chauret is with a patient, his eyes are on that person, and his ears are wide open. He takes notes on a pad of paper and transcribes them after the appointment. Electronic records are vitally important, but to Chauret, too many doctors spend the whole visit typing on a computer.
“Maybe I’m old-school, but for me, that’s not good medicine,” says Chauret.
UOttawa Associate Professor Chauret specializes in chronic disease management at the Montfort Hospital, where he directs the diabetes clinic, as well as the allergy clinic, the internal medicine clinic, and the francophone residency program for internal medicine. Over his 21 years at the Montfort, he has dealt primarily with patients who need long-term plans to follow with their family physicians. It’s that experience he wants to share with other physicians through his involvement with the University of Ottawa’s Continuing Medical Education program.
On February 7, Chauret will speak at the Colloque francophone de médecine – Bal de neige which takes place during the Ottawa region’s annual Winterlude festival. It’s a chance for family doctors to continue their lifelong learning and hear about topics they have chosen. Now in their seventh year, the Colloque organizers choose the year’s topics from an annual survey that assesses the needs of the audience.
“We go out and select speakers who can best address the issues they’ve identified,” says Chauret.
One common complaint among patients is shortness of breath. That’s what Chauret will talk about in his presentation this year: I’m out of breath. Is it my heart? My lungs? My brain? He will take attendees through the process of exclusion diagnosis, which rules out the most serious possibilities first. In the end, shortness of breath might come down to a cause the patient does not suspect, such as anemia—or something as simple as being out of shape.
Chauret’s main advice to family doctors: Listen.
“We give far too many tests, when what we should really do is listen to the clues and ask the right questions,” says Chauret. “The patient’s vocabulary will tell you what the problem is if you listen, rather than investigating just for the sake of investigating.”
One way Chauret does this is by saving the computer work for when the patient is already out of the room. While he is with a patient, his attention is on the conversation, which demonstrates his respect and empathy as they recount their symptoms.
At the Colloque, Chauret will pass on some wisdom he has picked up over the years, but it will be nothing like the type of learning the physicians encountered in medical school. It’s more of a discussion format that draws from everyone’s experience, and the speakers are likely to learn from the audience as well as the other way around.
The Colloque francophone de médecine is an all-day event from 7:45am to 3pm on Friday, February 7 at the Hilton Double Tree d’Aylmer. For more information, consult the conference program.