Realize unforgettably positive patient visits

March 1, 2005

New Orleans — When dermatologist Steven K. Shama, M.D., talks about achieving the unforgettably positive office visit, he refers to "being in the moment" with each patient.

Dr. Shama, who practices in Brookline, Mass., first realized the power of being in the moment while he was volunteering at Camp Discovery, a summer camp run by the American Academy of Dermatology for children who have severe skin disease.

Dr. Shama was taking care of a 10-year-old boy who had a severe blistering disease. When he was home, the boy's mother would have him soak in the bathtub for two hours in the morning and again in the evening to take off his dressings. Dr. Shama assumed that role, and recalled asking the boy as he was sitting in the tub if he could start taking off the dressing.

The boy said the word silently, and then apologized for it, according to Dr. Shama.

It was then that Dr. Shama realized he was in the moment with the patient, experiencing what the patient experienced. It was more than making a diagnosis, handing the patient a prescription and walking out of the room to get to the next patient. He could no longer think of himself as Dr. Shama, but rather simply as Dr. Steve.

Making a good practice even better Dr. Shama, an international keynote speaker and workshop facilitator for the last 15 years, has devoted the last eight years to sharing with physicians and other audiences his passion for achieving the joy of medicine, and the joy of life.

In the Unforgettably Positive session, which he says is the culmination of all his talks, Dr. Shama, along with W. Patrick Davey, M.D., a Lexington, Ky.-based dermatologist and Tena Brown, a patient advocate, help attendees achieve unforgettably positive office visits.

The essence of this interactive presentation, says Ms. Brown, is to create an office visit for both patient and physician that leaves both inspired.

"(During) most office visits, the physician walks in, asks what is wrong, gives a prescription and tells the patient to come back in six weeks - then walks into the next room and repeats the same process ... How can either party feel empowered when there is an impersonal experience?" she says.

"We want to help physicians get back in touch with why they are in medicine in the first place. The Unforgettable Office Visit workshop will help physicians create the miraculous in their practice. There are no ordinary moments!"

Step back and re-evaluate Dermatologists teach their patients but rarely focus on what they can learn from the people in front of them in the exam rooms.

"If you approach the dermatologist-patient relationship with that kind of humility, then you start to soar, because you are then not a physician who is incidentally a person, but a person who is incidentally a physician," he says at the 63rd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatologists (AAD).

Really listen Learning from patients requires listening: truly listening, according to Dr. Shama.

Without that listening, which puts the dermatologist in the moment with the patient, there is no joy in practice, Dr. Shama says.

"You are not mentally in the next room or the room you just came out of," he says. "You cannot relish the moment if you are (mentally) in the next room."

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