I think lawyers learn a lot from other professions, so I read with interest an article in The Wall Street Journal, “How to Stop Hospitals From Killing Us,” by Dr. Marty Makary. It’s adapted from his new book, “Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won’t Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care.”
Makary writes about his decision to start dictating his notes from the patient interview but doing so at the end of the visit and with the patient listening. He writes that this revealed that he sometimes was wrong in what he believed the patient was telling him. He writes that there is a movement, started at Harvard, called “Open Notes,” where a patient actually can review a doctor’s notes online. He suggests taking this to the next level and allowing patients to add their comments.
Sometimes, but not often enough, I will pause when interviewing a client or witness to summarize my notes and ask, “Do I understand the facts so far?” Or, at the end of the interview, I ask, “Is there anything else you believe I should know,” or “Is there something else you want to tell me?” (Do not ask if the summary is fair; that leaves too much wiggle room for the witness.)
Another thing: I love my whiteboard. When the facts are complex, I use it to diagram what occurred because some people are more visual than others. When the facts are emotionally charged, using the whiteboard drains emotion from the interview. The witness focuses on a nonjudgmental, inanimate object — not on me.
Lawyers and doctors: Let’s talk more.