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How to Communicate Effectively with Physicians

By: Deresa Claybrook, MS, RHIT, CPC-I

As health care managers we are always asking questions for ourselves or for others. We are always looking at the situation, planning and then acting. We do this for several reasons to clarify a medical order, to make sure that there is adequate documentation in the record, to make sure that we are communicating effectively with our physicians so that he/she has all the information needed to make a correct diagnosis. Sometimes the approach we take to communicating can be effective when we need to ask questions, especially when we need to ask questions of the physicians we work with.

In the book, “Ask the right question!” by Rupert Eales-White, he discusses how we can effectively ask questions. The book is about Effective Communication, but it really serves as a valuable resource for all of us when we need to know how to ask questions and be effective. The author starts out with sharing with us how we communicate and how important listening is to the process but the best part of the book deals with seizing opportunities, reducing resistance, bridging gaps in perception, meeting your goals, encouraging mutuality, and creating  partnerships. If this sound likes something that you would like to learn more about, I encourage you to grab the book. I would like to summarize what I have learned that might help you the next time you need to communicate effectively with a physician or ask a question.

  • Think first: Physicians are busy, and it is always best to think and plan the conversation. I have found that when this is done, the more effective the conversation will be.
  • Think open question: Question that begin with what, why, how, where, when, and who promote discovery. Is it? Can you? Will he? Have you? Do they? Should he? produces yes or no answers and can sell the conversation short.
  • Avoid leading questions: These are questions like; do you not agree that Dr. Jones has a poor bedside manner? You are trying to lead someone to an answer.
  • Avoid “Logical” Closed alternatives: Let us say that morale in the office is bad. It would be best to take the open route and discuss all the probable causes of the problem. The worst thing you could do is give the decision makers choices like morale is down because of high turnover or poor training, which do you, think? Avoid “logical” closed alternatives because they do not really promote the right attitude of problem solving.
  • Use perceptive probing questions” Keep using the open questions when necessary to get more information. You can notice cues and keep the conversation going. You could say something like thank you for that information; you mentioned that Mr. Smith has a cancerous tumor, where is it located and what type of cancer?
  • Use the right wording” what do you mean precisely is a better choice of wording than what do you mean? The later could put someone on the defensive.
  • Keep Questions simple: Time is of an essence. Do not ramble. Get to the point. If you take more than 10 minutes to ask a question you will lose the listener.
  • Keep questions single: A golden rule of effective questioning is “one at a time.” More than one question can lead to confusion or evasion.
  • Provide answers when asked: sometime after open ended question and probing we might sound like someone who is interrogating so we must remember to remain in the conversation and offer experience and opinions from time to time.
  • Practice. This does not come naturally so the best approach is to practice this technique.

 As health care professionals it so important to communicate effectively so be sure to check for understanding. I know when I was in nursing school, I had a classmate that would always summarize what the instructor had just said. It drove me crazy. I can even remember everyone talking about this person in the hallway after a lecture about how annoying her summarizing each paragraph was, but the ironic thing was when the instructor put us in to groups to do a project everyone wanted her to be on their team. They knew that with her in the group they would at least be on the right track with their project because she was not afraid to ask questions. So just keep that in mind, it never hurts to check for understanding.

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About the Author

Deresa Claybrook, MS, RHIT, CPC-I

Deresa Claybrook, MS, RHIT, CPC-I is the President of Positive Resource Health Care Industry Consultants.  Positive Resource for short is a consulting company that specializes in Health Information Management (HIM) and Human Resource (HR) training for health care organizations. Mrs. Claybrook has over 25 years in the healthcare industry. She has practical experience as a Coder, Medical Records Director, Human Resource Director and as an adjunct professor since 2007.  She also has experience as a Long-Term Care Administrator.

Mrs. Claybrook loves to train, motivate, and inspire those in the healthcare field to perform their best.  She is a part time adjunct professor at Oklahoma City Community College. In her free time, she also loves to work as a consumer advocate to ensure that everyone understands the importance of their health care information.

Mrs. Claybrook received her Master of Science degree in Management and her Bachelor of Arts is in Human Resources from Southern Nazarene. She graduated with her Associates degree in Medical Records Science from Amarillo College in 1986. Recently she completed her CPC-Instructor certification through the American Academy of Professional Coders, AAPC.

She works directly with healthcare organizations to offer resources in Human Resource (HR) Management and Health Information Management (HIM) with a special emphasis on training health care professionals in the health care industry.

She has written professionally for many health care magazines. She is an Advanced Communicator Silver through Toastmaster and speaks nationally on various health care topics in her field. Recently she has finished her requirements for her CPC and CPC-I through AAPC.


"MGMA recognizes Pennsylvania MGMA’s continued hard work
to provide meaningful networking and educational opportunities to your members!"

Based on our 2021 accomplishments which include member growth, ACMPE advancements, survey promotion, and social media presence, and after careful consideration of our state's written essay about our strategic goals, by a dedicated committee of MGMA volunteers, the Pennsylvania MGMA was selected as 2022 State Affiliate of the Year 3rd place.

Become a member of Pennsylvania MGMA today!


Toxic Staff: The Vampires @ Work


Everybody at work knows who they are. They can list them by name, they talk about them, they are victimize by them, & they may even miss work in order to avoid them. What staff really wonder is why you, their leader, aren't doing your job & managing them.

I'm talking about toxic staff. Those poisonous people who we are allowing to negatively influence our teams, our companies, & in the end, our bottom lines. In all our talk about workplace efficiency, productivity, & retaining key talent, we have somehow missed the vampire in the room sucking the very life out of our organizations.

What Makes Staff Toxic?

Ooooo, let us count the ways! Toxicity comes in all forms of workplace torture. To be clear, we're not talking about a once in a while slip in behavior. We're talking about consistent behavior that negatively impacts your team. Here are just some of the behaviors that we may see...

Register for the Summit and hear GeGe provide practical standards to ward off the vampires!

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GeGe has a master’s degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Radford University & has worked in Human Resources and Organizational Development for her entire professional career.  This includes serving as vice president at several HCA hospitals and then as an external consultant specializing in analyzing staff engagement survey results & using the data as a road map to improve overall cultural health.

Call for Articles

The Pennsylvania MGMA is looking for articles for the PA Pulse! We invite you to submit an article appropriate for the medical and health care community. Your article must be in an original format (web link or Word document) and should not exceed the 750 word-count maximum. Submit your article via email to info@pennsylvaniamgma.com. Please send a headshot and brief bio of the author to be included.

If you're interested in submitted a sponsored article, allowing you to introduce or further explain a product or service to our members, or taking out a banner ad, click here for more information and reach out to us if there are any questions.

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For the past two years, we dealt with the "disorder" within our practices as the COVID pandemic caused much havoc. Now, as we exit the pandemic, our focus is on how to bring "order" back to our practice, staff, and patients. This is why I strongly encourage you to attend our virtual Summit on April 20, "Putting the Order Back in Disorder".

We have two components to this Summit. The first consists of a three-hour session with presentations on leadership, toxic staff, an interactive Q&A on employment law, and staffing. The second is a coding session for practice administrators and certified coders approved for CEUs by the AAPC.

Don't think you are alone as we figure out the "new norm". You're not! Participation at the Summit will allow each of us to take away new knowledge and practical ways to improve our daily operations.

Attention CMPEs and FACMPEs - Your attendance at this Summit provides you with up to 4.5 CEUs!

So... register now!


Shelley Rine, CPC, COPC
Chair, Board of Directors
Pennsylvania MGMA

April 2022

Letter from the Chair

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