Is Your Neurologist Asking the Right Questions?

August 12, 2015

shutterstock_109017986You go to the neurologist’s office and wait. And wait. And wait. When you finally get in the exam room the doctor seems to rush the appointment, asks a few quick questions, and gives you a pill prescription. Sound familiar? If you suffer from chronic head pain or migraines you might relate to this frustrating experience, and recent research has shown that this scenario is actually a common occurrence.

This new research was presented at the American Headache Society’s Annual Scientific Meeting in June by Dr. Richard B. Lipton, M.D., the director of Montefiore Headache Center and vice chair of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. There, Lipton shared that his team had studied 35 transcriptions of audio recordings from appointments with 20 different neurologists and migraine sufferers, finding that the doctors often only asked questions that required yes or no answers. Dr. Lipton explained that asking open-ended questions, rather than those that only elicited a yes or no, would allow patients to fully describe their experience, and therefore lead to a more accurate diagnosis.

Researchers found that the average appointment with new migraine patients was 11 minutes long and involved an average of 17 questions related to headaches, most of which only elicited a yes or no answer. The type of questions that are more effective in finding out what can cause migraines and pinpointing a successful migraine treatment, said Dr. Liption, included questions that promoted dialogue, such as asking a patient to explain their headaches and talk about how the pain affects their life.

“Chronic migraine is underdiagnosed, undertreated and disabling…Effective communication is vital for accurate diagnosis, treatment planning, and optimizing patient adherence,” said Dr. Lipton during the presentation, as reported by “Many physicians are afraid to ask any open-ended questions for fear the patient will go on and on and on till the end of the day. Empirically that’s not the case, but there are relatively easy methods for stopping people who do go on too long.”

Diagnosing and treating a migraine condition certainly takes a certain set of skills and expertise. At Migraine Treatment Centers of America, each physician is board-certified and has extensive experience in interventional pain management. If you have been experiencing migraine symptoms and feel frustrated by your health care thus far, consider visiting an MTCA location near you for a greater chance of finding long-lasting migraine relief.

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