The Cultural Nuances of Communication

Posted on August 23, 2018 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

It’s amazing some of the insights you can get from Twitter. This is especially true when someone puts together a series of tweets (most people call them a tweetstorm) that shares a story or insights on a specific topic. Today, I gained some new insight into the cultural nuances of communication in this Twitter thread:

Why we need more black men in medicine. I had a patient this week who came in with left leg weakness over the last week. Younger black guy in his 30s. Brain MRI clearly indicates multiple sclerosis. So we all go in during morning rounds to give my man his diagnosis.

He has a bit of blank stare as he listens to my attending try to explain what he has. He was told earlier he mightve had a stroke, and now we’re telling him he doesnt have a stroke. But he’s clearly processing what he does have and just says “nah” to having any questions.

So we’re running the patient list after rounding, and as we get to him my attending says somn like “idk if apathy is the word, seems like he doesnt care”. Laughs and so does the rest of the team. I’m sitting there like, this aint it. And yes, I was the only one.

So after running the list, I don’t even stick around with the team. I go straight back to dude’s room and the code switch was automatic. “Look mane, I know all that was a lot. Did you really get what the doc was sayin?” Mans looked at me with a face of relief.

Now I’m goin into detail on MS, how it’s different from a stroke, and what it means for him long term. The real validation came when he interrupted me early on and said “OH so it’s a BRAIN thing I got?” “Yes my man it’s a brain thing.”

And now my dude understands what he has, why we need the tests we need, and what the rest of his life might look like. All because I could recognize what everyone else seemed to miss, from a cultural perspective. He’s not apathetic. Folk just weren’t connecting with him.

I’m in the right field fam.

We definitely underestimate the nuances required to communicate effectively across cultures. It’s such an important nuance that’s often missed. As we start to automate more of our healthcare communication with chat bots and other AI empowered communication, I wonder if we’ll take some of these cultural nuances into account. That’s a really challenging problem, but something we should consider a lot more in our healthcare communication.