You’ll probably recall from medical school that instructors did focus on communications skills for things like interviewing patients, processing their concerns, and talking them through your evaluations. Undoubtedly, these are important aspects of your communicative role as a physician and things you’ve grown to master over the years. However, there are other communication techniques that are just as important but may not have been covered as much as the basics. To improve doctor-patient relationships, it can take a more in-depth approach with these relatively simple methods we’ll discuss here!
First off, you may already be a pro when it comes to things like communicating clear and efficient information and directions to patients or team members. That’s great if this is the case, and yet it’s possible that empathy, relationship-building, and dealing with patient’s emotions in a healthy way can fall to the wayside a bit. It’s been discussed elsewhere that patients end up suing doctors for mistakes that might not have been made had they not disregarded their emotional or subjective concerns. Beyond situations like these, it’s just a best practice to work to improve doctor-patient relationships — here are some of our basic pointers:
5 Tips to Improve Doctor-Patient Relationships
1. Minimize distractions
When patients visit they need to feel as though their time is valuable. Really, there’s nothing worse than having to take a call or attend to another matter midway through a consultation. Essential things to remember include the simple things like putting your devices on silent, closing the door (with patient’s permission) to cut down on noise, and really just clearing your thoughts for the time being to focus on the needs of an individual.
2. Be an Active Listener
Once you’ve finally had the chance to sit down with a patient, make sure you’re actively listening to their concerns. Beyond just hearing the basic information they’re providing to you, consider what else they might be saying nonverbally. Of course, it’s wrong to make assumptions, although really taking into account the concerns of a patient instead of just making a dry evaluation can go a long way. This really means taking into account the facts and combining them with someone’s emotions to help decide what might be the best way to continue forward with treatments.
3. Be Mindful of Your Body Language
Just as important to remaining open and actively listening during a patient visit is how your present your own body language. Using your best judgement of how comfortable someone is in a medical environment, be sure to lean forward, maintain healthy eye contact, nod when appropriate, and avoid crossing your arms. Although these things can vary with someone’s culture, this is generally the best route to take in the United States.
4. Offer Specific Feedback
After having taken in all of the information possible, it’s critical to provide patients with concrete feedback in terms of your understanding of their situation. Start with phrases like “Let me see if I have this right,” or “Please correct me if I’ve misheard anything.” This approach can reassure patients that they are in good hands and that their concerns are being heard. Try not to make any assumptions about a patient’s motive or experience, but do try to make objective and helpful statements.
5. Get to Know People Personally
Although it’s important to maintain the distinction between a someone’s personal and medical information, being able to recall details about the lives of your patients can go a long way to improve doctor-patient relationships. Whether it’s checking in about their grandkids or following up after someone makes new life decision like college, marriage, or travel it can show people that you are really on their side. Sure, it’s not always possible to keep up with these things considering the million other responsibilities you have, but it’s worth a shot!
What are some techniques you use to improve doctor-patient relationships? Let us know in the comments below and share this blog with others in the field!