A successful therapeutic approach entails more than just diagnosing and curing disease. Numerous studies have shown that good doctor-patient communication skills not only improve patient satisfaction but also their outcomes. So is it possible for doctors to strengthen their “bedside manner”? The answer is yes. Whatever area of healthcare you practice in, if you develop your communication skills, you will immediately increase your quality of patient care.
Better Communication Makes Better Physicians
If a doctor comes across as being cold and dispassionate, a patient cannot relax, and if the patient is not relaxed, he or she is not going to communicate all the information the doctor needs to know to evaluate the situation. Whatever your role in healthcare, building patient relationships should be an ongoing practice from the outset and the way to do this is through improved communication.
Tips for Improving Communication
- Establish a rapport: Make your patients feel welcome. Open the conversation by asking them how their day is going. By giving them a chance to relax at the outset you are setting up a healthy relationship. This means they will feel at ease about discussing their health concerns with you. Don’t be tempted to interrupt or rush them along. Give them time to explain how they feel in their own way and listen carefully. This is how you will get to know your patients and learn what you can do to help them.
- Use simple language: Avoid jargon and technical language. This is not because your patients are stupid but so you can be sure that they explicitly understand what you are saying. Be aware of any language and literacy barriers you may have with your patients and act accordingly.
- Be aware of your non-verbal communication: Don’t sit there reading your patients notes or looking at the computer screen while they are talking to you. Make eye contact and show them that you are being attentive, otherwise, you will convey negative messages.Check out this website to find out more about improving healthcare experiences.
- Collaborate with your patients: Ask your patients what they need from you and explain what you can do to help. Determine how they feel about the diagnosis and if they agree with the proposed treatment plan. Patients who disagree with the diagnosis rarely follow through with the treatment.
- Be flexible: Don’t have a rigid consultation style: what works for one patient won’t necessarily work for all the others. You will come across some patients who don’t want much involvement in the decision making, whereas others will want to make their own choices. Be supportive and listen to your patients’ wants so you know exactly how to approach each situation.
- Provide information: Always give patients the information they want. Don’t over-focus on talking about drug treatment. Often patients want to hear about alternative and complementary treatments, they have questions about side effects and want advice on the emotional aspects of their illness. Giving them this information helps reduce their distress and gives them tools they can use to help themselves.
- Be empathetic: When you create a therapeutic space for your patients it should be one in which they feel comfortable expressing their concerns and can be confident that they will receive understanding and helpful advice. By expressing empathy you are showing that you understand what your patients are feeling. When your patients are talking, silence your own dialogue and restrain your diagnostic reasoning so you can focus on your patients’ needs.
- Implement a patient portal: A patient portal is an online hub that allows patients to log on to the Internet and have full access to their health information through a secure website. It also offers an easy way for patients to stay in touch with caregivers, make appointments, set appointment reminders, request prescriptions, receive test results, and review and update personal information. By increasing patient engagement, a portal helps patients feel more in control of their healthcare options which is very empowering. For you as a healthcare professional, provide increased access for patients and improve your ability as a health care professional it gives you a greater opportunity to evaluate and improve patient care.
No two patients are ever the same and there is always room for improvement in your communication skills. Be mindful in your medical practice and observe not only your patients but also how you interact with them. This will give you valuable insights for enhancing your communications and improving patient satisfaction. Remember, patients who have good relationships with their doctor have better outcomes.