The secret to good communication is knowing your audience. The language used among doctors is complex and full of jargon—that’s the most effective way for professionals to communicate with each other—but when you sling around terms like myocardial infarction, you’ve almost certainly lost your patient. You don’t want them to be confused on top of having a heart attack.
Easily Accessible Symptom Information Can Cause Doubts
Patient communication is crucial to providing quality health care. But things are changing. It used to be that many doctors expected patients to simply listen and do what they were told. Nowadays rather, doctors are beginning to view patients as partners in the patient’s recovery and improved health. With easy access to information on the internet, any expectation that patients will take a doctor’s word simply because he or she is a licensed physician is increasingly unrealistic. Many patients have already looked up their symptoms online and have an opinion about what’s wrong.
With easy access to information on the internet, any expectation that patients will take a doctor’s word simply because he or she is a licensed physician is increasingly unrealistic.
Open Ears & Positivity Are Vital
When that happens, the best thing to do is listen to what they have to say, be positive about the research they have done, and then help them understand why they were right or, based upon what you picked up in your examination, why they were close but missed the mark. Let them know that “we’re in this together.” Really listen to their stories, giving them your undivided attention. Be sure you use your patient’s name during the conversation so they understand you care about them personally.
…the best thing to do is listen to what they have to say, be positive about the research they have done, and then help them understand why they were right or, based upon what you picked up in your examination, why they were close but missed the mark.
Micro-Manage Criticism & Compliments
If you do have to deliver criticism, make sure it’s constructive. Further, criticism will be accepted more readily if it’s embedded in a context of positive feedback: for every one piece of criticism, patients should be given seven compliments in consolation. Most importantly, avoid being judgmental. If the patient thinks he or she is being judged for their health problems, they will be less likely to open up or even seek medical help when needed.
If you do have to deliver criticism, make sure it’s constructive … Most importantly, avoid being judgmental.
Practice Communication Disciplines to Help Build Rapport
The rules of rhetoric apply to the doctor-patient relationship as much as any place. Perhaps more. Your conversations should be well-defined and logical—that means not only using terms the patient will understand, but making sure the patient truly understands what they have been told. You have to impress upon your patients that you’re trustworthy and of good character—that means having an exemplary appearance and respecting the patient as a partner. Finally, you have to show empathy—that means showing you care about the patient’s wellbeing without being judgmental. Your words, appearance, and actions all communicate with your patient. Be sure that communication is clear and positive.
You have to impress upon your patients that you’re trustworthy and of good character.
Continue to practice and develop your communication skills and you’ll begin to see the benefits. Don’t stop at in-person communication though, make sure to utilize your patient portal to its full potential. Send messages, listen to feedback, maintain a constant stream of communication, and much more. If you need a portal that can help you achieve this, ChartLogic’s Connect Patient goes beyond the standard patient portal that simply meets the obligations for Meaningful Use and MIPS. Connect Patient gives practice managers and providers complete control over how they engage with their patients. Learn more today.