How to Improve Physician-Patient Communication

Effective communication is the foundation of a positive and healthy physician-patient relationship. When this relationship is strained, patients often hold back from asking questions or sharing opinions, and end up less involved than they could be in making their own medical decisions. As quality and value-based reimbursements payment model adoption increases, it’s even more critical to strengthen your relationship with your patients to help ensure high patient satisfaction they comply with medical recommendations and actively manage their health.

Here are a few ways you can improve communication with your patients:

  • Ask open-ended questions that can’t just be answered with a yes or no. You want your patients to full engage. This will help to build a rapport and you will get a better picture
  • Use language your patient can understand, talk slowly and ask if you need to clarify.
  • A candid, factual, yet compassionate approach puts the responsibility where it belongs — with the patient.
  • Don’t be judgmental. Studies have shown that when patients feel shamed by their physicians they are more likely to have worse health outcomes. “The very best physicians care about each patient as a human being, and do not judge the human being who is the patient,” says Dr. James Salwitz.

Have a limited time to spend with each patient? There are a few simple steps you can take to lead to better patient compliance and stronger patient-physician relationships:

  • Take a seat! A study found that when physicians sat at a patient’s bedside, the patients perceived the visit as lasting longer than they did when physicians stood, even though the visits lasted the same number of minutes (Patient Education and Counseling, 2012).
  • A study by L. Aubree Shay found that patients rate physician communication more positively when the physicians take relatively simple steps, such as inviting patients to express their concerns, or extending the interaction outside of the exam room with a chat or referral exchanged in the hallway or reception area (Patient Education and Counseling, 2012).

Honest and open dialogue can not only empower your patients, it is one of the most important elements of building a sustainable, successful physician practice.

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