The Practice of Communication

I love the things we experience when running a business—both the good and the bad. As an advocate for functional medicine specifically, my goal is to help doctors develop their businesses to attract the right people and provide the best patient experience.

With a failing health care system, millions of people know we need solutions. You know there are better tools available and have worked hard, and possibly even risked much, to offer them. The problem for the consumer lies in finding the doctor with the right skillset and then having a good experience with the services.

We can solve these problems with how we conduct business.

The missing link in healthcare is connectivity. Current technology allows us to connect and communicate with anyone with ease, yet business practices fall short with truly connecting and engaging with our audience.

One study1 shows that only 21% of patients feel satisfied with the communication from their doctor, and an alarming number, 79%, left their doctor’s office more confused and with more questions than when their visit began. Many reported they were unclear on their diagnosis and the recommended treatment plans presented to them. On the flip side, 75% of the practitioners surveyed in the same study said they felt they had done a great job of listening and communicating with the patient about their concerns and questions, as well as effectively explaining the treatment plans.

There is a gap in communication.

Not to be naïve to the reality of the practitioner’s job description, another recent article [2] pointed out the extreme difficulty and discontent providers show with the rigorous demands the current healthcare model inflicts. Paperwork, time limitations, stress, and everything else a doctor deals with, prove that opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with patients is very limited and costly. However, “most complaints against doctors are in regards to lack of communication skills, not clinical competency.”

There is a link between patient compliance, satisfaction, and health outcomes and a positive co-dependent relationship the doctor has with the patient. Innately, doctors are in a unique position of trust and respect. If they are not able to adequately satisfy the human need for understanding and compassion through interpersonal skills, the patient will have a bad experience, be dissatisfied, and will not come back. Not only that, doctors would well to remember that the patient is the second member of the doctor-patient team, relying on each other for the details which help to assess current health status better.

Building effective methods for clearly speaking with and engaging patients can provide a possible solution to this issue. Technology does give us the tools to make this easier, but one must also look at the “people power” within the walls of a medical facility.

One solution to the communication deficit may be to enlist people around you, your team, to help fulfill the patients’ need for trust, respect, and understanding. Not only should your team members fully grasp their role in patients’ lives, but they can be well-trained to gather insightful details as well.

Envision a facility where everyone from your front desk receptionist to your IV room attendant is speaking the same language to your patients. Imagine how effective AND efficient you would become if your medical assistant could regurgitate advice and information the same way you do. This type of consistent communication provides constant and consistent validation of details to your patients from the time they call your office, through their visit, and long after they leave.

The best part about it—you aren’t the only one who has to do it.
By finding the right team and teaching them how and what you would like them to communicate to your patients, means you can have multiple extensions of yourself. No longer are there the limitations of being a one-man-show an issue; and chances are, many of them may be better than you at those interpersonal skills that keep patients happy and healthy. Take the time to build a team of communicators, and you will see your productivity and patient satisfaction shoot out the roof!

1. Doctor-Patient Communication: A Review
2. Doctors Tell All—and It’s Bad
Posted on December 23, 2014, in Business Owners, Doctors, Employees