Did you know that about 75% of healthcare providers believe they communicate effectively with their patients? However, only 21% of patients feel the same way. There is a disconnect somewhere.
We all know that effective doctor-patient communication is critical to the success of your practice — and, unlike a lot of other things, it is one thing you can control.
To most patients, healthcare decisions can be confusing and intimidating — and something as a simple wellness checkup can be stressful. It’s a big deal to them. Usually, they are coming to you because something is wrong. Perhaps they aren’t feeling well. Or worse, it might be because of something more severe or life-threatening. But no matter the reason, they are stressed. When you poorly communicate — or it appears that way to them — you amplify that stress.
Patients usually come in with questions, leave with questions, and forget most of what you said. So, regardless of how well you feel you communicate, there is room for improvement. So let me give you some quick tips you can use right now to improve that.
1.) Answer their questions before they come in for an appointment.
It’s straightforward. Educate your patients. Give them information on their condition, their appointment, the appointment process, the provider they will see, and even maps to get to the office BEFORE they come in. It will relieve some stress, and the visit will run smoother.
2.) During the visit, listen.
Your patients want you to hear them, feel you are concerned, and their problems are the most important. So when you’re in your consultations — and within reason — be patient and let your patients talk. But more importantly, listen to what they are saying. Don’t overtake the conversation. We’ve all done it. We completed sentences for people, interrupt to clarify a mistake they may have said, or babble on and on because we want to show we know our stuff. Stop! Let your patients speak.
3.) Make sure you answer the questions they are asking, not what you think they should be asking.
All patients have questions. All patients have concerns. Part of listening is to hear their problems, questions, or issues and address them. Don’t dismiss what they say and force them to follow your plan or protocol. Guide them in the direction they need to go, but do it via their concerns.
4.) Talk at their level of understanding, not yours.
Most patients do not have a medical degree. So when you use high-level medical terminology and long sentences, they either glaze over or their stress level increases because they don’t understand what you are saying. You are not in practice to show off your medical vocabulary. So, dumb it down.
5.) Answer their questions after their appointment is over.
Give your patients information to take home. Regardless of how well you communicate during a visit, they will forget about 70% of what you said. It is a lot easier for someone to digest information when they are not in a stressful environment. Yes, a medical facility qualifies as a stressful environment. Let them read something at home, where they are more comfortable and can focus. You can provide that information in many ways: automated emails, handouts, information cards, or videos to watch.
Take a look at how you communicate, both internally and externally to your patients, and see ways you can improve. We can help in many ways, like educational handouts, treatment information sheets, automated emails, info cards, and more. You are in the business of helping people. Let us help you help more.