A major problem reported by patients who receive primary care is how distant and transactional many doctors are during communication. One study has shown that this is likely correlated to whether doctors are facing malpractice suits or not. Effective communication is linked to healthy patients who trust their doctors and listen to them. Unfortunately, medical schools don’t teach doctors to manifest a lot of empathy or care about it.
The good thing is that you won’t have to overhaul your entire vocabulary or relearn how to speak to change your communication habits. Research has shown that only around 7% of communication is verbal. The rest is body language and tonality. Smiling, laughing, making kind gestures, using a relaxed tone, these can all relax and put your patient at ease.
Effective communication is one of the key elements of improving your doctor-patient relationship and ensuring favorable health outcomes for your patients. Below, we’ll talk about the best ways you can achieve this!
6 Ways You Can Improve Your Communication with Patients
- Practice active listening
To be a good communicator, you need to master active listening. Don’t speak, just listen, pay attention to what the patient is saying, and be present in the conversation. This skill is linked to a high emotional intelligence level, which is essential in ensuring favorable outcomes for your patients.
- Control your tone
The way you deliver a message might matter more than the message itself, sometimes. Control your tone and make it more empathetic and supportive, especially when you’re delivering bad news. Try not to adopt a distant or irritated tone that might make your patient feel judged or patronized.
- Eliminate your bias
Everyone is biased, even those working in the healthcare sector. It’s often linked to racial or ethnic judgments and will lead to difficulties building a trust-based relationship with your patient. Empathy is the key in eliminating your biases. Listen to your patient and try to put yourself in their shoes. Diversity and inclusion training is another good idea in practicing an open-minded and inclusive approach.
- Communicate flexibly
Not all patients communicate the same. Some might prefer phone conversations vs. face-to-face talks. Others might not listen to voicemails or they don’t pay attention to their email. Your job as a physician is to find the best communication method that works for every specific patient.
- Picture yourself as the patient
Think of it this way – how would you like your doctor to talk to you? Can the experience be improved, and if so, how? Would you be satisfied or content if your doctor communicated with you the way you communicate with your patients? If not, then change it!
- Ask your patient before making a decision
A patient-centric approach means you must include your patient in the decision-making process. Its their life, their health, and their choice, after all. Explain why you think a certain healthcare choice is better for them. Or why another one is bad. Talk to your patient about a diagnostic and treatment that you will be providing.
- Understand your patient’s perspective
Misinformation is extremely spread-out regarding medical diagnoses and symptoms. Especially since patients have a hard time getting in contact with their PCPs (an average of 18 days, a study shows). Patients have started self-diagnosing themselves and bringing misinformation to their physicians. Don’t outright dismiss them without trying to understand where they’re coming from. Show empathy, listen to them, and be open to their perspectives. Otherwise, you’ll lose their trust.
While doctors prefer a more black-and-white and concise communication, patients value active listening, empathy, and care. They want to know that you care about their worries and that you listen to what they have to say. Effective communication puts the patient first and is one of the best ways of revolutionizing the healthcare system.