How to Connect with the Families of Your Patients

Primary Medical Care Center has always believed in establishing a connection between our primary care physicians and the families of our patients. After all, the family members spend more time with their loved ones and incur the worst of their physical and cognitive health challenges.

For this reason, families can be essential in helping doctors to understand their patients’ living situations and all the setbacks they face that affect their health. These setbacks might include a lack of transportation, financial hardships, unsafe housing, no access to healthy food, etc.

Patients often feel too proud to admit to their doctors that they have these setbacks and lifestyle challenges. That is why involving family members in the healthcare needs of their loved ones is beneficial because they will tell you things that your patients are not telling you.

Ask Permission First

 Primary care physicians are obligated to keep a patient’s healthcare status confidential. So you cannot just decide on your own to call their family members and talk about their health with them. However, if a patient gives permission for you to talk about their healthcare status with their family members, you can do so.

Therefore, make sure you ask the patient for permission before contacting their family members for discussions about their health.

Make Appointments with the Family Members

 Schedule an appointment for your patient’s family to see you at your office or through a video chat session. The more family members you can speak to simultaneously, the less you will have to explain to them in the future.

A large gathering of family members will allow them to ask questions and hear your answers. Then you can share ideas and advice with each other much faster and save time in the future. This will ultimately benefit your patient because everyone in their life will be on the same page in addressing their healthcare needs adequately.

Show Understanding During Disagreements

 Disagreements are to be expected when you talk with family members about their loved one’s health. The family members may not agree with your advice or will become emotional about it. Never lose your temper or get angry at the patient’s family members when disagreements arise.

Acknowledge the concerns and opinions of the family members rather than dismissing them. And if the families ask whether certain over-the-counter supplements are effective at treating their loved one’s condition, tell them your area of expertise is evidence-based preventative care. Then suggest a workable solution with evidence to back it up.

Ask Family Members About Their Loved One’s Social Determinants

Social determinants have a lot to do with a patient’s health, especially older patients who are senior citizens. Due to their limited incomes, they often don’t have access to transportation, safe housing, or healthy food. These social determinants can tell a doctor much about why a patient suffers from a particular health condition.

Unfortunately, many older patients are unwilling to confide in their doctors about social determinants because they are too embarrassed or ashamed. Even if you build a trusting relationship with your older patient, there are still some things they might not be willing to confess to you as their doctor. The only people you can get the truth from are their family members.

Developing a partnership with a patient’s family is an effective way to learn about the social determinants of their health. Their family members will be more willing to give you invaluable information regarding the lifestyle challenges affecting their loved one, such as no access to transportation, healthy food, safe housing, etc.

Once you learn about these social determinants of your patient’s health, you and their family members can develop solutions to address them together. Family members must be involved in this process because they have more influence and control over their loved one’s lifestyle habits. So if there are certain things their loved one needs to improve their health, like transportation to doctor’s appointments, then their family members can provide that to them.

Value-Based Care is the Best Model for Establishing a Physician-Family Connection 

Primary care physicians under the fee-for-service model can still attempt to establish a partnership with their patient’s family members. However, it is more difficult to establish these connections under the fee-for-service model because doctors have limited time to see their patients, let alone their family members.

In a value-based care environment, this isn’t the case. Primary care physicians have much more time to see patients and speak with family members about their condition. More time creates more opportunities for doctors to build stronger relationships with patients and their family members. That way, more practical treatment solutions can get formed to address the underlying health challenges of the patients effectively.

Contact Primary Medical Care Center at (305) 751-1500 if you want to learn more about establishing a stronger relationship with your patients and their family members.