Top Strategies Physicians can Use to Enhance their Patient Relationships
Top Strategies Physicians can Use to Enhance their Patient Relationships
February 15, 2021 by eMedEvents

A strong relationship between patients and healthcare professionals plays a key role in achieving quality healthcare and positive health outcomes, with exceptional communication at the core of this dynamic. As a practicing physician you have the responsibility to encourage communication and provide education for your patients. This can only be effective when it is based on two-way, open and honest dialogue that enables meaningful exchange of relevant information from both parties. Support your patients by offering tools and resources to facilitate dialogue, which will in turn lead to lasting trust and a partnership that consists of shared perceptions regarding expectations, treatment goals and long-term outcomes. Below we will describe all the benefits better dialogue can create between you and your patients, and the 5 ways you can reduce your communication barriers1

Benefits of a good patient–HCP relationship1

Patients

• Feel empowered to make informed decisions about their treatment and care

• Take an active role in their treatment and self-management

• Have realistic expectations of treatment outcomes

• Adhere to treatment

• Feel satisfied with their treatment and care

• Show improved health outcomes and quality of life

Physicians

• Are able to conduct engaging and time-efficient consultations

• Have reported enhanced morale, reduced work-related stress and greater job satisfaction

Time constraints, technology and administrative demands often interrupt human connection that is central to clinical care. These factors contribute to physician burnout and patient dissatisfaction. We at eMedEvents offer five ways to enhance physician presence and create a meaningful connection with your patients.

Prepare for each patient before their appointment

As a physician you need to become familiar with each individual patient. Start by asking your patients to fill-out pre-visit questionnaires, in order to be as prepared as possible for any questions they may have for you. If you do not have time to pre-chart, ask a nurse or medical assistant to report any important patient-reported information obtained while rooming. You should also try and clear your patient’s mind of any distractions at the beginning of each appointment, that way their sole-focus is on you and the status of their health.   

Listen

Sara Berg, a senior news writer for AMA states “it is important to listen with one’s whole body using open and receptive body language. This involves nonverbal behaviors that convey openness and facilitate listening. For example, sit down, lean in, maintain an open body position and orient your body toward the patient. Thoughtful physician body language and positioning has been shown to support relationship building, trust and patient satisfaction. Physicians should avoid interrupting patients, especially during their initial description of active health issues. When doctors actively listen, patients communicate more, provide more medical information and report higher satisfaction”2.

Mutual agreement on your patient’s goals

Know what your patient’s endgame is, and if achieved early in the visit, can help you understand the problems your patient may be facing, and allow you to properly diagnose them. A collaborative agenda can help reduce last-minute concerns, and positively influence symptoms, including pain and anxiety. This can be achieved through open-ended questions that ask a patient to describe in their own words why they are visiting the clinic. Once your appointment is over, make sure to ask your patient if there is anything else they would want to address. This will help reduce the number of unmet concerns and improve your patient’s perceptions.

Connect with the patient’s story

There are numerous personal circumstances that influence a patient’s health, and these should all be considered when treating them. Be curious and ask questions that create a connection. Ask your patient about their sociocultural background and life circumstances. When physicians show active consideration of a patient’s perspective, it creates an atmosphere of shared presence, which can directly influence the quality of care.

You should also focus on the positive by acknowledging specific patient efforts in a genuine and positive way, and offer praise for anything your patient has accomplished.

Look for any emotional cues

Berg writes “read the patient’s verbal and nonverbal emotional cues and try to elicit patient feelings through questions like (how are you feeling about this)? Interpersonal sensitivity from a physician is associated with positive patient outcomes, including patient satisfaction, appointment adherence and learning of conveyed information. Individuals’ emotional sensitivity may vary, but patients do appreciate physician attempts to elicit and identify their emotional cues, even if mistaken”2.


Works Cited

1. Stewart MA. Effective physician-patient communication and health outcomes: a review. CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal 1995;152:1423–33

2. Sara Berg, In EHR age, 5 proven tips to enhance patient-physician connection, October 2020; AMA

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