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7 ways to improve patient communication

By João Pedro Ribeiro on May, 30 2016
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João Pedro Ribeiro

How can you improve the way you communicate with your patients?

Using technology in medicine

First of all: what you might be doing wrong…

We frequently forget that when we are communicating, we are involved in a transfer process; a transfer of emotions.

Orthopedic surgeryYour task is to create a connection with the patient, inform him about the options available and make him feel that the treatment you are proposing is the best option for his well-being. The following strategies will help you create a bigger engagement with each patient, and therefore increase the acceptance of the treatment plan.

1. Gain the patient’s trust

Don’t take the patient’s trust for granted. Your relationship is unbalanced because there is an asymmetry of information. Therefore, support your recommendations with radiographic imaging; explain the implications of the treatment; express these points slowly ; convey concern, showing proximity ; use previous cases as examples.

2. Listen to the patient’s concerns

Let the patient express its concerns (objections) without interruption. When he is finished, show empathy. Tell him you understand, show him that you listened carefully, repeating what he said. Next, eliminate the factors leading to worry or anxiety, exposing a proven action plan.

3. Communicate at the same level

  • Avoid a vertical communication;
  • Treat the patient as a friend;
  • Raise objections and concerns without being condescendent;
  • Avoid using a technical language.

4. It is a conversation, not a lecture

You must establish a dialogue. Involve the patient, because communication should be bilateral and not unilateral or vertical. If you are talking to yourself, you will not build a trusting relationship.

5. Show compassion

Your task is to make the patient engaged with the treatment plan. All your communication with the patient should be positive, even when giving negative information. These must be counterbalanced with positive information (e.g. solutions and alternatives), this while demonstrating your concern with the patient’s well-being.

6. Invest in a proper and private space

Ways to improve patient communication: seat side by sideNEVER have these conversations while the patient is lying or undressed, for example. You must consider the factors that might generate anxiety and situations that might make the
patient feel vulnerable; and remember, it is important to be talking at the same level.

You need a private room, with a table, chairs (which should stand side by side ) and a monitor which can hold your presentation. Use as much visual support as possible: a picture is worth a thousand words!

7. Train the staff

Ways to improve patient communication: avoid anxiety factorsIf your team doesn’t know the basics of an effective communication, provide them training with highly competent people in the behavior area. As you know, patient treatment is a team effort from the beginning.

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