Money Matters Practice Management What do your patients value?
What do your patients value?
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practice_mngmt2_TN.jpgThe two issues that are consistently returned by patients as being most highly valued in a their doctor are competency and communication. Unfortunately, the demands of rising paperwork and expanding patient lists make it difficult to deliver these ideals in increasingly shorter consultation times. Yet if you do, you will suffer less litigation, patients will be happier and consultations will run more smoothly. Medical Forum would like to present 10 quick tips to help busy doctors.

Competency:

  • Disclosure. Tell the patient you will be honest and keep nothing from them. Even though the news may be bad, this builds trust.
  • Keep your information outcomes-based. Patients do not generally want to know the nitty-gritty of procedures or conditions - they will ask if they do. Instead, give them the practical outcomes that are relevant and observable.
  • Answer questions without hesitation. Direct responses build trust and credibility. Even if you do not know the answer off the top of your head, engage with the patient's questions until you are able to answer them fully.
  • Explain yourself. Explanation is attached to honesty and competency in a patient mindset. If you give an understandable explanation then you are reassuring them of your capability to deal with the situation and share information.
  • Display efficiency and organisation. Make sure you are able to take best advantage of your working space. This does not necessarily mean it needs to be rigidly neat - just that you can find what you need with the minimum of fuss.

Communication:

  • Accent the positive. Reassurance is an important healing tool. Emphasise to patients that their conditions could be worse and focus on the positive results of treatment.
  • Actively Listen. Make it a golden rule on any initial consultation to not interrupt for three minutes after your introductory "How can I help you today?" Maintain eye contact throughout. When they have finished, offer an empathic statement such as "It sounds like you are having a rough time."
  • Be a person. The professional role of doctoring creates an unavoidable personal and social remove between doctor and patient. By allowing your personal idiosyncrasies to overlay your professional conduct you create rapport and encourage the perception that you are acting from more than reflexive professional response.
  • Consult at eye level. Keeping your chair so you are roughly at eye level with patients removes goes a long way to reducing the intimidation factor. Whenever possible, ensure your desk is not laid out in a fashion intimidating to patients. Personalise your working space with things such as family photos that show you have a life outside your surgery.
  • Match your language to the patient. Within reason, moderate your speech to that of the patient. People respond better to the familiar, but a degree of professional decorum must be retained at all times. Use tone of voice and clarity of explanation to communicate on the same level, rather than using idiomatic speech.
  • Always present choice. Clearly highlight all circumstances where a patient has choice and give them space in which to deal with their options. The more involvement a patient has in their own treatment the more focused they will become on positive outcomes and less likely to place extra demands on the doctor.