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Slow Down to Listen Up: Patient Communication Pointers for Medical Personnel and Practitioners

Communication is the cornerstone of the relationship between doctor and patient. A doctor’s job is not merely to make a correct diagnosis but to engage in a meaningful and effective exchange with the patient in order to understand how he or she is feeling. As a result of this, the doctor and patient become closer and a bond of trust is formed. Quality care means better communication. Here are some tips to help you interact with your patients easier and with optimal results.

Patient Expectations

Your patients don’t want to be seen as just a conglomeration of symptoms. They wish to be recognized as they are: unique individuals. They also want to be informed about their treatment options so that they can participate in the decision-making about their health care as much as possible. Not only is this the ethical way to treat patients, it’s the law.

Most physicians and health workers would agree that one of the main initiators of patient-centered healthcare has been the Internet. These days, patients have access to the same medical information as their doctors and they’re not afraid to let them know it. Often a patient will arrive for an appointment having looked up their symptoms and with a clear idea of what’s wrong with them and how they want to be treated. This is why, as a medical practitioner, you need to slow down and listen to what your patients have to say before you provide the information they need.

Drop the Medical Jargon

When you have listened to your patient carefully and you are now ready to explain their condition and treatment options or to answer questions, don’t fall into the trap of using medical jargon, for many patients, this may seem like a foreign tongue. Not to mention the patients who may not speak English as a first language. Break down complex terms into bite-size pieces of information and be sure to address any questions or concerns in full. Check with your patient often that he or she understands what you are saying. Don’t talk down to patients and never belittle a patient when he or she asks you a question, no matter how trivial it may seem to you.

Respect a Patient’s Culture

As a medical practitioner, you will come across patients from many different cultures. It’s important to remember to respect each patient’s cultures and beliefs. Be aware of any preconceptions or biases that you have about your patients. You must also be aware that your patient’s views may sometimes be influenced by their own cultural or ethnic stereotypes. If you’re unfamiliar with your patient’s culture or beliefs, find out more about them. If your personal style does not seem to be working with a particular patient, adjust it until it does. Bear in mind, self-disclosure may often be difficult for patients from other cultures, particularly female patients.

Use the Language of Caring

As a healthcare worker, it is important that you learn about the Language of Caring so you can provide the best possible service for your patients. If you want to develop a deeper understanding, you can participate in an online training course that will help you develop the necessary skills for introducing empathy and compassion to your patient and family-centered care practice.

Benefits for Practitioners

  • Helping doctors improve their relationships not just with patients but also with their families and the healthcare team as a whole.

  • Increasing the number of doctors to uphold the promise of patient and family-centered care.

  • Leading to a strong sense of comradery within the team.  

  • Encouraging patients to stick to their care plan and promoted positive outcomes.

Benefits for Staff

  • Earning the trust, confidence, and respect of patients, families, and co-workers.

  • Personalizing care and service.

  • Encouraging empathetic and compassionate communication.

  • Strengthening relationships between members of staff, patients, and families.

  • Achieving improved patient outcomes.

The programs utilize a motivating evidence-based strategy aimed at helping doctors and their health care teams demonstrate how much they care, ensuring patient safety, improving patient outcomes and increasing Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) scores.

If you want to keep your patients healthy and happy and ensure that they return to your practice when they need to, it’s important that you communicate with them in an appropriate way and give them the time that they need when they come to their appointments. Remember, good communication is good medicine.


About the author:

Louise Wade is a health practitioner who visits many different facilities for her job. Over time she has learned why some practices are better than others and wants all patients to get that level of service.