• 8Sep

    Blog: Improving Doctor-Patient Communications

    This blog by Linda Girgis MD, published in Physicians Practice, explores five areas that can improve doctor-patient communications as follows:

    • Sit down. No one is going to believe you have an interest in what you are telling them when you breeze into the room, stand there above them, and speak down to them. Get down on their eye level and speak to them, not at them.

    • Listen. One of the biggest complaints that I hear from patients is that the other doctor did not listen to them. If we listen, often patients will give us the answer. How can we address their worries when we don’t know what they are?

    • Address the patient on a personal level. I wonder how many doctors see a patient and don’t know what they do for a living? With my pediatric patients, I always ask about school and any sports or other activities they may be doing. This helps make a real connection and people think you have a genuine interest in them as people and not just another task on the conveyor belt. It takes less than a minute. And you can’t imagine the world of information you can stumble upon when you ask a patient, “How is work going?”

    • Respond to messages. Some patients expect us to be at their beck and call 24/7. We are human and need down time. In our current healthcare environment, I think many of us are near the crash and burn point. But ignoring patient messages is a harbinger of disaster. Many patients tell me they called for days trying to get a question answered or an appointment scheduled. I just saw one patient with abdominal pain who tried to call her surgeon for days. Finally, she decided to see another surgeon. It is not just about losing patents. It is about medical care. What if this patient had a surgical emergency? We don’t need to jump on the line whenever patients call. But, we should answer them in a reasonable time. Patients need to know that we will get back to them at our own time.

    • Give the patient time to ask questions. Make sure they understand their diagnosis and treatment plan. You may have devised the perfect treatment plan but it is not going to work unless you get patients to buy into it.