Effective communication is the cornerstone of a healthy practice and good patient outcomes. Remember that good communication goes both ways. While we normally think more along the lines of how we express ourselves and our ideas, good communication also involves being a good listener. That’s especially important for private practice owners. Effectively communicating with your patients determines:
- Whether or not a patient will actually come back to you for treatment after the initial consultation
- Your ability to properly diagnose the patient’s problem
- Whether or not you can determine if the patient will actually follow advice
Good communication skills build patient trust. If the patient feels that you’re genuinely listening to them, they feel like you’re really working in their best interests.
Poor Communication Can Destroy The Doctor/Patient Relationship
On the other hand, if you communicate poorly with your patients (i.e., lecture instead of listen, fail to explain care in a way that your patient can understand, don’t address patient concerns openly, etc.), the doctor/patient relationship may suffer irreparable damage. You don’t get more than one chance to truly build trust with your patients.
Design your client communications with the end result of open dialogue and mutual trust in mind. Approach your patients like you would any partnership, with respect, commitment and make sure you stay on the same page with the end result of treatment foremost in both your minds.
How Do You Create A Strong Dialogue With Patients?
Treat creating effective patient communication as a step by step process. This is another by-product of living and practicing by design. Know what you want to achieve from the very beginning. Think of the process along these lines:
As with any other initial meeting, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Start with a warm greeting and treat the patient like a personal friend. Check your own attitude or mindset before you enter the treatment room and think about how you can best serve the patient.
Your initial consultation with a patient will set the tone for the entire relationship. Really make an effort to connect with the patient and listen carefully to what they tell you about their current problems. Ask questions in a way that encourages them to give you more information.
After you start treating the patient, communicate with them as thoroughly as possible. Pay attention to body language and attitude. The patient may be unhappy but not forthcoming about their complaints. If you really pay attention, you may be able to address their concerns and begin to help them.
At the end of any active care plan, it is vital to communicate with your patient about the success or failure of all portions of the treatment protocol. This is an especially important time to listen to the patient. Don’t just railroad them into agreeing with your perception of how the treatment went. Pause and let them get a word in where they need to. Then learn from this and add appropriate changes to your private practice.
Following these communication guidelines will help you build patient trust and build your successful doctor’s rapport at the same time. Your stiffest competition is doubt on the part of your patients. Learning to effectively communicate with current and prospective patients will help you design effective marketing programs and address concerns before they become problems.