There is hope for Doctor/Patient communications. For the first time, more patients from many different sources means patients expect more from doctors. They want better communications in every aspect of their care and won’t hold back in telling you when you don’t do a good enough job.
- Greet all patients and that means everyone. There is no better warm up for a patient than to hear their name pronounced correctly with a smile and if appropriate, a handshake or a touch on the arm. In effect this also serves as a gauge on how open or receptive the patient may be. Common sense will tell you that a patient who is not receptive may require a different greeting than one that is.
- Ask an open ended question. If possible or appropriate, say this in their primary spoken language and use an interpreter if necessary. Open ended questions are inviting and are usually not intrusive or offensive. This type of question also opens the patient up to speak immediately of their health concern or to seek additional connection or commonness and until that is established, communications is not dialogue but a monologue either by you or the patient.
- Establish eye contact, if appropriate for the patient’s culture or religious belief. Most often, patients will let down their hesitancy or skepticism if they can get a connection by looking at you. It need only be a fleeting moment but it goes a long way
- Don’t immediately write or look at a computer or your clip board. Once an initial connection is made, the patient is seeking reaffirmation or confirmation of a connection and looking away may convey inattention or annoyance. Hold for at least 60 seconds.
- Lastly, listen without judgment. Ask questions that suggest you want clarification. This means that you don’t agree or disagree or say a judgmental remark. Facial expressions, body language are extremely important and you will transmit your own receptiveness.
Better doctor-patient communications cannot happen until one or the other are both receptive and ready to communicate whether it is talking or listening. Your marketing strategies and tactics have brought the patient in. Now it is everyone’s task to keep the patient coming back.
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