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Improving the patient experience is priority one for most healthcare organizations. They realize that one of the most effective medical marketing strategies is a happy patient. Yet the way many go about achieving this falls short. While free Wi-Fi and comfortable waiting room chairs are important, the thing your patients most need is you and the skill they desire you have is adept communication.

Talking is something that comes natural to most. It is the listening part that can be challenging. Yet the way to a patients’ heart is through listening. By actively engaging patients in conversation, providers (and their staff) establish trust and build rapport, two very important qualities needed for any relationship to succeed.

Communication Improves Patient’s Health

Communication is vital for the patient’s health. Studies indicate that there is a strong positive relationship between the healthcare teams’ communication skills and the patient’s ability to follow through with medical recommendations. In addition, patients are less likely to comply with their doctors’ recommendations if they do not understand how it will benefit them.

Fears Impact on Your Practice

Don’t assume that the lack of questions asked by a patient means they understand and agree with what you are recommending. Patients are less likely to ask questions of their doctor for fear of being labeled difficult. Rather than “rocking the boat” and challenging their doctors’ recommendations, they will just ignore them. Many patients perceive their doctor as “authoritarian” and do not want to question their knowledge and displease them. Patients often find it more important to maintain the doctors’ good will rather than question their knowledge.

Tips for Improving Patient Communication

In order to overcome communication challenges, doctors must engage patients. During each patient encounter they should actively solicit feedback, questions and concerns. Here are five tips to help improve patient communication.

  • Create a more comfortable environment for patients by sitting down when speaking with them.
  • Focus on what the patient is saying, not on your response.
  • Avoid asking yes or no questions. Instead, employ open-ended questions to uncover any concerns they may have.
  • Never interrupt patients when they are speaking.
  • Patients wait to be seen and deserve their doctors’ full attention. Minimize distractions while seeing patients.

Quality communication takes time, but is well worth the effort. Your patients will feel more connected to you as a provider, which is ultimately what each patient desires.