After reading an excellent post today on how much personal information doctors should share when talking to patients, I wanted to further extrapolate on the topic. I am a firm believer in the benefits of self-disclosure, as long as it benefits the patient. The healthcare industry has become highly competitive. Consumers are no longer just choosing providers that are recommended by their insurance or are located in their neighborhood. They want the best and they are willing to drive for it. One of the ways providers can achieve best status is through open communication.
Think about it, most people like to talk about themselves. Within the healthcare setting the need to communicate is required. Open communication between provider and patient is beneficial in many ways. For one, a doctor who is warm and welcoming in their conversational tone is going to put their patients at ease. This helps patients disclose concerns they may have and allows them to feel comfortable asking questions – something many are not doing. It also helps improve the overall patient experience.
When I refer to open communication, I do not mean idle chit chat. To me, open communication is sharing relevant information about the provider’s personal experiences as related to healthcare. For family doctors, this can also include parenting tips for new moms and dads. I remember when my daughter was a colicky infant our pediatrician shared her own experience with colic from a mother’s perspective. Her self-disclosure helped me because even though I knew I wasn’t alone in reality, I felt I was during this stressful time.
Self-disclosure can also help a patient make a medical decision. A provider’s personal experience is worth its weight in gold. From a patient’s perspective, we consider our medical provider to be an expert. Their experience with anything we may be going through or considering is going to be quite valuable to most people. Keep in mind that there are always going to be patients who do not want to talk and that is fine too. It is up to the provider to read the patient’s cues. Are they engaging with you? Do they seem interested? It is also important for the provider to not take away from the patient’s chair time with what might be considered unimportant conversation.
So healthcare providers, take the time to connect with your patients. Share your opinion – both medically and personally with your patients when it will be beneficial to them. Your engagement and openness will be treasured by most and that is how you can build loyalty.