Better Patient Communication: Best Practices for Every Practice

May 3, 2021 | Member Providers, Providers

by Ray Foxworth, D.C., FICC • 

President & Founder, ChiroHealthUSA • 

Working on communication with your patients is like striving to make a better pizza. You will never reach perfection, but you should never stop trying.

The fact remains, though, that many practices could be “making better pizzas,” so to speak. A recent study by The Joint Commission found that:

  • Communication failure is to blame for more than 70% of serious adverse health outcomes.
  • About 60% of the time, patients leave their doctors unsure of what they are supposed to do.

So, clearly, what we have here is a failure to communicate. And even knowing that communication goes both ways, and patients are to blame for some of the above, providers in all professions must always strive to do better.

The question is, how? Here are a few tips that will have you making great pizzas in no time.

  1. Always introduce yourself – You may be saying to yourself “everyone knows that,” but Medical School Headquarters found that 3 out of 4 doctors fail to check this simple box. This should be standard procedure for everyone on your team, and they should be coached to also acknowledge other members of the family along with the patient. Consider name tags as well as we all know how difficult it is to remember names.
  2. Don’t rush – Time is money, and it’s second nature for many of us to hurry when we get behind on our schedule. But health care advice can be complex and difficult for patients, so make a conscious effort to slow down. Pause frequently so the patient has time to digest what you’re telling them.
  3. Make sure they understand – This takes more than just asking if they understand you, because too often they’ll say they do when they don’t. Ask them instead to explain back to you any instructions you gave. Look them in the eye, hear how they respond, and make sure they have the right answers.
  4. Listen – Listening is an art that takes practice, but it pays off in so many ways. A doctor who listens will often hear that extra detail that will help them give a more accurate diagnosis. They will also build a better rapport with patients, many of whom complain that their doctors didn’t have empathy or didn’t care what they had to say. What they really mean is, their doctor just didn’t listen.
  5. Ditch the jargon – Patients get anxious when a doctor gives them a diagnosis that requires them to have their own medical degree. Use layman’s terms whenever possible.

Communication is a skill that truly separates the best doctors from the rest, so embrace the tips above and focus on perfecting how you talk with and relate to your patients. Because the world needs better communication from our doctors as badly as it needs the perfect pizza.