11 Helpful Tips for Better Patient Communication Skills

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You may have mountains of medical information stored in your brain. You may have years of experience in the field. But, if you can’t properly communicate with your patients, it’s all for nothing.

Are you hoping to improve your patient communication skills? Unsure of how to do so? This article’s for you.

Here are 10 helpful tips for better patient communication skills.

Brushing Up on Your Patient Communication Skills

Unless you pursue one of the few healthcare careers with little patient contact, you’re going to have to have your patient communication skills finely honed. Looking for some patient communication tips? We’ll give you 11 of them below.

Make a Proper Introduction

First and foremost, you need to make a proper introduction. This includes not only saying hello to your patient but introducing yourself formally as well.

While you want to designate who you are (doctor, nurse, dentist, etc.), you also want to identify your association with the healthcare facility in which you’re working. For instance, are you a full-time physician at the facility or are you a traveling healthcare specialist who only works in the facility on occasion?

It’s also important that you state your full title. If you’re a cardiologist, make sure to say that you’re a cardiologist and not just a doctor.

Be sure to make introductions with everyone in the room. This includes not only the patient in question but any friends or family members that he or she might have brought along as well.

Be Malleable 

As a healthcare professional, it’s important to remember that you have years of medical knowledge and experience on your side. While you may know your area of expertise like the back of your hand, it doesn’t mean that your patient does.

For this reason, you need to be malleable in conversation. Be ready for questions and be prepared to answer those questions thoughtfully.

This is your patient’s health that’s in question, after all. He or she has every right to be concerned, and — considering he or she is paying a lot of money for your services — you have an obligation to address those concerns in their entirety.

Listen closely, be empathetic, and do everything you can to ease your patient’s mind. Regardless of who your patient is, he or she is bound to take your opinions and advice very seriously.

Speak on the Level of Your Patient 

Medical terminology can be complex. You’re familiar with it because you’re around it all the time. Your patient, on the other hand, likely isn’t.

As the authority in the room, you have a duty to speak on the same level as your patient. You must find a way to explain complex issues in a way that he or she understands.

Remember, not all humans process information in the same way, or use the same expressions, or possess the same vocabulary. You’ll need to assess your patient quickly, and do your best to get your ideas across in a way that he or she will understand.

In most cases, you’ll need to simplify your language. For instance, if you’re a dentist, and your patient suffers from bad breath, you should use the term “bad breath” instead of “halitosis”.

Build a Rapport 

While the doctor-patient relationship should remain professional, it doesn’t necessarily have to remain formal. In fact, if you can, you should build a rapport with your patients. By building a rapport with your patient, you increase his or her trust in you, enhancing the experience for you both.

A slang term here and there isn’t going to hurt anyone’s feelings. However, be careful not to overdo it. Make sure that your patient is comfortable with a laid-back experience before going all-in on one.

Building a rapport with patients is the best way to ensure that they come back and see you again. After all, who would you rather deal with: A cold, distant, seemingly uncaring physician or a warm, welcoming friend who just happens to have the medical expertise to treat your problem? Most individuals would choose the latter.

5. Check for Understanding 

One of the mistakes that many healthcare professionals make when speaking to patients is failing to assess their patients for understanding. As was noted above, medical jargon can be complicated and can cause confusion in non-medical professionals. To ensure that your patient understands what you’re talking about, you need to check his or her body language.

Looking for understanding nods, positive facial expressions, and receptive posture. If your patient is staring at you intently with a blank face, there’s a chance that everything you’re saying is going over his or her head.

To ensure that your patient understands you, you should stop speaking periodically, asking your patient whether he or she has any questions. Some of your patients might be too shy to ask questions on their own. By asking them for questions specifically, you improve their understanding of the topic at hand.

Be Collaborative 

While some have no problem with it, many patients don’t like to feel as though they’re being talked “at”. In other words, they don’t like to feel as though they’re being lectured.

How do you ensure that this doesn’t happen? By being collaborative with your patients instead of giving them orders.

Ask your patients how they feel about specific treatments. Ask about their lifestyle. Give them just as much clout in the conversation as you have, and they’re sure to respond positively.

Be Empathetic 

For many patients, medical facilities are intimidating places. They cause these individuals to feel vulnerable and scared. It doesn’t help that they may be suffering from debilitating health conditions.

It’s your responsibility — as a medical caretaker — to appreciate the plight of your patients and show them empathy. Your patients are not products on an assembly line. They are human beings with real feelings and emotions, with lives outside of your medical facility.

Nod understandingly, express sympathy and be there for them in times of bad news. They’ll always remember the way you treated them, and you’ll get the satisfaction of helping them through a hard time.

Ask Your Patient About His or Her Life 

As was noted above, patients are more than just commodities being run down an assembly line. As such, they like to be treated as, well, human beings. A great way to make the experience more “human” for your patients is to ask them questions about their lives outside of the medical facility.

Are they in school? What do they do for work? Do they have any fun vacations coming up?

Asking questions such as these establishes a connection between you and your patients. It enhances the physician-patient bond, building trust and credibility, and ensuring that your patients come back to see you again.

Be Truthful 

As a medical professional, you are the authority on your patients’ health. As an authority, you need to be honest, forthright, and truthful. If you’re not, you’ll lose all credibility.

There’s no reason to beat around the bush in times of tragedy. While you still need to be empathetic, you also need to get the bad news out of the way in a direct manner. Don’t say anything that would leave your patient guessing about the state of his or her health.

While negative news is hard for patients to hear, they will appreciate that you gave it to them directly.

Use Written Materials 

Sometimes, verbal communication isn’t enough. This is particularly true when the topic of discussion involves complex medical jargon.

So, how can you simplify it? One of the best methods is by providing written materials. Informative brochures on the medical conditions in question will allow your patients to understand them in their own time. They won’t feel pressured to grasp them fully in your presence.

While there are all types of resources available online (and likely in your facility as well), you might consider making your own. Most patients would prefer receiving something from their doctor directly.

Practice 

You know the old expression: practice makes perfect. Unless you are an exquisite conveyor of messages, you are going to have to put some work in to improve your patient communication skills.

While you might feel stupid doing it, it’s a good idea to practice communication techniques in front of a mirror. You can gauge your facial expressions, the tone of your voice, your hand gestures, and your other communicative qualities.

Another idea would be to practice with a friend or family member. He or she could assess your communication style, helping you hone it to perfection.

Find Other Vital Information 

Good patient communication is just one small aspect of running a successful medical firm. In order for your firm to be as successful as possible, you must focus on a range of other aspects as well.

Need help on the other aspects of your firm? Ate Bits has you covered. We have a wide variety of business-related information for you to peruse.

Browse our other articles now!