Effective Patient-Physician Communication Techniques
Communication between doctors and patients is absolutely vital, as poor communication can be not only frustrating but potentially deadly in Medicine. Effective patient-physician communication is essential during the brief time patients stay at the clinic.
It is imperative to maximize your message by utilizing some of these effective techniques for better communication between doctors and patients:
Avoid Medical Jargon When Communicating w/ Patients
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This is a huge obstacle to effective patient-physician communication. A study of Resident Physicians found that it is common to grossly overestimate one's use of layman's terms and teach back when working with patients. In observed patient interactions, Residents were found to overestimate their use of layman's terms and teach back by over 50%(1). This highlights how self-perceptions can be misleading and a concerted effort should be made when communicating between doctors and patients.
Ask Patients Open Ended Questions
Open ended questions encourage patients to explore their issues and uncover further details about their problems. Instead of asking yes/no questions during communication between doctors and patients, try asking "How" or "Why" questions to promote further discussion.
Listen to Your Patients
The old saying "You have 2 ears and 1 mouth so you can listen twice as much", is especially important for effective Physician-Patient communication. relationship. Physicians tend to speak more than they listen during patient interactions, often interrupting the patient within in the first minute of talking. By listening, you ensure that all pertinent information is obtained while also conveying a sense of investment in their issues.
Use Eye Contact When Talking to Patients
As the use of technology and EMR systems have increased, the amount of eye contact with patients have decreased. This has an adverse effect on patient-physician interactions as it may convey that you are distracted and not listening to the patients concerns. To eliminate this during communication between doctors and patients, try completing your note after you leave the room or utilizing a scribe so you are free to focus on the patient.
Summarize Patient Concerns
Reflecting and summarizing a patient's concerns reinforces that you are an active listener and that you clearly understand their expressed issues. This technique is especially effective when trying to assure anxious patients who may feel that their concerns are not being heard.
Offer Patients Words of Encouragement
Accentuating a positive is more effective than stressing the negatives. If you see progress, talk about it. Promoting a patient's positive behaviors will encourage these behaviors in the future, while also boosting their self-esteem.
Howard, T. et al. Doctor Talk: Physicians' Use of Clear Verbal Communication. Journal of Health Communication. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2012.757398.
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