With ever-increasing documentation requirements and the press of an often jam-packed clinical schedule, physicians are finding it increasingly difficult to establish a trusting, empathic relationship with their patients. Yet patients place great store in the time and attention their physicians give them, and a successful physician-patient partnership can actually improve health outcomes and compliance.
So what can care providers do to enhance patient satisfaction while still capturing essential clinical notes and maintaining a busy appointment schedule? The following tips may help you hone your patient engagement skills, saving you time in the long run.
1. Review the chart first. Before you enter the exam room, review the patient’s chart, noting his or her name, any recent laboratory studies or radiologic findings, and the reason for their visit.
2. Greet the patient warmly. When greeting the patient, look them in the eye, smile, address them by name, shake hands, and if it’s a first-time encounter, introduce yourself.
3. Sit down. Putting yourself on the same level as your patient will help make them feel at ease and will facilitate eye contact.
4. Ask, listen closely, and confirm. Ask open-ended questions at the start (“How are you feeling today?” or “What brings you in today?”) and listen intently to the patient’s response, maintaining eye contact whenever possible. Repeat back to the patient what you heard as their primary complaint or concern, avoiding any technical terms.
5. Express empathy. Demonstrate your concern for their situation (e.g., “I’m sorry that you’re in pain.”).
6. Eliminate barriers. Don’t hide behind a computer or tablet, and don’t turn your back on the patient as you take notes. Instead, position yourself so you’re angled toward the patient. You can even show the screen to the patient to share lab findings or point out changes on radiographic images.
7. End the visit with a few questions. To ensure your patients understand their diagnosis and treatment plan, ask a few more open-ended questions, like “Do you have any other questions or concerns?” or “Do you understand what the medication I prescribed for you is for, and how you should take it?” Assure them that they can always contact your office if questions arise later.