Nine ways to improve your patient communications

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Techniques for better physician-patient communication, patient outcomes and profitability.

As physicians, what drives us is providing high quality care and improving clinical outcomes for our patients. Effective physician-patient communication is critically important to these efforts. Research has repeatedly shown there is a clear link between how well we communicate and patient outcomes.

Research has demonstrated the connection between better communication scores and improved patient adherence, lower readmission rates, improved mortality rates, lower malpractice risk and reduced cost per case. No other area of medical knowledge or technical skill has a greater impact on our patients.

In addition to the significant patient benefits, other advantages to improved communication with patients include improved physician job satisfaction, improved market share and reputation, and reduced medical errors and patient safety events. The best part is, better communication does NOT require more of the physician’s time nor additional costs.

But as physicians are pushed to be more productive and take on more responsibility, it’s human nature to get caught up in focusing on tasks, routines and job requirements. When that happens, communication can break down, and we can come across as less caring.

We need practice - and discipline - to get it right. Thankfully, like any medical procedure, good communication is something that can be taught, learned, assessed and improved. Here are nine strategies to help you refocus and enhance your patient interactions.

Considering all of the tactics at once can seem overwhelming. I encourage you to pick two or three things and start them today. Then use those skills with everyone, everywhere until they become habits. From there, you can continue incorporating other tactics on your journey to better patient communication. Your patients will thank you, and you will derive more meaning from your work.

About the Author

Rohit Uppal, MD, MBA, SFHM l is a practicing hospitalist and the Chief Clinical Officer, Hospitalist Services, for TeamHealth and is a certified instructor for patient experience programs IHC E4 program, Heart-head-heart, Crucial Conversations.