Here are Five Ways Doctors can Improve Doctor-Patient Relationships
A doctor's diagnostic and treatment skills are the foundation of their career and practice. However, patient communication and relationship-building skills are necessary too. These aren’t just required while delivering bad news to the patients, but also to keep them coming back, help them follow your advice, and spread the word about you. While medical school does teach doctors interviewing, comprehension, and basic communication skills, these are only taught to help extract information and reach the correct diagnosis.
Other aspects of relationship-building like empathy and emotional understanding are often overlooked. This can lead to a communication gap at the very least. At times, this can also result in misinformation, leading to incorrect diagnosis and treatment. This, in the long run, can negatively impact a doctor's reputation and practice. So, it is of utmost importance that doctors learn to cultivate and improve their relationships with patients.
Trust and transparency are necessary between a patient and their doctor. This helps the patient drop inhibitions about their health and allows doctors to provide top-quality healthcare. However, this isn't easy in today's digital age. Patients now resort to self-diagnosing their symptoms . Diverging medical beliefs and outright denial can further complicate this relationship. Still, the onus is on doctors to educate their patients and provide top-tier healthcare. A doctor's ability to make the patient feel comfortable can be the difference between a good or bad experience.
Here are tried and tested tips to improve doctor-patient relationships.
Empathize and sympathize with patients
Practicing empathy entails developing a compassionate relationship, which enables comprehensive patient care . It is important for healthcare workers to develop the ability to understand and share the feelings of patients. This ensures that patients cooperate and are at ease during diagnosis, surgery, or treatment.
Look at it this way: When a patient visits a hospital, awaiting results or surgery, they experience many emotions. These may be a mix of fear, anxiety, and nervousness, which causes unreasonable conflicts. If not tackled tactfully with compassion and understanding, this can hinder patient care. Doctors must go beyond their caregiver role and emphasize with patients, especially while delivering bad news. Calmly listening to patient doubts, fears, and worries, can also help patients feel comfortable and at ease. Empathy and compassion encourage ready adherence to medications and whole-hearted cooperation.
Cultivate patience for greater patient satisfaction
Doctors, without a doubt, have a busy schedule with not a second to spare. However, brushing off a patient or rushing them during an appointment can make the patient feel less important, affecting their morale. In haste to get out of the way, patients may focus only on primary symptoms, resulting in a lack of information for correct diagnosis. This affects patient satisfaction and can result in misdiagnosis.
So, doctors must ensure that they give their undivided attention to the patient in front of them. They should actively listen to their patients, asking inquisitive questions. If possible, they should spend time learning patients’ background on first visits. This helps foster a trusting relationship, encouraging patients to be forthcoming.
Encourage good health practices
Change is difficult, irrespective of it being good or bad. Most patients, even with chronic conditions, will be averse to making lifestyle changes. However, while doctors cannot force the necessary change, they can find ways to encourage it. This is where attributes such as empathy, understanding, tactfulness, and patience are integral. In such cases, doctors must focus on the current healthy habits of the patients. Encouragement and progress make patients open to change. Doctors must constantly educate such patients about the possible positive impacts of a lifestyle change. This approach puts a positive spin on doctor recommendations.
Practice collaborative healthcare with your patients
Rather than ordering patients about their treatment, doctors should strive to discuss it. This results in a collaborative approach that makes patients feel responsible and part of the process. Possible side-effects and pros and cons may be discussed with the patient. This helps patients feel in control, making them accountable. A collaborative approach will make patients stick to the treatment plan and follow prescribed changes with more discipline.
Take efforts to bridge cultural and communication gaps
India is a country with multiple cultures with vast differences. Therefore, no two patients are the same. What's normal in one culture can be offensive to the other. Moreover, the difference in language comprehension can lead to miscommunication. So, doctors cannot take a cookie-cutter approach to patient care. Instead, they need to respect and be sensitive to patients' cultures, values, and beliefs while interacting with them. If possible, doctors should speak in a language the patient understands better to bridge the communication gap. This will help build, improve, and nurture the doctor-patient relationship. Furthermore, it will help doctors provide comprehensive care, increasing patient satisfaction.
The doctor-patient relationship is one of the cornerstones of patient care. It influences a patient's decision on whether to stop or continue with a doctor . Patient engagement and education are an integral part of patient care. So, doctors should employ purposeful methods that encourage and nurture such relationships.
Please note that this article is solely meant for informational purposes and Bajaj Finserv Health Limited (“BFHL”) does not shoulder any responsibility of the views/advice/information expressed/given by the writer/reviewer/originator. This article should not be considered as a substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your trusted physician/qualified healthcare professional to evaluate your medical condition. The above article has been reviewed by a qualified doctor and BFHL is not responsible for any damages for any information or services provided by any third party.
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