As a physician, you communicate with your patients every day. Many physicians use a style that focuses on facts and prescriptive dialogue. If you notice one or more of these signs, though, it may be time to consider ways to improve communication with your patients.
1. Missed Appointments
Missing appointments do happen, but if you find that your patients are missing more appointments or running late most of the time, it is a sign that they are not engaged in their care with you. Missed appointments not only affect your schedule but may also mean that people are missing the essential care they need to be healthy. When you notice this trend, have your staff contact patients to see what is happening. Chances are that they don’t feel comfortable with the experience in your office. It may be the one-on-one interactions with you or something to do with other aspects of your practice.
2. Poor Health Outcomes
Poor health outcomes are another sign that you may need to improve communication with your patients. In addition to missing appointments, people may not feel comfortable talking to you about the challenges they face or new symptoms that arise. Work on a communication style that builds trust and loyalty with your patients.
Do you have patients that sit quietly in the exam room or just nod their heads when you talk? This is a sign that your approach is not connecting with them. Take the time to ask questions and have them repeat back what you explained to them. This not only helps your patients open up, but also helps you feel confident that they understand their health.
4. Changing Providers
When you have a portion of your patients change medical providers, this is a huge red flag that says something at your practice is not working for them. Follow-up with patients who leave your practice as soon as you are notified of the transition. The conversations should not be motivated by blame or trying to get the person back in, but to gain a deeper understanding of why they left.
Mood is a great indicator of how effective you are in supporting your patients and contributing to their health and well-being. Everyone has a bad day once in a while, so you want to look for trends. If your patients, or even a single patient, are always grumpy, angry, or anxious when they come to see you, adapt your communication style to understand how they are feeling. The extra time that you dedicate in these moments may strengthen the relationship and garner loyalty and trust.