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Tips for Effective Patient-Provider Communication

Tips for Effective Patient-Provider Communication

Cindy Mehallow | Monster Contributing Writer

Four Healthy Habits

Realizing the link between how well a provider communicates and patient satisfaction and outcomes, many healthcare systems are training employees in this critical skill. Kaiser Permanente trains physicians, therapists, pharmacists and optometrists in its four habits communication model:

• Invest in the Beginning: Create rapport quickly. Elicit the patient’s concerns, and plan the visit together.

• Elicit the Patient’s Perspective: Ask for the patient’s ideas. Determine his goal in seeking care, and explore the illness’s impact on his life.

• Demonstrate Empathy: Be open to the patient’s emotions. Make an empathetic statement as well as conveying empathy nonverbally.

• Invest in the End: Deliver diagnostic information in terms of the patient’s original concerns. Educate the patient, and involve him in the decision-making process. Then complete the visit.

Partnering with Patients

The American Academy on Communication and Healthcare (AACH) trains allied health professionals at large healthcare organizations to improve patient satisfaction and the overall work environment. The AAPP emphasizes collaboration between the healthcare provider and patient through three primary functions:

• Building Relationships: Make patients, family members and providers work as partners.

• Treating the Patient as a Person: Welcome him to your world, and orient him to the care process. Create a partnership by offering empathy, respect, legitimacy and support.

• Educating the Patient After Discovering What He Already Knows: Tailor the care plan to the patient, and explain why it doesn’t include what he may have expected. Make sure he understands you by having him repeat your instructions.

“The whole purpose is to make sure the patient feels they are a partner in their care,” says Kemp White. “Patients spend about only 2 percent of their time on the healthcare planet, but they spend 98 percent living with and managing their illness. They’re on their own most of the time.”

The Payoff for Patients — and You

Adopting these communication techniques isn’t difficult if you practice diligently. “Choose one new skill, and practice it consciously for five weeks,” Kemp White says. “It will become part of who you are.” Chances are, the payoff will be happier, healthier patients and more job satisfaction and success for you.

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