How to get the most out of your patient interaction
University of Colorado Gynecologic Oncology’s Dr. Saketh Guntupalli discusses four ways to maximize the doctor-patient relationship using better bedside manner. Make these small changes to your day-to-day routine for happier patients and a happier practice.
Bedside manner is obviously the bedrock by which you develop your doctor-patient relationship. And how patients perceive you when you are in the clinic and when you are making rounds in the hospital is of utmost importance to really developing a strong doctor-patient relationship.
There have been several studies that looked at how doctors are successful, and which doctors build these very large practices and how they do that. I think that there are four ways in which you really can maximize the interaction you have with patients with regards to your doctor-patient relationship and bedside manner.
1. Allot enough time
The first is allotting the appropriate amount of time. If you look at, statistically, what patients complain the most about, they tend to feel that doctors are very rushed. We’ve all been on the other side of that when we’ve gone to see our own doctors and we feel the doctor isn’t listening or is just trying to get through so they can get to the next patient encounter. That is very important to keep in mind, because when you spend time with patients, they certainly get that feeling that you are invested in them and that you care. So, obviously allotting the right amount of time, particularly when you have to deliver bad news, is incredibly important.
2. Make eye contact
The second thing is eye contact. Eye contact is probably the most important thing that you can do when you’re actually interacting with a patient, aside from the amount of time you spend. That’s very important, because if you’re constantly looking elsewhere, you’re looking at other things, you’re distracted, it gives the patient the sense that you’re not being completely truthful with them. So, maintaining good eye contact, and not just with the patient but with the patient’s family, is incredibly important.
3. Level the playing field
The other thing that I think is very important that I use in my practice, particularly when I’m making rounds in the hospital, is to “level the playing field.” What I mean by that is to put yourself in the position of the patient: You’re sick, you’re lying in a bed and a group of physicians, residents, medical students, nurses come in and they’re all surrounding you. That can be, on a very basic level, threatening.
So, what I think is important to help ease that is to actually sit down when you talk to patients. I try to bring a stool or chair in and actually sit down when I’m talking to the patient about what happened in the OR the day before, what chemotherapy we’re going to give them, what the treatment plan is going to be. When you have that eye-level contact with patients, they actually really appreciate that, they trust you more and they feel a sense that you’re very invested in them and you’re very kind.
4. Have a family member in the room
Lastly, one of the tricks for developing a good doctor-patient relationship is having a family member in the room. This is good for the patient and it’s good for the doctor. It’s good for the patient because that person can act as a scribe and can take notes, particularly in very long discussions when you’re discussing various options such as surgery or medical interventions. The other reason that it’s important is it gives the patient the sense that they have an advocate for them in the room. It gives them the sense that there’s somebody there that will advocate and stand up for them.
These four things are probably the most important things to establishing a strong doctor-patient relationship. They’re easy, they don’t take a lot of time and, overall, they really do help and benefit excellent communication between the doctor and the patient.