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Enhancing the Doctor Patient Relationship

Physician seated speaking to man enhancing the doctor patient relationship | Vanguard Communications | Denver, COPutting patients first is the best way of enhancing the doctor patient relationship

Dr. Neil Baum’s advice below is a companion piece to our recent study that finds positive patient online reviews of their doctors correlates to lower percentage of COVID-19 deaths in 100 U.S. cities.

There is nothing in my practice of medicine that equals the joy of focusing on my patients and making every effort to ensure each encounter fosters a positive experience.

Well, maybe one thing: positive outcomes.

In my experience, the patients with whom I’ve developed close and trusting relationships seem to be better at following treatment plans, which helps improve positive outcomes.

For decades, research has found strong indicators that the quality of the doctor patient relationship impacts health outcomes. One significant finding is that the physician’s knowledge of the patient’s disorders and emotional state is associated positively with whether the physical ailments get resolved. Evidence shows that patients who feel they are not heard or are not respected by their doctors suffer poorer outcomes.

A study from Massachusetts General Hospital finds that improvement of the doctor patient relationship can produce health outcomes as beneficial as some common treatment protocols. It concluded that strategies such as making consistent eye contact, being attentive to patients’ emotions and helping them in setting goals make a difference in patient satisfaction.

Enhancing the doctor patient relationship helps grow your medical practice

It is important to recognize that every patient is a walking advertisement for your practice. If you have a satisfied patient, like any satisfied customer, he or she will tell between 9-15 others about their positive experience. In contrast, 13% of patients (customers) with a negative experience will tell more than 20 people.

Access impacts the patient relationship

An important metric for patients is their ability to have access to the practice. It should be a goal to accommodate a new patient within three to five days of the first telephone contact with the office. Established patients should be seen within two weeks of their request for an appointment. Of course, urgencies and emergencies should be seen the same day they contact the office.

Telehealth nurtures patient engagement

During this pandemic crisis that is impacting doctors and patients (see our recent study), telemedicine has improved the efficiency of the practice and made access to the practice much easier. Patients who can arrange an audiovisual consultation the same day they call for an appointment are highly satisfied.

Delegating enhances efficiencies

One of the main complaints that today’s patients have with their providers is that the doctor is spending too much time looking at a computer screen and not at the patient. This situation can easily be resolved by using a scribe to perform data entry. This process change enhances the doctor patient relationship as it improves practice efficiency and allows doctors to see more patients each day and have fewer records to review at the end of the day.

If you can’t employ a scribe, be attuned to being engaged with the patient as you take notes. Explain what you are doing and the need to immediately update medical records in this manner. You can take a small break from typing to talk directly to the patient. Make eye contact. (Just think how you would like to be considered as a patient.)

Everyone appreciates timely follow-up

All phone calls, emails and text messages should be addressed within 24 hours. Your patients will have a favorable impression of the practice if the results from the lab and the imaging studies are reported to them within a day of a procedure or test.

Make use of online tools

The patient portal is an opportunity to increase your patient engagement. Patients can ask insurance questions, request refills and ask follow-up questions of the provider, all at their convenience. In fact, patients today expect an online experience with their doctors just like they receive from banks and airlines.

Bottom line: Having a patients-first philosophy is not only an attitude, it’s a strategy for a successful practice. Putting patients first means making every effort to see that each patient has a positive experience with your practice. Remember, it’s never crowded on the extra mile!

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Find more patient experience tips and research on our blog.

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