Even if you have their best interest at heart, it is not always easy to communicate with your patients. At times, medical professionals have trouble breaking medical concepts down into layman’s terms for patients. It is also common for patients to misunderstand what is meant by specific terms or phrases, to get hung up on jargon, or to simply panic for no reason whatsoever. To avoid future miscommunication, here a few ways to promote better patient communication and improve patient relations overall.
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Open Ended Questions
Sometimes, stating something in a definitive sentence can make it appear to be a solid fact to patients. Instead of forming declarative statements which may be misinterpreted by patients, employ the use of open ended questions. Avoid using questions that require “yes” or “no” answers. This will encourage patients to reflect on their own symptoms, pains, and problems. In turn, you may find that patients are offering up more descriptive symptoms and experiences to you. All of the above will help you gain better insight into their struggles and find more appropriate treatments and solutions for them.
Non-Verbal Clues and Assessing Literacy
You may find your patient nodding or answering “yes” when asked if they understand a given concept or procedure, but in fact, they look completely blank. Take note of their blank or baffled expression, discomfort, or uncertainty in their body language to gauge their comprehension. Further explanations will help increase patient satisfaction and assist you in avoiding any misunderstandings as well.
Note whether or not your patient has trouble understanding specific medical terms that you utilize every day. While they may seem second nature to you, assessing your patient’s language and education levels will aid you when looking to explain medical terminology and other information in simpler terms. To improve comprehension, it may be helpful to utilize the teach-back method wherein you ask the patient to verbalize information back to you to assess their understanding of what’s been said.
Another helpful program called Ask Me3™ was created by the National Patient Safety Foundation as a way to improve communication between patients and healthcare providers. The training focuses on instructing patients to ask important questions to improve understanding and avoid making mistakes with medication and other procedures. It may also benefit your practice to implement patient satisfaction surveys to explore any areas that need improvement.
Being conscious of any bias that may affect a healthcare provider’s service to others is an important factor when treating patients. Ethnicity, gender, age, socio-economic status, or appearance may result in positive or negative inclinations toward patients and may affect care and communication. Common courtesy, tone, and friendliness can help to get rid of biased communication with them.
After an unfortunate event, it is important to enlist effective communication with patients and their family members throughout the process. Taking the steps to ensure you are being clear and concise, but also empathic (note: not apologetic) may improve the patient-physician relationship and help them get through any complications. Because complications can often affect the emotional and physical well-being of patients, utilizing kind, clear, and empathic communications can greatly impact the outcomes of treatments and procedures.
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