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Six Tips For Improving Your Patient Communication Skills

Effective communication with your patients is key to building a relationship of trust. Most patients have little experience with medical terminology, health conditions and medications. As a medical professional, your patients will turn to you for help as they navigate through a confusing diagnosis or preventative recommendations.

Following a few simple strategies will improve your communication skills, helping your patients feel more comfortable.

Listen and Watch

Giving a patient your full attention is a good way to anticipate questions and carefully tailor your responses to meet the patient’s needs. For example, a patient expressing a number of worries and concerns may need extra gentleness to help her feel reassured as you discuss her health. You can also watch a patient’s body language to decipher their mood and attitude about the conversation.

Listening attentively is also critical to building an accurate health history of each patient; occasionally, random and seemingly unrelated facts may help you build a correct picture of your patient’s health.

Encourage Questions

If you’re meeting a patient for the first time, he may feel intimidated and nervous about asking questions, especially about sensitive topics. When sharing information with a patient, keep your pace measured and allow your patient a chance to ask questions.

If a patient seems shy, try to encourage an open conversation by asking the patient if he has any questions several times throughout the discussion.

Write it Out

Written documentation is an excellent way to convey important information for your patient to refer to later. For example, a patient may forget important prescription information after she leaves your office. Unless she has written instructions, she may forget when she needs to take her medication.

A simple typed handout with clear instructions will help patients avoid uncertainty.

Use Clear Language

Medical terminology is confusing to individuals who aren’t familiar with it. Even basic anatomy can be difficult for some patients to understand.

Using plain and simple language is a good way to effectively communicate with your patients. Only use technical details if the patient wants more specific information.

You can also rely on visual guides to help your patient understand their situation. Pointing out important information on a diagram is a good way to help patients remember key details.

Avoid Information Overload

Telling someone about a cancer diagnosis can leave them feeling frightened about the future. Overloading them with information will only add to their stress levels.

Try to pare your information down into small and manageable chunks. If you think a patient needs some time to process a diagnosis, give them a few minutes alone. This will also give them a chance to think about any new questions.

Keeping accurate records for each patient is an essential part of communication. Fumbling around for a patient’s information and asking the same questions repeatedly is not a good way to build trust.

Using Dragon Medical software can help you quickly record patient information in your own words, making it easier to call up the information later during a follow-up visit.