5 easy ways to repair a relationship with a patient
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
As a primary care physician or specialist, you know that patients stop coming to a physician for a wide range of reasons — some of which are understandable, some not. Perhaps a patient has had a frightening experience during a test or procedure, or maybe a patient feels he or she hasn't had their concerns taken seriously enough.
A patient may simply not want to be compliant in terms of adopting the health plan you recommend. Or a real or perceived mistake in care may have eroded a patient's trust in you or your staff.
The good news is that you can easily stop a patent from switching practices, or worse, avoiding medical care altogether, with these proactive and effective tips.
Ask your patient when they began to feel unsure about you.
A study from Ohio State University found that a bad first impression can create a sense of doubt that will remain for the length of a relationship. The faster you step in to repair any negative feelings, the better chance you have of instilling trust between you and your patient.
If your patient tells you, "I felt like a number, not a person, the first day I walked into your waiting room," then address welcoming behavior with your staff. If your patient tells you, "You didn't seem to have time for me the first appointment I had with you," apologize, and prove you do have time by listening closely and addressing all of your patient's concerns on the spot. Then, work on improving your overall practice scheduling pronto.
Reassure, reassure, reassure.
If you have a patient who is very scared about an upcoming procedure, ask him or her to tell you specifically what they are afraid of. Then, take the time to factually explain to them why their fears are unwarranted.
Cite the safety of a procedure; outline exactly what the patient will go through during the procedure; arrange for a healthcare worker to stay in the room to offer support during the procedure, if possible; and ensure that your patient gets results quickly after the procedure so their stress levels will fall immediately.
Give a new perspective.
If you have a patient who is not compliant with the treatment plan you prescribed for them — maybe even saying says he or she doesn't want to take meds or come to appointments anymore — focus their energy on a quick result to reboot their outlook.
Researchers from Case Western University report that if you focus your attention tightly on the most desired aspect of something you want, your interest and enthusiasm will increase. Ask your patient what they most want to do when they get better or stronger. Is it playing with a grandchild? Taking a trip?
Use that specific desire to motivate him/her to stay on their treatment course. Ask him/her in detail about what they want to do, and then say, "Let's get you there." Act as a partner toward this goal, reminding your patient of how much closer it is as their health improves.
Reboot a rebel.
Some patients who don't want to comply with health instructions are simply contrarians by nature who don't like to be told what to do. If you have a patient who is rebelling against a diet plan, appeal to their rebellious nature in reverse. How?
Researchers from the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business find that showing rebellious teenage boys who ate too much junk food the manipulative ways these products may be advertised made the boys reject unhealthy food for nutritious snacks and beverages. This strategy can work on any noncompliant patient — once they have the knowledge and power to make good choices, chances improve that they'll want to exert it.
Address mistakes immediately.
If you or your staff make an error, it goes without saying your patient deserves an immediate apology and an immediate rectification. Never try to push errors under the rug or get too busy to fix an issue, no matter how small, on the spot.
Keep a daily dialogue running with your office manager so that you are aware of any complaints or problem in real time, and be honest with your patients. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to preserving your patient relationships, period.
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