Clear communication is essential to the success of any relationship, especially the one that exists between a physician and his or her patient. Many barriers can impede communication between a doctor and a patient. In today's fast-paced healthcare environment, numerous doctors are experiencing substantial stress due to factors such as a massive patient load, dealing with increasingly complex regulations and concerns about malpractice litigation. So, they may not always be as attentive to their patients' needs as they should be.
Consequently, some patients may not feel they have the time to ask the right questions about their condition or treatment protocol. This can create a situation where a lack of communication between patient and doctor leads to misunderstandings, increasing the likelihood of errors that could place the patient's health at risk — and that can leave the physician vulnerable to malpractice litigation.
Tips for Improving Doctor-Patient Communication
To improve your communication with patients at your practice, try following these tips:
- Put the Patient at Ease: First impressions can set the stage for the doctor-patient relationship — for better or worse. If you come across as brusque or hurried while seeing a new patient, the two of you will likely get off on the wrong foot. Greeting patients warmly and offering a smile will make them feel more relaxed and foster an open dialog.
- Check Your Bias at the Door: All humans, including physicians, have biases. For example, studies indicate some doctors treat obese patients less respectfully than others. Effective communication in healthcare requires an awareness of any preconceived notions, so they do not affect the level of care the patient receives.
- Maintain the Focus on Your Patient: Some physicians tend to think and react quickly when interacting with patients, especially on busier days. As a result, patients may feel they're being rushed through an examination. Deliberately slowing down the thought process and taking the time to engage the patient can open the lines of communication.
- Inquire About Needs: Asking this simple question: "Is there anything else you need?" can also enhance communication between doctor and patient. This allows the patient to express any concerns regarding their condition, prescriptions or any other aspects of their care. They may also reveal additional symptoms or information that could be essential to their treatment.
- Review the Appointment and Outline the Next Steps: Take some time at the end of each visit to review what you've discussed with the patient, as this provides an additional opportunity for them to ask questions or clarify points of confusion. Also, explain any subsequent steps in the treatment protocol to ensure you and the patient are on the same page.
Don't Overlook Your Medical Malpractice Insurance Needs
While improving doctor-patient communication can help to reduce treatment errors, mistakes can still happen for a variety of reasons. Carrying adequate medical malpractice insurance is an essential step every physician must take, especially in today's litigious society.
Gallagher Healthcare can provide comprehensive malpractice coverage that will mitigate your liability risk. Contact us for more information and a free insurance quote today.