Patients should be encouraged to expand their own role in decision making, health-related behaviors and self-management. By fostering more meaningful patient interactions, physicians can provide a level of support that leads to better outcomes. Even though the current healthcare system has created an environment where patients are less engaged, there are easy ways to overcome this problem.
Common Patient Frustrations
Before implementing ways to foster more meaningful patient interactions, physicians must first understand the common frustrations experienced by patients. First, the fragmentation and lack of transparency in healthcare is a major issue. Even in health systems that offer a patient-centered medical home, a significant amount of fragmentation exists between different services. Patients do not always understand what has happened at their appointment or hospital stay. This breeds an environment where patients are not engaged—and even if they want to be, the system makes it too complex.
Additionally, patients can easily become frustrated when their physician is busy entering data into their EHR system or submitting information to insurance companies during appointments. When physicians fail to make eye contact, listen intently or offer appropriate nonverbal cues, patients feel as though they are not being heard.
Ways to Avoid Patient Frustrations
To avoid frustrations and ease tensions, physicians should be intentional about the way they relate to and communicate with their patients. Physicians should prioritize:
- Making eye contact and using nonverbal gestures
- Thinking in advance about how to best deliver news to a particular patient
- Being straightforward and honest about the difficulties that occur with a particular disease
- Considering the role of the patient’s partner or caregiver during the consultation
- Additionally, physicians should be prepared to handle scenarios where patients may have preconceived notions, such as:
- The patient has researched their symptoms and diagnosed themselves, then demands certain investigations and treatments.
- The patient does not accept the physician’s diagnosis or test results and insists on getting a second opinion.
- The patient has symptoms affecting their quality of life but no diagnosis despite thorough examinations by various medical teams, which can lead to frustration or a lack of trust in medical professionals.
Solutions for Better Patient Interactions
First impressions are important. If the first interaction with a patient is meaningful, the therapeutic bond will become stronger. The clinician should also trust that the patient will participate in their care model. Achieving this buy-in from the beginning builds a strong physician-patient foundation. Next, physicians should respect their patients’ family values and expressed needs. Patients should be encouraged to expand their roles in ownership of their own health and lifestyle behaviors. As a rule of thumb, physicians should follow this guide to have ideal patient interactions:
- Prepare with intention—be familiar with the patient you are about to meet.
- Listen intently and completely—your patient is your most valuable source of information.
- Agree on what matters most—find out what your patient cares about and incorporate these priorities into the visit agenda.
- Connect with the patient’s story—acknowledge their efforts and celebrate successes.
- Explore emotional cues—validate your patient’s emotions to become their trusted partner.
Enjoy More Time with Patients by Transitioning to NexGen
NexGen surgical physicians are able to spend more time with patients because their time is not constrained by administrative burdens. Our physicians spend two weeks per month caring for patients and enjoy the rest of the month away from the practice with no calls. Our administrative team handles billing, office management, staffing and other back-office matters. Join our team and enjoy a slower pace of life, a better work/life balance and the ability to serve your patients well.