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Tips to building a great patient-physician relationship

February 7, 2011

In the hustle and bustle of a medical practice, sometimes the focus can shift to bottom lines, more patients and faster visits. But despite all of the challenges facing practices today, they must still build great relationships with their patients if they want to be successful.

“Developing positive connections with your patients can be challenging due to time constraints, but it’s not impossible,” says Carrie Rossenfeld of Medical Office Today.

It may seem like an easy concept, but listening is key to fostering a positive connection with patients. When healthcare professionals are able to fully understand a patient’s concerns, the patient feels comfortable and connected with a physician nurse or other staff member.

“You have to let them talk, you have to hear them, and that allows a physician to truly understand the concerns that a patient may have,” Kai Nishi, M.D., told Rossenfeld. Part of listening includes the physician’s part of the conversation as well. Using humor in an appropriate way can help break the ice, humanize a practice and strengthen bonds with patients, Rossenfeld writes.

From these conversations, physicians can really get to know their patients on a personal level and not just from their current medical conditions or concerns. Patients want to feel like they are more than just a name on a chart.

Rossenfeld suggests that physicians read charts over before entering an exam room in order to have more time with each patient. Chatting with the patient before the visit starts can also help foster a connection, and physicians can ask other staff not to interrupt them while they are with a patient. Eye contact is another great way to connect to a patient.

As an increasing number of medical offices are transitioning over to electronic health record software and streamlined, computerized health IT, these practices run the risk of alienating the less tech-savvy patients. With more advanced technology comes a greater need to forge meaningful, personal relationships.
Empathy is another key to a strong patient-physician connection. Doctors and nurses can engage and empower patients to take charge of their health and well-being by connecting with patient stories, says the website Health in 30. There are many other things that can go along with an illness, including family issues, psychological issues, financial struggles and other problems.

The biggest thing for physicians and medical staff to remember when meeting with patients is to take their time. According to Rossenfeld, one of patients’ top complaints about their healthcare experiences is that physicians tend to rush through their visits, leaving many unanswered questions.

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