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10 Tips for Creating a Positive Relationship With Your Patients

Created: 12/13/2012
Last Updated: 12/13/2012

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The relationship between patients and health care providers is a key component in the overall care experience. As in any relationship, both parties must commit to its success. Here are 10 ways you can strengthen relationships with your patients.

1. Take time to get to know patients.
First and foremost, no patient likes to feel as if he or she is being rushed through an appointment. A big part of ensuring that a patient is comfortable is addressing him or her like an individual, as opposed to a medical condition. While asking someone questions, you should try making it more of a discussion rather than a strict Q&A.  

Also, introductions are key, so don't forget to introduce yourself and remember your patients' names. Whenever you can, address them by their first names, even if it's something like, "OK, Susan, I will go ahead and schedule your MRI."

2. Be prepared for appointments.
It's good practice to review patients' charts before you see them in person. It can be a waste of time to ask for information already in their files. Also, if you discuss the reason for their last visit, you'll come across as observant and interested in the patient's individual needs.

3. Always listen.
Sometimes patients just need someone to listen to their concerns or fears. This can help prompt discussions about their options, plan of care and whether they need to seek follow-up appointments with other specialists. Doctors seldom have time to talk at length, so a patient may appreciate it greatly if you take a few extra minutes to listen and provide helpful guidance.

4. Anticipate what they need.
By talking with your patients, you can anticipate what they need before they even ask. For instance, if you know someone got the flu last year, suggest getting a flu shot at the beginning of the flu season. Your patients will be grateful that you're looking out for them. 

5. Keep a steady composure.

Dealing with doctors' offices, hospitals and illnesses is stressful. A patient needs a health care provider to appear calm and reassuring. It's even OK smile a bit to keep your patients feeling optimistic.

6. Direct them to others who can help.
If a patient needs help with something that you cannot provide, transfer their care to someone else. Be sure to take the time to introduce your patient to the other clinicians. This can help the patient feel comfortable with the other person, and they are more likely to trust him or her if you speak highly of the person.

7. Provide appropriate education.

If you're not an expert on a certain topic and your patient doesn't require the help of a medical specialist, you can always direct your patients to reliable resources to help them learn more about the condition. For instance, if a person with diabetes wants to learn how to prepare healthy meals, you can direct the person to websites that offer good recipes or helpful tips or refer them to a dietitian, a certified diabetes educator or a support group.

8. Follow up.
One of the most thoughtful things you can do is follow up with your patients. Even if they see you because they're coming down with a cold, calling them two days later to check in can be comforting. This is an especially great gesture after a person undergoes surgery or an outpatient procedure. It may also prompt them to address any minor side effects they are feeling, which they may not do otherwise.

9. Address patient needs in a timely fashion.
With health care focusing more on patient engagement now than it has in the past, it's important for health care providers to play their part. This means that if a patient calls or e-mails with a question, you should get back to him or her in a timely manner, preferably by end of the day.

10. Go the extra mile when you can.
Try to be there for your patients when they need you. For instance, give them your business card in case they need to get contact you. If you make yourself available for the patient, he or she may feel more at ease.