Strategies for patient-centered communication and care

The patient-provider relationship is crucial to quality healthcare. That relationship is usually developed through quality communication, during and after the visit. Patients need to know they can discuss all of their healthcare issues with their provider. Occasionally, they may even feel the need to discuss life management and sensitive issues. The independent physician needs to initiate the conversation as well, to encourage that communication with their patients.

A recent Health Reform Monitoring Survey (HRMS), published by the Urban Institute Health Policy Center, found that patients are generally comfortable with the level and frequency of communication they have with their provider. However, the survey also found that it is usually the patient and not the provider who initiates that communication.

Physicians who want to improve their communication efforts can easily do so with some simple strategies. Patients want physicians to ask them about issues they would consider to be sensitive. As HRMS points out, “Patient-centered care models depend upon patients and providers communicating about sensitive issues, but such conversations may not occur as often as they should.” Physicians who take the initiative to ask about sensitive issues will improve their level of communication and the level of care they are able to provide their patients.

Independent physicians should also focus on taking the time to provide very specific, clear instructions when prescribing new medications or sending patients for follow up labs and tests. Diagnoses, especially, should be explained in detail to patients who are concerned about next steps and their overall prognosis.

Communication builds trust, which helps independent physicians provide higher quality care. Spending more time with a patient during a visit, encouraging follow up questions after the visit, actively listening to the patient, and initiating conversations can greatly improve the level of communication, the level of trust, and the level of care.