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Developing a positive patient-provider relationship

Positive relationship with patient

The importance of encouraging two-way communication between a physician and the patient is a relatively new concept in the long history of medicine. Taking steps toward developing a positive patient-provider relationship, though, can result in better outcomes for your patients and improved opportunities for success for your new independent practice.

Before the mid-20th century, it was thought that physicians had the expertise to know what was best for patients and therefore had no reason to discuss treatment options with patients. Traditionally, the patient’s ability to make decisions about their own healthcare was not an integral tenet of the patient-provider relationship. In fact, legally, a patient’s voluntary consent for treatment didn’t exist until 1914 and the provider’s requirement to provide the patient with information essential to making an informed decision was not established until the 1950s.

Today, independent providers understand that a positive patient-provider relationship is the bedrock of the patient experience. Patients say that when their physician connects with them, displays their expertise, explains concepts in terms they can understand, and listens to them, they have better healthcare experiences and improved outcomes.

Likewise, providers report that emphasizing the patient-provider interaction can help them combat feelings of burnout, particularly since they went into their medical practice with the goal of connecting with and helping their patients.

Best practices for developing a positive patient-provider relationship include:

  • Preparing with intention. Knowing as much as possible about the patient before the visit and creating a plan for the patient encounter. Providers who take advantage of their electronic health record (EHR) software will be able to review patient data efficiently and effectively before meeting with the patient.
  • Listening intently. Using active listening skills, including avoiding the temptation to interrupt the patient, can make a huge difference for the patient’s engagement level.
  • Connecting with the patient’s story. Making an effort to understand the factors that influence the patient’s health and wellness, including appropriate social determinants of health, can help you put clinical protocol into the context of that patient’s everyday life.
  • Watching for emotional cues. Watching for body language will help you understand more about the patient’s emotional levels during the visit. It’s important to be aware of your own body language when interacting with the patient as well.
  • Agreeing on what matters most. Asking the patient about their healthcare goals and values will help ensure you are able to integrate those priorities into their care plans.

As a new independent provider, you can also establish trust by using your EHR software appropriately and efficiently. When you are more focused on your screen than on the patients, that can make your patients feel apprehensive and less satisfied with the patient-provider relationship you are trying to develop. Make an effort to share the screen with the patient during the visit, to involve them in the diagnosis and treatment discussion more fully.Encourage communication through EHR software tools such as the patient portal, so the patient feels more actively involved in the process. Be sure to respond to patient concerns and questions submitted through the portal to improve the overall patient experience and continue to develop a positive patient-provider relationship.