Years of education and training have prepared you to treat patients in your new practice with the latest in healthcare strategies. One of the most important strategies you can implement to ensure your success, though, is to establish an emotional connection with your patients.
The doctor-patient relationship can be critical to your patients’ health outcomes as well as to the ongoing viability of your independent practice. Meaningful physician-patient relationships have been found to directly impact the quality of patient outcomes. Likewise, a relationship that is not strong and impactful will have a negative effect on the patient and on the practice. Patients who enjoy a supportive doctor-patient relationship tend to collaborate more with their providers to work toward their health goals.
Four elements of the doctor-patient relationship have been identified as essential:
Although the basis of the relationship involves an agreement on your part, as the physician, to respect your patients’ autonomy, maintain their confidentiality, explain treatment options, obtain their informed consent, and provide the highest standard of care, there is much more to the doctor-patient relationship. On the patient’s part, especially, they want to be able to place their trust in you, revealing their secrets, worries, and fears, so you can help them regain and maintain their health and well-being.
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When you are establishing a new independent practice, how do you also establish that emotional connection with your patients? Communication is a key aspect as well as an understanding that your communication efforts work in both directions.
Developing an emotional connection can make your patients feel valued and cared for, in addition to reassuring them that you understand their concerns. The solid and all-important doctor-patient relationship will keep them coming back, as you grow your practice.
Steps toward making and keeping that connection include:
- Showing your patient respect as an individual. Make the effort to understand their frustration with a long wait time, for example, and offer an apology. That shows them that you respect and value them and their time.
- Actively listening as they share their concerns and questions about their health. Listening intently is actually a sign of respect as well. Understanding more about your patients depends on focusing and listening to them as they share with you.
- Maintaining appropriate eye contact and showing empathy for their concerns. You may be focused on making notes in their electronic health record (EHR), but it’s also important to turn away from the computer screen often and for significant amounts of time.
- Calling your patient by name. While it may sound simple, this can be one of the more critical steps, showing your patient that you are approachable and are much more to them than medical knowledge and skills.
More than providing the highest quality healthcare, your efforts to establish the emotional connection will differentiate your practice in ways that are profoundly meaningful to your patients.