When I go to a physician, I walk in with a piece of paper and a pen. Or, I’ll borrow one. But I won’t walk out without understanding what the instructions are, what to look for, when to call (I don’t improve in 3-4 days, etc), and so on.
The practice of medicine is changing in so many ways, much of it resulting from forces outside of physician-patient relationships and even healthcare as an industry. The future – the future of a profitable and well-run practice – lies in improving how physicians interact with patients.
It all comes together when a physician and patient come together. The demands of time, the complexities of what a complaint could be and the options for addressing it as such maybe – just maybe – it’s time to rethink and revamp how a physician does their job. While we talk alot about communication, communication frequently does not occur. In her recent posting, Philippa Kennealy, MD, who writes the Entrepreneurial MD blog, suggests that good communication skills can improve the bottom line. As we move to some sort of pay-for-performance system, the ability to communicate and to motivate patients to follow your recommendations will have a direct impact on your bottom line.
Keneally was commenting on the report of a study published in the April, 2007 issue of Medical Care, and announced in a press release from Indiana University School of Medicine. The study found broad implications for good communication with patients:
A systematic review of studies published over the past four decades has confirmed that good doctor-patient communication makes a difference not only in patient satisfaction but in patient outcomes including resolution of chronic headaches, changes in emotional states, lower blood sugar values in diabetics, improved blood pressure readings in hypertensives, and other important health indicators.
In looking at these 36 studies we learned many things. For example, research on non-adherence to doctor’s instructions has focused on bad or poor behavior by patients rather than on the clarity of the physician’s instructions or whether the physician actually checked to see if his or her instructions were understood by the patient. The physician assumed that the patient understands and thus will comply. But is this a logical assumption? We don’t assume that when a pilot and an air traffic controller converse that they have understood each until there is an affirmation of understanding. That acknowledgement is lacking in most patient-physician encounters,” said Richard Frankel, Ph.D., IU School of Medicine professor of medicine and Regenstrief Institute research scientist, senior author of the study.
As you look to improve the effectiveness of the office visit, there are two tracks to follow: one is to implement and use tools that manage data and information for you, so you can quickly “see” where to put your attention and time. The second is the interaction between you and your patients – are they commuicating and understanding you, and you them?