I was reading an abstract for a paper published in the Irish Medical Journal recently discussing patient satisfaction and ER wait times. One sentence jumped out at me:
“Research has identified three main determinants of patient satisfaction with ED care: physician – patient interaction, information and communication between the physician and patient, and waiting times.”
When you look closely, the three determinants are one and the same – it’s all about communication. Patients also want value from their visit in terms of a information – their state of health and actions the can take to make things better. Physicians who appear to rush, who don’t give a good patient interview, who don’t adjust their explanations to the patient’s abilities, are all communicating poorly. The result? It’s more that patients are unhappy – patients aren’t going to follow you advice. In fact, some will miss the advice in the first place. One piece of advice from my speaking engagements: when you ask the patient if they have any questions – or better, I’ve been told, ask “what’s your first question?” – count to 10 before saying anything. When I say “10”, I do mean a full ten second count – don’t be surprised if the question comes when you’re at “nine”.
The classic scenario is a patient who gets careful verbal instructions from their physician, and then forgets or confuses the messages by the time they leave the office. It’s happened to me – I get a series of bits of information, and it becomes jumbled. I need to write things down. It would sure be helpful if my physician would make it easy for me to write things down – or better yet, write it for me.
The takeaway: Create, or buy, handouts for the more common situations, and for the more common prescriptions. Most pharmacies will have their own handouts, but you need something which is simpler. In addition to a drug prescription pad, create patient instruction pads and place them in all of your exam rooms. This is the form that you can use, and hand to the patient. Go over the completed form with them, so that they can add any notes to help them understand. A copy should be placed on the chart. If you’re using an
There are commercial products to buy, there are a variety of resources on the federal websites, and some of the professional societies, such as the
I can’t prove it, and maybe someone has done a study, but better communication when the patient is with you will lead to fewer follow-up phone calls and better outcomes. That, my friends, is the goal: make a difference for your patients.