Doctor-patient communication is the cornerstone of effective healthcare and quality patient outcomes. When communication breaks down, whether between doctor/patient, doctor/provider, or between provider/insurer, the result is a poor patient experience. Improving communication can improve experience, increasing satisfaction and maximizing revenues.
It’s critical to note that doctor-patient communication, in the patient’s mind, includes all communication with a doctor’s office, including discussions with administrative and nursing staff. This means that every point of contact between a patient and any member of the team, whether clinical or administrative, is sensitive and must have the proper level of attention.
However, patients do differentiate between personal attention from a doctor and attention from other staff. Patients give high value to personalized attention from their doctor and, when included in the stream of communication, can significantly boost the patient’s perception of their quality of care.
Key touch points in the doctor-patient communication journey
There are multiple touch points during the patient journey doctors and medical facility staff can leverage for maximum patient satisfaction. By ensuring that your practice or clinic hits each of these touch points with consistency, confidence and compassionate care, you can improve patient satisfaction scores across the board.
Whether the first contact with a new patient is because of a referral or a patient reaching out, rapid communication is important. The quality of this first communication is critical. Making sure any data provided about the patient has been properly input into your system and filling any gaps in data can help the initial communication go smoothly and be productive.
Whether your method of data collection is to provide a digital portal, request online forms be completed, scanned, and returned via email, or completed on paper or a digital tablet at the patient’s first visit, patients appreciate the offer of help instead of having to ask. If there is any type of language barrier or unfamiliarity with the system being used, proactive help will create a positive environment and impression.
Waiting time in front office vs. exam room
The correlation between long wait times and patient dissatisfaction has been well established for years. Patients who have a long wait time end up with negative connotations regarding all aspects of their treatment experience, including the perceived quality of care they received and their confidence in their doctor. There are two ways to mitigate this dissatisfaction associated with wait times: Moving patients quickly from the front office to the exam room is less likely to cause patients to feel that their wait time is excessive, even if their total wait time is a bit extended.
Patients who are regularly and proactively communicated with during this time perceive their wait as shorter, and their care as superior; this can be as simple a step as checking in every 5 to 10 minutes with an estimate of how much longer the wait will be, and offering a refreshment or other comfort-related item.
One-on-one time with doctor
Patients are keenly aware of the attentiveness of the doctor and how much time the doctor devotes to charting. Studies show that doctors spend more patient visit time working on the electronic health record (EHR) than they do on one-on-one face time.Adjusting how you do these processes can make the patient feel more important than their chart and improve the patient’s perception of care. By simply communicating what they are doing in the EHR to provide better patient care, doctors can reduce the frustration patients feel when they seem to be ignored in favor of a tablet or laptop.
Follow up from doctor after exam
After lab tests or imaging procedures, patients often wait anxiously for communication from their doctor about results and next steps. Doctors who perform a personal follow up to explain the results to their patients can improve their relationships and level of trust.
Follow up from doctor after procedure or surgery
Likewise, a personal follow-up from a patient’s doctor after a procedure or surgery can have an enormous impact on the patient’s feeling about the quality of care they received and their confidence in their doctor, simply because he or she took the time to check in on how they were doing and whether their pain was being adequately managed.
Access to help via phone, text or email
Having easy access to help when needed, whether through a nurse help line or a competent after-hours answering service, can improve patient-doctor relationships. Prompt replies are key when offering these services.
Surveys or requests for feedback/testimonials/referrals
Finally, you can engage patients outside of their visits with surveys and requests for feedback. You should keep these short and to the point; a simple star rating tied to a specific question can help your practice or facility dig down into target areas of patient satisfaction and identify areas for improvement.
How doctor-patient communication affects care outcomes
Doctor-patient communication is key to building lasting relationships founded on trust. Patients who feel they can trust their doctors are easier to keep, are more compliant with treatment protocols and have higher satisfaction scores. Overall, better outcomes are experienced by patients who feel that their provider is:
- Practicing open and honest communication
- Staying accessible to them
- Personally invested in them and their care
- Putting effort into making their treatment plans clear
Common obstacles to quality doctor-patient communication, and how Tangible can help
There are many roadblocks in the way of consistent, effective doctor-patient communication. These include:
Not enough time to spend with each patient
Time constraints can make it difficult to give each patient the personal attention they deserve and crave. Tangible can help you streamline workflows, increasing patient engagement across channels and maximizing contact.
Not enough data on the patient
Lack of comprehensive data on a patient can cause time to be wasted covering ground that should already be well documented. Tangible’s integration solutions can help make information from another provider be fully available in your own system.
Slow access to patient lab and imaging results
Efficient order management processes with a fully integrated system can allow lab and imaging results to be automatically returned and attached to the relevant EHR, making it easy for doctors to see at a glance which results are ready and reach out to the patient.
For more information on how Tangible can help you improve doctor-patient communication, reach out to our experienced team today.