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Clinician Communication Skills Are More Than Just Talk

Clinician Communication Skills Are More Than Just Talk

Suffocating time constraints, seemingly unachievable productivity goals, and never-ending requests for ever-more documentation — the reality of clinical practice can be overwhelming, there’s no way around it. Mix in the additional pressures brought by healthcare consumerism — the new tendency of patients to act more like customers — and suddenly many practitioners are faced with a recipe for burnout.

While there are limited ways to reverse these trends, it is possible to regain control over certain aspects of clinical practice, and one of them is quite simple: effective communication.

Why communication matters.

There are some very tangible reasons why clinician-patient communication is important. Research has shown a strong correlation between clinician communication skills and a patient’s ability and willingness to follow through with their treatment plan. This ultimately results in healthier patients, who are more likely to be satisfied with their care. When a patient has a positive experience, recall improves, price sensitivity decreases and they are therefore less likely to “shop around” for other providers.

What can clinicians do to enhance their communication skills?

The sad truth is that training in communication is sorely lacking in most college and medical school curriculums. Although this is an issue that is starting to become more important in educational settings, it is still mainly up to students and practitioners to learn the needed skills on their own. Here are some recommendations from the American Academy of Family Practice to help get clinicians started off on the right foot with patients:

  1. Take a moment to prepare. It’s important that clinicians pause between patients or responsibilities to reset, especially when they are feeling rushed or stressed. They should also use this time to consider the patient they are about to see and their needs or idiosyncrasies. Every patient is an individual, and each is unique — keeping that front of mind is the key to a successful relationship and sets the tone for the visit. 
  2. Help patients help you. Set the agenda using a checklist for patients. Keep it simple and make it part of the paperwork they fill out in advance and take home with them post-visit. The three main sections should include a) the main reason for today’s appointment b) other issues they would like to discuss if there is time remaining c) a checklist that can be customized to your practice’s needs, and can include such things as “I need a referral to a specialist,” “I need a school/work excuse form,” or “I need my prescriptions refilled.” 
  3. Establish a connection: Get to know them if they are new to you, or inquire about their lives/interests if they are patients of record. Make eye contact, listen actively and ensure body language is open and empathetic. View spending a little time on “small talk” as an investment in your relationship, and ultimately, in your practice’s health.  
  4. Utilize the three most important steps for fostering communication: Psychologist Carl Rogers states that successful clinicians who counsel patients display three behaviors in their interactions — congruence (authenticity), acceptance (even when not in agreement), and understanding (sensitivity/empathy).   

Curae gives physicians more time for their patients.

With so many constraints and patient needs to be met, medical professionals must be able to use the time they do have to effectively communicate with their patients in order to foster stronger relationships. Having to spend precious minutes breaking down the cost of treatment or payment of services can be a major barrier to this when the time is limited. This is where Curae can help. With its ability to be integrated directly into the patient intake process before a physician even enters the treatment room, Curae gives patients the power to more easily finance their own health care needs. This ultimately allows clinicians to do what they do best — provide care. To begin the process of adding Curae to your practice, visit Curae.com today.

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