Today's News

Friday, March 17, 2000

Communication essential to patient satisfaction

Communicating with your patients. What could be simpler?

All the knowledge you acquire in medical school goes by the wayside if you fail to talk with and listen to your patients effectively.

Richard Frankel, MD, and Wendy Levinson, MD, talked to doctors Thursday morning about ways in which they could achieve higher patient satisfaction, just by taking the time to communicate more effectively with those who come to them for medical treatment.

"Communication is your most common procedure," Dr. Levinson told the group that gathered for the symposium. "No matter how many arthroscopies you do, no matter how many other surgeries you do, you'll never do anything as often as you just communicate with the patient."

Communication is essential to basic patient satisfaction. A patient who believes the doctor is listening to his concerns, answering his questions and taking the time to ask essential questions is most likely to be more satisfied with the quality of care.

Starting with a pleasant tone of voice, a doctor can communicate more effectively with a patient. A doctor with an authoritative, condescending tone of voice will be seen as a less effective communicator than a doctor with a more pleasant voice.

"You know the hierarchical, military tone that some doctors take?" Dr. Frankel asked. "That sort of dominant tone will create patient dissatisfaction."

In addition, doctors have to learn to listen effectively.

According to Levinson, more than 50 percent of accurate diagnoses depend on knowing a patient's medical history. If a doctor asks appropriate questions and listens carefully to the answers, needless testing can often be avoided.

Communication is a two-way street, Levinson said. The doctor not only has to ask questions and answer queries from the patient, but to listen carefully to everything the patient says. The patient often offers clues that will aid in proper diagnosis in general conversation.

Laughter also contributes to patient satisfaction, Dr. Frankel said. Not laughing at the patient, of course, but laughing with him and putting him at ease.

Don't rush a patient through his visit. Take the time to communicate effectively. Often taking a few extra moments with the patient, to talk and to listen, will lead to more effective, less time consuming, treatment

A patient can be given better treatment if the doctor asks the appropriate questions and listens effectively to the answers.

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Last modified 17/March/2000 by IS