Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

Improving Doctor-Patient Communication To Provide Patient-Centered Care

The first experience patients are likely to have with your hospital is not in an ER visit or inpatient stay.  A patient’s first experience will most likely be in one of your primary-care physician offices.  That because a person is 10 times more likely during a year to end up in the physician’s office for a routine visit than they are to require an overnight hospital stay.

As a hospital marketer or patient experience officer this should raise an interesting question. How well do your physicians–particularly your primary-care physicians–represent your brand?

Take “patient-centeredness.” Lots of hospitals these days are promoting themselves as providing patient-centered care.  You know … when the hospital and its staff try where possible to be sensitive to and honor the wishes of patients.   But when it comes to patient-centeredness, “walking the talk” is hard in physician offices and even tougher in the hospital.

The fact is that most physicians, with some exceptions, are anything but patient-centered in their interaction with patients.   Take the way physicians and patients tend to communicate with one another.   An estimated two-thirds of physicians employ what is known as a physician-directed or paternalistic style when talking with patients. This is when the physician asks the questions, interrupts the patient as needed, and only provides information the physician thinks the patient needs and is capable of understanding.

The sad thing is that most patients have gotten used to and, in some cases, like being told what to do and how to think by their doctor.   It’s just the way things are.   This attitude is perhaps why so many patients consistently give their doctors high marks on global satisfaction surveys dealing with communications. Patients are so used to the way things are that they cannot conceive of a better way of doing things.   It’s also been shown that dissatisfied patients don’t bother filling out satisfaction surveys.   If they did, what they would say is that their doctors have communication habits like my doctor:

  • Doesn’t listen
  • Ignores my opinion
  • Talks down to me
  • Always seems rushed and inattentive

So what are hospital marketers and patient experience officers supposed to do about physician-patient communications?

  1. Don’t put too much stock in global patient satisfaction surveys that barely address physician-patient communications
  2. Conduct dedicated communication surveys, focus groups, and communication audits of individual physicians to assess the real scoop when it comes to the quality of doctor-patient communications
  3. Teach patients how to do a better job of communicating with physicians
  4. Provide continuing education training and tips aimed at improving the patient-centered communication skills of physicians

In 2012, the quality of the physician-patient experience will make up a sizable percent of Medicare hospital reimbursement.  Individual physician reimbursement will be affected as well.

Smart hospital marketers and patient experience officers should consider ways to leverage these changes in Medicare reimbursement, as well as the myriad of pay-for-performance initiatives, to make sure the patient’s first impression of your hospital is outstanding!

That is my opinion.  What do you think?

*This blog post was originally published at Mind The Gap*


You may also like these posts

Read comments »


Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »