Patient Communication

Successful medical practice management requires effective communication with patients. After all, patients are the clients, and without clients, the office will fail. So, just as it is critical that all employees excel at their profession, it is equally important that the patient feels comfortable and well-treated. Indeed, many patients feel that proper communication is a key factor in their choice of medical practice. Therefore it is important that the medical practice manager set guidelines for proper patient communication.

All medical office personnel should be trained on how to educate, since each person working in a medical setting will play the role of an educator at some point. Of course doctors and nurses educate patients on health and care issues, but many have never been taught how to effectively communicate interpersonally. Lack of proper communication can be detrimental to the safety of patients, such as when drug-dosing instructions are improperly followed. Training clinicians can help prevent mistakes and malpractice. However, this issue is not exclusive to the clinical staff. Many medical practice managers overlook the role of the front desk staff in patient communication. Office employees work with patients on everything from scheduling appointments and tests to insurance and billing. These issues can be complicated and, particularly when dealing with the high cost of health care, may be quite emotional for a patient. Good patient communication at the office level can improve customer satisfaction and increase business. Taking the time to train staff on effective patient communication techniques can only improve a practice and is a smart idea for all medical practice managers to implement.

In addition to improving educational skills, it is equally important to train medical office employees to effectively listen to patients. Many patients feel railroaded as soon as they enter a medical office. From the first moment they are told what to do and where to sit, and they spend much time waiting. An extremely common complaint is that no one takes the time to actually listen to their questions and concerns. This complaint extends from the front desk employees to the medical professionals. Cutting patients off before hearing all that they have to say can negatively affect both their care and comfort, which can cause them to go elsewhere for medical services. Training employees to listen to patients will eliminate costly errors, both medical and billing, and improve the relationship between the patient and the medical office.

Medical practice managers also benefit from patient communication. Being available for client interaction throughout the patient’s visit can provide valuable ideas on what is working and not working in the care process. Additionally, simple measures such as having suggestion cards readily available can also give an office manager tips on problems identifiable only from the patient’s point of view. It is also beneficial to have contact information clearly available for patients wishing to discuss problems or concerns to ensure they feel they have a voice in their care.

Because medical offices are busy, patient communication can get hurried or even lost. It is critical that the medical practice managers set the tone, through training and by example, that patient communication is important to the success of the practice.

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