Research from our Patient Satisfaction vendor, NRC Health, concludes the number one thing that patients want in a doctor–the factor that beats out reputation, personality, and even providing high quality care–is “a doctor that listens to me.”
Patients were then asked, “What do you think are the most important aspects of communicating with a doctor?” From their responses, 10 themes became clear:
- Ask them questions. Patients want their doctor to be engaged–to demonstrate interest in gathering all the facts and truly understanding the issue at hand. Physicians do this by asking the patient for clarification on what they’ve shared.
- The customer is always right. Patients want doctors to respect that and avoid creating a feeling that they are put off by or dismissive of the patient’s intuition, knowledge and opinion.
- Speak their language. Physicians need to describe things in a way patients can understand.
- Look them in the eye. Eye contact goes a long way with establishing a connection.
- Be a partner. They want to feel like their health concerns are a concern for their physician as well and like coming to conclusions about treatment with their doctor.
- Take your time. Patients do not want to feel rushed. Ask what questions or concerns a patient has–and truly wait for the answer.
- Do your homework. The last thing a patient wants to do is spend precious time repeating information they’ve already provided. Instead, they want to discuss the issue at hand.
- Give options. Physicians can further act as partners by educating patients about their treatment options.
- Personalize it. Patients resent being lumped into broad categories based on age, weight, or other factors that apply to general populations. Treat each patient as an individual.
- Pass it on. Patients don’t expect a single doctor to be able to fix everything. They do expect to be referred to a specialist, however, if necessary. They want their physician’s involvement in choosing these additional care partners.
Of course, every doctor-patient relationship is different. But what we’ve learned from research is that simple behaviors can make a significant difference to the patient.