The Art of Connecting With Patients and Why This Skill Is Crucial
How well do you treat your patients?
Not medically speaking. But the way you relate to them? The way you talk to them?
Because if you don’t connect with your patients, or can’t show potential clients your empathetic bedside manner and how your practice will help them, then you may have a hard time being a practitioner of choice.
Competition is high
Every day, hundreds of thousands of Australians access health and medical services around Australia.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare:
- 406,000 visits are made to a general practitioner (GP)
- 777,000 prescriptions are filled under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)
- 21,400 presentations are made to public hospital emergency departments
- 17,300 hospitalisations are in public hospitals
- 11,800 hospitalisations are in private hospitals
- 91,500 services are provided in public hospital outpatient clinics
- 6,000 elective surgeries are performed
- 26,000 specialised community mental health care services are provided
That doesn’t even begin to count the number of dental visits or appointments with allied health practitioners, alternative therapists, radiologists, pathologists, optical specialists….well, you get the idea.
So how can you and your health practice stand out from the crowd and ensure you have a steady stream of loyal patients coming through the door?
Connect with your patients
Connection. You need to connect with your patients on a human level. Of course, it’s important to administer appropriate clinical treatment to your patients, but treating them with compassion and empathy is just as important for good medical care.
In fact, research has shown that patients who rate their treating physician as empathetic and caring, experience better medical outcomes than those who don’t experience that kind of connection with their health care provider. This is also the case for surgical patients, whose care involves a higher level of clinical care than a visit to the GP or an allied health practitioner.
It might be easy to do it face-to-face, but how do you create that connection in order to attract new clients to your practice?
Would it surprise you to know that the connection you have with your patients begins BEFORE they visit you?
Most people do a bit of research when looking for a new health provider and they usually starting by clicking on your website.
So how does yours shape up?
- Do you clearly state what type of conditions you treat?
- Have you listed your practitioners, along with a friendly, happy photo?
- Are you answering their questions with an FAQ page?
- Have you explained how to get to your practice and what the processes are around payment?
- Do you provide them with useful information on topics related to their health condition?
- Are you friendly, caring and helpful? Or are you clinical, cold and perhaps a little condescending?
The quality and the tone of the information on your website will determine whether new patients will call for an appointment, or whether they’ll look elsewhere.
If you nail your website, then they’re likely to follow up with a phone call, or an email asking for further information.
The personal experience
But say they call for an appointment. What happens then? Are your receptionists helpful and calm, or are they busy and rushed without time to really listen and answer questions?
What happens when your new patient arrives at your clinic? Are they welcomed? Do you have a patient information booklet or welcome pack with useful information about your practice for them to take away?
And how do they feel when paying their bill after their appointment? Do they feel cared for, or just another person in the queue who has to settle their bill?
Your patients are people
The way you talk to your patients — whether online or in person — is extremely important.
As healthcare becomes increasingly digitalised, it’s very easy to lose the personal connection with your patients. With increasing pressure on the health system, it’s also very easy to focus on the business of getting patients in and out of your practice, as quickly as possible.
Yet health and medical care is extremely personal. In some cases it’s deeply personal. Patients come to you feeling unwell, in pain and feeling vulnerable. Some may be concerned about their condition, and others may feel terrified.
Treating a condition is great. But treating the person is greater.
How do you rate yourself?
Are you nailing it when it comes to giving high-quality care with an empathetic, personal touch?
Or could you improve the way you speak to your patients?
This blog was originally written by Nerissa Bentley, The Melbourne Health Writer. It has been reproduced with permission.