4 Steps for Healthcare Leaders to Improve Their Patient-Provider RelationshipIt’s no secret that developing a pleasant patient-provider relationship can improve the patient’s experience and build up their loyalty to your practice, but the impacts of building this relationship extend far beyond earning high rankings for yourself or your facility.

A recent study from the Annals of Family Medicine suggests that even the nature of the relationship between the patient and their healthcare provider has the power to influence the patient’s health and recovery. 

According to the results of this study, a patient’s perception of the quality of each encounter with their clinician and the level of trust they have established is likely to affect their own health outcomes, either positively or negatively. When patients felt like they had a dependable, caring, and personable healthcare provider, they were more likely to experience positive functional health outcomes over the course of a year. The opposite was found to be true for patients who did not feel like they had developed a strong patient-provider relationship. 

The research team found that the core of a positive patient-provider relationship was patient trust. So, what are some ways healthcare providers can build their patients’ trust and intentionally build better relationships with them? 

Here are my four steps that all healthcare leaders can practice during their interactions with patients to build trust.

1. Practice Active listening

When you’re meeting with a lot of patients on a regular basis, it’s easy to get stuck in the routine of listening to them just enough to fill out their medical chart. However, it can make all the difference to set down the clipboard, turn away from the computer, and set your eyes on the patient speaking.

Active listening requires giving full, engaged attention, not only to the words others are saying, but also to the tone with which they are saying them and the body language they demonstrate while they are speaking. As an effective leader, this is an invaluable tool to better interpret words, tone, and emotions, provide solutions, and make others feel valued and heard.

2. Create a Connection

While you are listening to the patient’s story, it’s important that you hear more than just the science and symptoms — you need to hold onto details that allow you to make a connection with them as a person. What are their health concerns? What are their health goals? Who is in their immediate family? What do they do for a living? How old are their kids?

It’s not only important for you to remember why they came into your office – you should also strive to remember details about who they are as an individual. Being able to recall pieces of personal information in future interactions is a big way to build their trust by showing that you listened and you care.

3. Give and Acknowledge Nonverbal Communication

The words you speak are significant, of course, but your posture, body direction, level of eye contact, movements, and reactions all have the power to reveal whether or not you genuinely care about the person you are interacting with and how well you’re listening when they speak. When these actions align with the words you’re saying, it’s shown to increase the other person’s trust.

On the flip side, you should also be paying attention to the patient’s nonverbal cues. They may be telling you that they aren’t nervous or concerned, but are their shoulders raised? Do they seem to be avoiding eye contact with you? Are they fidgeting or twiddling their thumbs? Noticing these cues will help you comfort your patients in the way they need but might not know how to ask for.

4. Relay Your Understanding of Their Concerns and Goals

Last but not least, after you have listened to your patient actively, made a personal connection, and shown empathetic and intentional body language, a great way to wrap up the conversation is by repeating his or her concerns and goals aloud to show that you have been paying attention and you understand where they are coming from.

Saying things like “I know you want to find a treatment plan that allows you to keep taking your daughter to her dance practice on school nights” communicates that you have heard your patient’s concerns as both a patient AND a parent, and you are making their priorities your priorities.

Are you struggling to develop lasting relationships with your patients? You could be the perfect candidate for executive leadership coaching.

Take my free leadership assessment today to find out.

About Dr. Wilkerson, PD, MBA, PCC.

Do you want to increase your impact? Do you want to increase profits under your leadership? Do you want to develop and use your abilities to the fullest to better connect with and lead others? Executive Leadership Coaching covers these bases. Dr. Jerrund Wilkerson, PD, MBA, PCC, has more than 30 years of successful executive leadership coaching in the United States and internationally.

As a licensed pharmacist, he is particularly passionate about helping develop effective leaders in the healthcare community. Dr. Wilkerson has coached and trained thousands of managers and leaders. He is a certified coach and member of the John Maxwell Leadership Team.

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