5 Easy Ways for Doctors to Connect with Patients

The #1 factor determining patient satisfaction is the relationship patients have with their doctor. Why is it then that so many doctors neglect the time and energy required to connect with patients beyond the information required on their clipboard?

In my 30+ years of experience in the healthcare industry, I have seen many doctors make the mistake of trying to see as many patients as possible in a day, even at the expense of forming lasting relationships with them. In their minds, they just need to treat the issue and then move onto the next one. While this might make them more money in the present, they are shooting themselves in the foot in the long run.

Without forming solid patient-provider relationships, doctors are more likely to receive bad reviews, lose patients to other doctors who are more nurturing, and even get terminated from their practice.

Forming this connection is also the biggest contributor to patient loyalty. Think about it. If your office is booked solid with patients and some of them are asked to sit in the waiting room for an hour longer than they anticipated, who’s more likely to stay and return in the future: the patient who you have no real relationship with, or the patient you’ve known for years who trusts you and knows you personally? 

Here are some tips for doctors to connect with patients and build this essential trust factor. 

1. Listen Actively

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. Write Down Personal Details

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. Send Reassuring Non-Verbal Cues

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. Repeat Their Words Back To Them

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.

For example, saying things like “We should have you better and back to attending your pottery classes in no time” relays that you have listened to the little personal details your patient has shared with you, making them feel seen and cared for. 

5. Prepare For Each Patient

Last but certainly not least, after you have gathered this personal information and heard your patients’ stories, write them down! These facts are just as important for you to remember for their next visit. 

When the patient does come back in, take a few moments to review what you wrote down about their hobbies, kids’ names, concerns, daily routine, etc, before you meet with them. This way, you will be able to recall the emotions they expressed and ask them questions based on what you remember. This level of preparation and remembrance can make all the difference for your patient. Rather than coming into a cold room with a doctor who they don’t feel totally comfortable with, they will let their guard down and feel like they have a friend who knows them personally. 

Are you struggling to develop strong connections with your patients? You are the perfect candidate for executive leadership coaching.

Here are a few ways to get started: 

  • Take my FREE leadership assessment to see how your leadership style and people management skills stack up against best practices.
  • Learn more about my 6-session coaching package, designed to help you craft a vision for your practice, achieve buy-in from your team, and execute the necessary goals to bring you towards success.
  • Learn more about my 12-session coaching package, which features all the benefits of the 6-session package in addition to 6 weeks of emotional intelligence coaching to help you become an extraordinary leader and foster more positive relationships with your team and patients. 

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.

CLICK HERE to learn more.