Typical healthcare appointments may last only 30 to 60 minutes, but patient communication is ongoing. There’s the lead-up to the appointment, the filling out of paperwork, exam preparation (including vital signs and medical history questions), follow-up care and payment (to name just a few crucial stages). Each one presents your medical practice with an opportunity (and challenge) to streamline and improve communication.
Effective patient communication is not an optional extra; it’s a must-have for medical practices. After all, the consequences of patient miscommunication and misunderstandings can be as serious as a lawsuit. Although you absolutely need medical professional insurance, it’s a safety net rather than a first line of defense. Other side effects of poor communication include high patient turnover, negative reviews and reputational damage within the industry.
Improving patient communication is a win-win for medical practices and patients alike. Here are four ways to make it happen.
Put yourself in your patients’ shoes: It’s often easier to schedule a dental appointment or routine checkup months in advance, but these events can slip through the cracks without diligent reminders from a healthcare provider. One way to reduce no-show rates (and patient frustration) is to offer reminder phone calls, text messages and emails at key intervals leading up to the appointment in question.
Ideally, you’ll set aside a chunk of time at the end of each day to call the following day’s appointments, ask them if they have questions and confirm their slot, then use automated reminders as a supplement.
Online Patient Portals
Patient portals are the quickest and most up-to-date way to tell patients what they need to know about their care plan. As one physician writes for Medical Practice Insider, “A portal can eliminate an average of 4.2 phone calls typically required to relay lab results to the patient. This streamlined, more direct communication approach not only ensures faster delivery of information, it can also reduce some of the stress that patients experience as they wait for a call.”
Being able to communicate with patients in their own language is important, and having a multi-lingual medical staff can help put patients at ease, answer their questions, inform them and show them you care. While you can bring in an interpreter, it’s often more effective to communicate one-on-one. Consider hiring bilingual medical professionals to staff your practice, or invest in continuing language education to better serve your patient base.
To improve overall communication, your practice needs to take stock of what it’s doing right… and what it could be doing better. Just because a patient doesn’t complain or offer praise on the spot doesn’t mean they don’t have an opinion about their care. A patient satisfaction survey is the best way to get firsthand knowledge into the care you’re providing. You can include key questions about your communications policies to see if there are any areas in which you need to approve.
All of your diagnostic machines, laboratories, exam rooms and years of education are useless if you can’t communicate with patients. These four steps provide a solid foundation for successful and productive interactions.
Even A+ communication can’t prevent every hiccup in the healthcare industry. For that, you’ll need medical professional insurance. Get a quote from CoverHound today!