I wanted to speak a little on patient comfort. We always get so wrapped up in worrying about the disease and treatment options that we sometimes forget that we have people sitting across from us. I believe that people often want to be heard and appreciated more than they want to be treated. What I mean is that patients want to tell their story. They want to be able to tell you what they are feeling, without being interrupted 30 seconds into their thought process. So, how can we make our patients feel more comfortable?
The first thing that should be done is to introduce yourself as soon as you walk into the room, and shake everyone’s hand. Next, SIT DOWN. Do not be in a hurry to get this visit wrapped up. Ask the patient how you can help them, and listen without writing, typing, or interrupting. Occasionally you will get the patient who will continue to repeat their ideas in a variety of different ways; this is the only time when you will have to interrupt and get them back on track. Once the patient has told their story, I like to do my exam as I follow up with any other questions I might have (this is a HUGE time saver). After you have assessed the patient, and formulated a plan, the next thing out of your mouth should not be a list of demands directed at the patient. I feel everyone should involve their patients with the decision making process. After all, it is THEIR care, not yours. I like to go over my findings, followed by the different avenues we can take and their possible outcomes. If they are unsure how to approach the situation, then you kindly suggest what you would do if in their situation. This will also create the idea that they are getting the best possible care if this is how you would treat yourself.
The amount of time spent with each patient isn’t nearly as important as the quality of the time spent. On average, I take about 7-10 minutes per patient (which also includes charting). By creating this interaction with your patient, you are giving them the perception that you have spent more time with them. Before I leave any encounter, I always ask if there are any questions, or if there was anything that was unclear. If you have done your job right, then the majority will be satisfied. This takes time to learn, but the more patients you see, the easier it becomes. The number one complaint I hear from new patients, is that their previous provider did not take the time to explain exactly what was going on. They do not know what is wrong, what medications they are taking, or why they are taking them. Make your patients feel wanted, not like they are a burden. This will create a better atmosphere for not only them, but for you as well.