With health insurers and physician groups alike feeling the strain of increasingly limited healthcare dollars, focus has turned to improving patient outcomes as a means not only to improve the general health of an area, but to decrease the cost of care for health providers.
But for many, the prospect of adding “connect with patients” to an already overloaded to-do list may seem ineffectual or perhaps even a waste of time. Fortunately, improving physician engagement doesn’t have to be a laborious process, and making some small changes over a period of time could create a substantial impact on those you serve.
Read on for three physician engagement strategies you can incorporate into your daily routine to help forge a more meaningful connection with patients and improve health outcomes.
#1: Improve Staff Communication First
One of the biggest barriers to physician engagement is a lack of communication at all levels. A patient is far less likely to feel connected with his or her physician if the patient watches the physician obtain needed medical information from a written chart rather than conferring with a nurse who is standing in the room and who may have just finished an in-depth conversation about symptoms or exacerbating factors.
While written directives can be crucial when it comes to many aspects of medical care, particularly the administration of medicine, making an effort to verbally communicate with your coworkers while in the presence of patients can help patients feel more involved in their own care and less like a case number or a cog in a much larger machine.
#2: Find Ways To Streamline Time-Intensive Tasks
One of the most common complaints from practicing physicians is the constant, increasing pressure to do more with a limited amount of time. The expansion of privacy laws, insurance billing requirements, and other administrative work has left many physicians and their staff with limited time to actually provide hands-on patient care and counseling.
To reverse this trend, you’ll want to focus your efforts on ways to make your non-patient-focused work as efficient as possible. By streamlining paperwork or automating tasks like scheduling and billing, you’ll be able to free up your staff’s time to handle other administrative tasks while you perform the important work of providing patient care.
#3: Reframe Advice in an Empowering Way
One sad truth of the medical field is that the people who can benefit the most from preventive care are often the least likely to seek it. In many cases, this is due to negative self-talk and trepidation about the medical advice (or scolding) they’ll be given. Someone with a high BMI may avoid doctor visits for fear of being told to lose weight; someone whose efforts to stop smoking have been unsuccessful may think they need to put off their next checkup until they’re having better luck kicking this habit.
Unfortunately, this reluctance to seek medical care can have dire and sometimes even fatal consequences. To improve patient care, you’ll need to work on framing advice and recommendations in an empowering manner, avoiding nagging, shaming, or issuing overly-broad edicts that can be hard to implement.
For example, instead of telling an obese patient to simply “lose weight,” you may want to start a conversation about his or her eating and exercise habits to find some areas that can be quickly and easily improved. By making specific suggestions, like “I’d like you to try to avoid snacking after dinner for the next week,” you’ll provide your patients with some concrete tasks they can perform that may often jump-start some much larger lifestyle changes.
By incorporating these communication and efficiency strategies into your patient rounds, you’re not only likely to improve your patients’ health outcomes, but also your own job satisfaction. Connecting with your patients in a way that allows them to absorb your advice and implement it in their own lives can be an incredibly rewarding experience, and one that is often lost in today’s hectic medical environment.