Let’s face it: A person can listen to or associate much better with someone like themselves. In healthcare, the practitioner spends the most time with the patient, so a positive relationship has a great impact on the patient’s experience and sets the tone for overall satisfaction. It is vital for practitioners to build rapport with our patients.
So, how do we build rapport with our patients?
Get to know them. To build a relationship, it is important to know more about your patient than just their injury/illness process. Relating to hobbies, children, or other interests might help the patient feel comfortable, and it might lessen the overall anxiety of the visit.
Educate. Patients trust practitioners to be their educators. They want to understand their treatment options and treatment consequences. It is important for them to have an understanding of the healing process so that they can then make educated choices.
These are some ways to educate:
- Make available reading material – this means including appropriate literature in the waiting room and/or office.
- Provide resources such as treatment options, treatment plans, expected treatment outcomes, etc.
- Allow the opportunity for questions.
- Provide them with appropriate referral options if applicable.
Anticipate their needs. Whether the patient has an acute or chronic injury/condition, learn to anticipate your patients’ needs. This will show them that you do care and that you want to provide them with the best plan of care possible.
Follow through. To build credibility, it is essential to follow through with what you say you are going to do. For instance, if you tell your patient that you are going to call her 2 days after their treatment, do it! This shows that you care and that you can be trusted.
Make other care providers aware. Make sure that other members of the patients’ care team are familiar with their visit to you. Make contact with their GP, ask permission to do so. It shows that you are going the extra step.
Respectfully call them by their name. We, as practitioners mean no offence by using terms of endearment such as “Honey”, “Sweetie” or “Darling”. Nothing shows respect better than taking the time to call our patients by their name. After introducing yourself, ask, “Mr. Smith, how would you like for me to call you?” This little act will go a long way in making your patients feel more comfortable and at ease with you. Make sure to note his or her response in their file and share this with the rest of the staff.
Listen actively. Active listening is important in any partnership and/or relationship. But when discussing treatment options listen actively to your patient by providing eye contact and/or by responding to their comments. These demonstrate appreciation and value.
Offer follow-up calls or surveys. Another way of saying “I care” is to provide a follow-up phone call after a visit. This just says, “I know that our visit is over, but I want to be sure that you are ok.” Patient satisfaction surveys are another way of saying, “I want to do everything I can to be sure that your treatment was effective-you are that important to me.”
Remain calm and friendly. We all have our personal bias but it is important to respect our patients’ preferences and choices. It is equally important to make eye-contact and appropriate non-verbal gestures when communicating.
Establishing a working relationship with your patient is essential. You might be the most educated and qualified practitioner, but unless you have a positive relationship with everyone you deal with, that is all for nought. Hopefully, these techniques will help us, as healthcare practitioners, to build rapport with our patients, because it is often the gateway toward the best therapeutic outcome.