The doctor-patient relationship is about a lot more than diagnosing and treating illnesses. Indeed, that’s part of it, but when a more profound connection is established, the relationship can bring peace of mind to the patent even when they aren’t sick. Ideally, the doctor and patient become a wellness team working together to ensure that the patient enjoys optimal health.
How do these relationships form and why do patients select one provider over another? We don’t have to wonder because PwC’s Health Research Institute surveyed patients to find out what they are really looking for when they choose a physician. Practices that want to gain an edge over walk-in retail health clinics and online-only providers should take advantage of the ability to form deeper, more lasting connections with clients.
Here’s what patients say matters to them.
Transparency – Not surprisingly, patients want the truth from their providers. They understand that doctors are human and don’t have all the answers right away, and that’s OK. People want to know what the doctor knows, what she suspects, and what she doesn’t know.
Active Listening – Before a patient can trust that the doctor has all the information necessary to be helpful, they need to feel heard. This means that providers should try not to interrupt, keep eye contact, and ask useful follow-up questions that demonstrate understanding. This is true for both in-person encounters and those performed remotely using telemedicine.
Trust – Trust is earned when providers demonstrate that they put their patient’s wellbeing ahead of all else. This means protecting private patient data, adhering to the standard of care, and following through with all promises.
Partnership – Patients want to engage with their own care and have a voice in every decision. They should understand all of their options and the likely outcomes of each choice. They may ultimately defer to the recommendation of their doctor, but they want their concerns and needs addressed.
Convenience – Modern patients are used to round-the-clock service and same-day delivery. That’s why it is not surprising that more and more people use the availability of telemedicine as a deciding factor when choosing a primary care physician. Video visits save precious PTO and eliminate the hassles of travel.
Customer Service – Patients are starting to demand the same type of treatment from medical providers as they do for hotels and retailers. They can do this because there are a growing number of options to choose. People will no longer accept surly office staffs, unexplained waits, unreturned phone calls or other bad business practices.
Good Communication – Medical matters can be complicated. People who are unwell and worried are not always quick to understand what the provider has to say. That’s why empathetic communication is essential during every encounter. It is also helpful to provide written explanations of the diagnosis and treatment plan. Good communication extends to office staff as well. People appreciate appointment reminders, and notifications when an annual exam or vaccination is due.
Time – People understand that the doctor’s time is limited and precious, so they don’t mind some degree of efficiency, but they don’t want to feel rushed either. Providers need to strike a balance between moving the visit along and ensuring that they can hear and address all of the patient’s concerns and answer every question.
Access – Patients don’t like long lead times for appointments. They also appreciate flexible operating hours. Telemedicine is one approach that allows practices to offer more appointments each day, and potentially set appointments for after hours or weekends without additional office overhead.
Compassion – The best relationships form when patients feel like their doctor understands their feelings as well as their condition. The ability to express empathy and concern is as important as the ability to make a correct diagnosis. “Bedside manner” is a thing where you are in the exam room or on a video visit.
The “Do Unto Others” rule is a good one when it comes to creating a practice that patients will love. If you’d love it, your patients probably will too.