After four years in undergrad, orthopedic surgeons dedicate almost another decade of their lives to medical school and residency. When they’ve completed their residency, they’ve amassed a wealth of clinical knowledge to help them provide the highest quality care to their patients. However, in some instances there may not have been enough emphasis placed on an important aspect of care: patient communication.
Orthopedic surgeons are certainly skilled in the technical aspects of care, but some struggle seeing the patient experience as a whole, instead concentrating on the treatment. In this article, we’ll discuss some helpful tips orthopedic surgeons can use to improve their patient communication skills.
Proper Communication Techniques
Not only is it important to confirm what information is communicated to the patient but it’s also critical for orthopedic surgeons to be aware of how this information is transferred. Physicians should ask their patients how they best receive information and adjust their approach appropriately.
Good physician-patient communication is associated with the following:
- A reduction in clinical errors
- Better diagnostic accuracy
- Enhanced physician-patient relationships
- Higher patient satisfaction
- Improved outcomes
- Increased compliance to treatment plans
Clinicians should keep in mind conversations with patients should be dialogues, not monologues. Encouraging the patient to voice their concerns helps clarify their needs and allows the physician to set realistic expectations. Simply letting the patient vent can be therapeutic and help alleviate uneasiness.
Never underestimate the power of first impressions. From the moment they walk into an exam room, orthopedic surgeons must demonstrate respect and empathy. Doctors who give a favorable first impression are seen as more competent in the eyes of the patient.
If a patient says their reason for his or her visit is “knee pain,” clinicians should respond with, “Tell me about it” rather than, “Tell me about your knee pain.” The latter response implies the surgeon plans to consider treatment for only a single complaint, which is likely not the case since orthopedic patients usually have multiple, interrelated issues. Ask open-ended questions to get a complete picture of the patient’s condition.
If for some reason the physician cannot adequately address every complaint in a single visit, he or she should prioritize them and let the patient know that while today’s visit wasn’t sufficient to offer a complete assessment, the physician is more than happy to schedule another appointment in the near future.
Written and Visual Communication
In many cases, even though the patient may initially absorb the information they receive from their orthopedic surgeon, their recollection of that information—especially crucial details such as postoperative treatment—declines quickly. It is in the physician’s best interest to ensure the patient has the necessary resources both before and after procedures that they can reference at anytime. This is particularly helpful to increase compliance and minimize unnecessary repeat visits.
Take-home pamphlets can help improve a patient’s comprehension of their orthopedic condition and recommended treatments. Physical aids, such as three-dimensional models, can also help patients understand anatomy and pathology. Physicians should promote the use of the resources they provide rather than looking to the internet for clinical advice, since this is often of a dubious nature and can result in misinformed patients.
An orthopedic surgeon’s ability to effectively communicate with their patients is just as important as their ability to treat their patients’ medical conditions. When physicians can connect with their patients on a deeper level, it can help outcomes and lead to higher patient satisfaction.
Strong patient communication skills can help the clinical side of your practice, but how can you improve the operational side? Download the free eBook, Stop the Budget Bleed: How Private-Practice Physicians Can Reduce Spend, to learn how to have a more efficient practice.