3 ways practice leaders can promote physician-patient relationships

Strong physician-patient relationships promote better outcomes, which increasingly will affect practices' bottom lines in the transition to value-based care. Nonetheless, practice leadership can inadvertently undermine physicians' abilities to connect with patients by putting too much emphasis on productivity and satisfaction scores and not enough on helping doctors build relationships.

Here are three ways employers can help promote patients' trust in their physicians and therefore doctors' effectiveness, according to a recent post from Becker's Hospital Review.

Invest in communication education. "We have no problem investing in a new machine, or a new technology, a new training, but the thing that's the most fundamental to what we do--communicating and connecting with patients and each other--we just assume that's going to happen," said William Maples, M.D., executive director and chief experience officer of The Institute for Healthcare Excellence and chief medical officer of Professional Research Consultants. "And we can't assume anymore. We have to make an investment in developing communication skills for our providers."

Make sure that you don't just teach physicians why they need to change their behaviors, FiercePracticeManagement reported previously, but show them how to improve through role playing, observation and feedback.

Give it time. Even practices that offer communications and empathy training won't see a change in their patient experience scores overnight, Maples said. Rather, it could take six to nine months to see a meaningful gain, he said, during which leadership should keep up its efforts to promote a culture where clinician-patient communication can improve.

Foster teamwork. In a medical office, the relationships among staff actually create the foundation on which strong patient relations are built, FiercePracticeManagement has reported previously. Maple concurred: "By creating an exceptional experience, we create a culture of safety. As a culture of trust and teamwork grows, patient-adverse events decline."

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