Ways to Engage Your Patients

July 11, 2011
Ed Rabinowitz

Showing patients respect and giving them access to more information can lead to them being more engaged and likely to follow instructions.

How do you handle patients who don’t end cell phone calls when you enter the exam room? How can you engage them in the exam itself so that they play a greater role in their own health care? While not easily answered, it is important to resolve these questions.

Patients on cell phone calls] can be such a sensitive situation,” says Scott Burger, MD, co-founder of

“[

, a national franchise of urgent care centers, and chief medical officer of the Towson, Md. facility. “Don’t walk in the room, sit down and start looking at the patient’s chart. That may indicate to them that they have time to kill on the phone for another few minutes. If you stand politely at the door, smile and look at them while they’re talking on the phone, they will get the hint that you’re ready to start the office visit.”

Rules of engagement

Burger explains that

the best way to engage a patient during an exam is to show them respect. He says that patients today often feel like they’re being rushed in and out of their doctor’s appointment, and that’s where the idea of the “15-minute office visit” stems from. Even in today’s busy world, patients still want to feel respected and heard.

It’s important for physicians to make sure they’re communicating with their patients, verbally and non-verbally, so that the patient knows they are not just another number coming in and out of the office. Burger suggests avoid looking at a watch, which gives the impression that the physician wants to watching how long a visit takes.

“Also, don’t be afraid as a physician to strike up conversations during the visit,” Burger says. “For example, if you’re discussing an injury on the soccer field, don’t rush along your patient once they start talking about how much they love soccer. It may make the visit longer, but if you listen to what they have to say, the patient feels like you’re taking a true interest in them as a person, not just a patient.

Burger also suggests verbally encouraging your patients to write down questions before their office visit so that you can make certain to address everything they are concerned about, regardless of time. And when they do come in with a list of concerns, make sure at the end of the visit you have addressed everything on their list. It simply shows that you care.

“Just be honest with your patients,” Burger says. “Give them accurate information and let them help you make decisions about their health care.”

Medhavi Jogi, MD, is a Houston-based endocrinologist who operates out of a two-physician practice,

before

. He uses GE Healthcare’s Centricity Advance Patient Portal to provide patients with secure, online access to their medical records. When patients have that information, including lab results and tests, in their hands their appointments it dramatically increases patient engagement.

“The more the patient knows up front about their specific disease issue, the more likely it is they’re going to understand why I’m recommending something and then follow through on it,” Jogi says.

Previous jobs didn’t utilize the portal and Jogi found that patients were not nearly as involved as they are when the technology is used.

“The patients who see me now have looked at their lab results and come in with questions,” he says. “Many doctors don’t like that. But to me, as soon as the patient starts asking questions, you really can’t go wrong.”

Using the portal required the practice to establish a web presence, which Jogi says helped many new patients find the facility. Now, his patients know more about him than ever before, he says.

“They’re researching not only about the doctor, but they also have tons of questions about their own care,” Jogi says. “I embrace that. The more communication, the better.”

Doctors ExpressArmed with informationHouston Thyroid & Endocrine Specialists