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10 Ways to Clearly Communicate with patients who are difficult to communicate with.

The busy doctors might not have the time to delve into why patients are upset or resolve conflicts However, it’s a valuable time spent, according to one expert.

Patients can get upset over long waits to see doctors or the expense of an operation. Some patients are angry when they are told to wear masks or when they are told they aren’t allowed to bring their spouse or friend who is pregnant to the exam room.

How do you handle these difficult situations without causing more problems?

“It is essential to realize that patients who are challenged rarely view themselves as challenging. From their perspective, they are just reacting to a difficult situation,” Natalie Y. Howe director of marketing and sales support for GetixHealth LLC, spoke at the Medical Group Management Association’s 2021 Annual Conference.

Natalie Howe

Sometimes, says Howe there’s an additional issue that could be causing anxiety, from concerns about something that isn’t working to a negative interaction with the employee.

She gave 10 strategies to help patients cope with their emotions.

1. Be attentive.

The patient walks into the exam room, and a physician is waiting to see her. The patient is upset and has crossed her arms.

In this case, stop multitasking for 2 minutes, then turn your back to the patient and ask “Do you would you mind telling me what’s wrong?”

2. Let them know that you’re paying attention.

Since body language makes up around 87% of all communication Maintain eye contact and smile when listening. Validate what the patient is saying with statements such as, “I hear that you’re really upset about the wait times.” ….” Physicians can also rephrase or paraphrase or clarify, which proves that you understand and are paying attention.

3. Be calm.

It is important to manage reactions and avoid getting involved in the patient’s emotions. Find out why the patient is upset and say, “I can see you’re unhappy about this procedure.”

Also try to avoid playing the blame game if the patient says, “It’s all your fault I’m sick!” Instead, try saying, “I can tell you’re really angry. Let me know where that anger is coming from.”

Howe says, “It’s better not to remain negative, so that people will stick with you.”

4. Accept the patient’s feelings.

While patients may not always be right, it’s important to validate their feelings and make them feel safe. Howe suggests that doctors say, “I really care about you and am aware of what you’re going through and I want it to be better.” This can lower the patient’s defenses and allow them to be more open to receiving a message such as “Let’s move forward to the next step.”

Be aware of the tone and body language, and ensure that it is consistent with what you are saying, says Howe.

5. Ask the patient questions.

This could start with a simple request such as, “Can I ask you a few questions so that we can find a solution?”

Avoid being harsh or blunt when asking “softening” questions such as “If I could ask, could you please let me know ….”?” or “If you don’t mind me asking ….””, or “I was thinking ….””What do you think?”

To get more information To get more information, ask various types of questions and avoid answering yes or no. “You want them to really get talking and start to open up with information,” she says.

Howe outlined two types of questions that can be used to get more details.

  • Dummy-up: Pretend that you don’t know anything , and say things like, “Tell me more about what occurred” or, “I think I understand ….”

  • Reverse question: Answer questions with a soft reverse question, such as, “Good question” or “I’m happy that you asked this.”

6. Make sure to apologize if you’re not perfect.

Apologizing does not always mean blaming others. They can also be used to express regret that someone has caused upset.

For instance: “I’m sorry you were unhappy by this” or “I truly regret the amount of time you’ve spent on this issue. I know you’re busy.”

7. Be courteous and strong when dealing with patients who are in error.

Sometimes, patients make mistakes. They might be misinformed about a bill or misrepresent facts or just want to be heard. Start by getting to the truth behind the claims of the patient.

If you notice something is off, dig deeper with questions. Use a gentle tone to explain by saying, “I’m glad you pointed this out to me. I can see how it could be confusing,” says Howe. You could also discuss the statement with your staff members.

8. Provide an answer.

Remember that the purpose of patients is to create long-term relationships. “Your tone and words should demonstrate that you appreciate patients and are there for them. She suggests that problems be resolved quickly, easily, and generously. If a mistake is made on a statement the representative for billing should say, “I will take care of it as soon as I can.”

9. Be assertive and polite when dealing with rude patients.

Some patients will never be happy regardless of what is said and done. With these patients, use more direct questions to find out what the ideal scenario is and what makes them feel satisfied. Ask questions like, “What would you like to find here that would make you smile?” If they’re screaming and angry, a better approach may be to stop the conversation until they are more calm.

10. Thank the patient and check again.

It doesn’t matter what problem you’re facing, it’s important to follow-up. One way is to note that the patient was upset, and then include the suggested solution in the medical record.

The scheduler can either call or write a letter to the patient if they are not available, asking if they are okay with the solution and how it was achieved. “Then you can say thank you to the patient for bringing the issue to your attention and tell them that you want to keep improving,” says Howe.

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