Patient Engagement: How to Make an Emotional Connection

Posted March 29, 2016 by Stacy Bolzenius

Patient Engagement: How to Make an Emotional Connection

OB/GYNs, like all doctors, know and value the importance of “patient satisfaction.” However, in the medical profession, satisfaction often isn’t enough to keep patients from switching doctors due to insurance requirements, convenience and long waits. To inspire loyalty, an OB/GYN needs to go beyond satisfaction and strive for patient engagement.

Patient engagement is achieved by connecting emotionally, listening empathetically and communicating in a way that conveys an understanding of the patient’s individual needs and desires. Because of the intimate nature of an obstetrics or gynecological exam, women’s health professionals should strive to connect with their patients and make them as comfortable as possible.

Treat Patients With Respect

Patients deserve the respect of their doctors. Making eye contact, shaking their hands and apologizing for long waits can go a long way toward making a patient feel respected and comfortable. When people feel disrespected, they can become defensive or shut down, which makes a doctor’s job much more difficult.

On the other hand, when a patient feels respected, they are much more likely to be completely honest and forthcoming. This can make diagnosis easier and more accurate, which leads to healthier and happier patients and can reduce your risk of fewer lawsuits.

Making eye contact and using encouraging body language makes patients feel understood and heard.

Listen Actively

It is often difficult for doctors to focus their full attention on their patients, but it is critical that each and every patient is given their full attention. When a patient is talking, look directly at them, not at their chart, a computer screen or the clock. Making eye contact and using encouraging body language — uncrossed arms, relaxed face, and periodic nodding — makes patients feel understood and heard.

Try to understand a patient’s feelings, and reflect those emotions back to them with language like, “I understand how upsetting this must be for you,” or, “I know this is uncomfortable, but anything you say will not leave this room.” When an OB/GYN can show their patient that they understand their feelings as well as their medical conditions, that patient is more likely to trust the doctor’s advice and, consequently, comply with their treatment plan.

Offer Personal Warmth

Many physicians operate on a belief that medical knowledge and skills are what matter most. While knowledge and skill are certainly important, remember that perception is reality. If a patient perceives that their doctor is hurried, distracted or distant, the reality will likely include relocating their patronage to a different doctor. Warmth is a highly subjective concept, but it boils down to meeting patient’s where they are. Smile, be patient, call the patient by their name and employ humor when appropriate.

OB/GYNs, in particular, can benefit from putting their patients at ease. Stress and tension make vaginal exams much more difficult and physically uncomfortable. Patients often expect a certain level of physical discomfort when visiting their OB/GYN, but that is forgotten much more quickly than emotional discomfort and distress.

When patients walk out of the exam room feeling heard and respected, it results in treatment compliance, better attendance to follow-up appointments, good reviews and patients who are happy, healthy and ready to return.

Looking for ways to earn CME credit? It’s never too early or too late to get started. Call us today to learn more about patient engagement in women’s health! Try Perinatal Resources’ live courses and webinars to learn more.