Communication between a doctor and his/her patient is the most important factor in health care profession. Health care professional, including doctors, nurses and paramedical staff is taught to communicate with their patients effectively. Communication is not only about talking to the patient politely and explaining everything to him, but communication is also about rapport building with the patient, sustain patients’ dignity, and respect the confidentiality. Effective communication is one of the basic factors of the current medical, moral code of conduct.
As much as rapport building is important for every medical problem, more emphasis is lead on the rapport building in some medical specialties including psychiatric problems and family issues. Positive and healthy doctor-patient relationship is important for both doctor and patient. The patient will rely on doctor only when the doctor explains to him about his disease and problem in a manner that patient understands the problem. The doctor will also know about the patient’s history and disease when an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect is built.
If the relationship is not healthy and the patient does not trust doctor’s abilities and knowledge, he will not provide appropriate information related to the disease to doctor. It will also result in non-adherence to the treatment regimen, and it will be affecting the outcome of treatment eventually.
Active listening is the most important factor while improving the communication between a doctor and patient. The doctor should first listen to what the patient has to say about his disease and what he already knows. According to research, when the attention is not paid towards the speaker, it can distract the patient while telling his own story.
Patient- Centered Interview
Effective doctor-patient communication can also be built through interactive and patient focused interviews. Shared decision making is also an important tool for better doctor-patient communication.
The empathetic environment provided to the patient will help the doctor in the long run in treatment regimen and to understand the patient. The doctor should remember that the patient has come to him for help and he needs to be understood. At times, only positive verbal response to the patient’s problem can be encouraging and helpful for the patient.
The doctor should understand the reason for patients’ non-adherence to treatment regimens and should try to see the problem from patient’s perspective. There should not be any judgment on the doctor’s part.
Taking an interest in what patient has to say, will encourage the patient. Non-verbal cues are also important in this regard like eye contact, body language, and etiquettes. Try not to interrupt the patient while he/she is talking.
Where the doctor’s behavioral and non-verbal cues are important, same is also important for the patient. The doctor should keep an eye on patient’s body language, posture, gestures and other non-verbal cues for a better understanding of his condition.
Although, doctor-patient relationship yields small in terms of health outcomes but statistically substantial effects can be seen on treatment outcomes in the long run. Hence, it should be an important area for doctors to work on.