How Can You Improve Patient Interactions?

153570089_bb99d7108c_mHave you ever been a patient (for any provider, not just PT) and had a really great or a really bad experience?  What was the key to that experience for you?  For me, it was the interaction with the provider.  I’ve contemplated switching providers because of an interaction where I felt like a number, that my concerns were minimized and derided, and that his time was much more valuable than mine.

I received the most recent PTJ yesterday.  A few articles grabbed my attention, including “What Influences Patient-Therapist Interactions in Musculoskeletal Physical Therapy? Qualitative Systematic Review and Meta-Synthesis” (O’Keeffee M, Cullinane P, Hurley J, et al; Phys Ther 2016; 96: 609-622).  It reminds me a lot of the PTJ article by Hush and colleagues from 2011 entitled “Patient Satisfaction with Musculoskeletal Physical Therapy Care: a Systematic Review” which is one I have my students read.

The authors identified four themes in their review: PT interpersonal and communication skills (active listening, empathy, friendliness, encouragement, confidence but not overconfidence, and non-verbal communication), PT practice skills (patient education – a big one for patients, and PT expertise and training), individualized patient centered care (individualized, and taking patient opinion and preference into consideration) and organization and environmental factors (time, flexibility).

The results aren’t all that surprising, but they bear repeating to ourselves as providers; I would argue while both articles examine this in light of musculoskeletal PT, it very likely applies across all specialties and settings. Do positive interactions enhance adherence and give better outcomes?  No evidence on this yet, but it would make sense especially for self-efficacy. I think I do pretty well in my interactions, but I think I’ll focus on my listening and patient education.  What can you work on to improve patient satisfaction and possibly their adherence and outcomes?

Photo credit: X-Factor by Pierre Metivier.

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