Clinical Edge - 10 patient communication tips. Make communication your strongest link Clinical Edge - 10 patient communication tips. Make communication your strongest link

10 patient communication tips. Make communication your strongest link

10 patient communication tips. Make communication your strongest link

Communication is the key to improvements in your patient's pain and movement - great manual therapy or exercise skills will only get very average results without good communication.  I wanted to share 10 tips to help improve your patient communication, interaction and results:

  1. Look, smile, touch. When you meet your patients on their initial appointment, and at the start of each appointment - make eye contact, smile, and shake their hand. You have a very short period of time to gain your patient’s confidence, and eye contact and a smile goes a long way to gaining trust and relaxing your patient.

  2. Make a real connection. Sit facing your patient, rather than facing off to the side, and avoid placing barriers such as a desk or computer between yourself and your patient. This will help develop the psychological connection between yourself and your patient, and help the patient to open up and share valuable information they may not otherwise.

  3. Honesty. People value honesty more than they value you knowing everything. Admit to your patient if you don’t know the answer to their question. Research the answer, or ask another therapist instead of making up information.

  4. Confidence. Have a confident yet approachable manner, to instil confidence in your patients. Your patients are then more likely to trust you, follow your advice and perform their exercises.

  5. Care about your patients. If your patient believes you care about them, you will get much better results, and they will forgive almost anything else.

  6. Show interest. Be actively interested in your patients - ask your patients about their family, write down your patients interest, children’s names etc. People really appreciate it when you bring up those little facts, or ask about how little Josie is going at netball etc.

  7. Explain everything - how the session will progress, where you will be palpating, why you are palpating there, what the treatment is, why you are doing it and how it will help.

  8. Ask permission. Make sure the patient understands what you will be doing, and ask if it is ok. As therapists, we often think it is perfectly natural to palpate your patient’s ischial tuberosity if they have a proximal hamstring tendinopathy, but make sure your patient understands what you are doing, and confirm that they are happy for you to proceed.

  9. Goal setting. Clearly outline aims and goals for this session and future treatment sessions, during the initial appointment. Short term and long term goals help with motivation, will help your patient perform their exercises and attend their treatment sessions. For example, with one of my boxer/martial artist patients at the moment, we have an endpoint goal of 2 hours of boxing and 2 hours of wrestling/day pain free, with current guidelines of 1 hour boxing at 75% intensity, and 1 hour BJJ avoiding certain shoulder positions in the short term before we reintroduce them. He has shoulder control and strength benchmarks he needs to achieve between each treatment session, and before increasing his training time and intensity. We are focusing on those goals to keep the motivation up as his shoulder pain is improving. Each session we check where he is at, I outline the goals for the session, and then we discuss benchmarks for his next session. Without these short and long term goals, your patients will tend to slack off on their exercises in that important phase when they start to feel better.

  10. Roles. Clearly outline what your role is, and what the patient’s role is in their recovery and rehab. You are likely to have somewhere between 20 and 60 minutes with a patient that week, and the patient has another 167 hours with their body, so being super clear on exactly what their role in their rehab program is, including exercises, self-massage, and activity modification will make all the difference in their outcome.

Extra tip

  1. At the end of the session, ask your patient to explain back to you their diagnosis, stages of recovery, activity modification, and what they need to achieve before the next session. This helps to confirm your patient is walking out with the right take-home messages.

Would you like 10 bonus tips on patient communication and interaction to help you get the best results with your patients? Download the PDF below to get them free

Click Here to download your Free PDF

What tips do you have for patient communication? Let me know in the comments below

Thanks to Caitlin Farmer and Russell Wright for their input.

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