Harness the power of a positive patient experience to build a successful practice

One of the main reasons that doctors decide to pursue a career in medicine is because they want to help other people. Yet patients often complain that their doctors seem cold and impersonal. This is probably because sometimes doctors feel rushed while caring for a large number of patients, and they may unintentionally come across as uncaring.

“Many doctors underestimate the importance of the human interaction because they are so focused on honing their technical competencies.”
-Aniruddha Malpani, MD, medical director of Malpani Infertility Clinic in Mumbai, India

As doctors, we are often focused on our jobs of taking care of patients and providing them with high-quality medical care: doing the rigorous intellectual work of making the right diagnosis; making sense of the labs; and carrying out the technically demanding procedures properly. So it’s no surprise that sometimes doctors[s2If !is_user_logged_in()]…

[/s2If][s2If is_user_logged_in()] forget how important it is to convey a positive approach with patients.

Key Point: Creating a positive experience for patients through empathy and caring is just as important as delivering excellent clinical care. Satisfied patients will refer their family and friends, which in turn will help you build a successful, thriving practice.

Many doctors underestimate the importance of the human interaction because they are so focused on honing their technical competencies. This is why a number of successful world-class health systems and hospitals provide empathy training to doctors and nurses that focus on creating a positive experience for patients. The healthcare providers at these health systems learn scripts and acronyms that they need to follow in order to convey to their patients that they care for them as human beings.

This kind of training can be very helpful. When you and your staff focus on efforts to be caring and empathetic, sooner or later the practice starts to become a natural part of everyday patient interactions. Studies have shown that if you laugh in an effort to improve your mood, it can actually make you happier. Creating a positive experience for patients works in a similar manner.

The therapeutic effect of caring

An important part of the therapeutic effect that a doctor has on a patient’s well-being is his or her personal presence. We often write this off as being a placebo effect, but the fact remains that the doctor’s bedside manner can make a big difference in how quickly the patient improves. Empathy and caring are integral parts of the doctor’s therapeutic role and result in a more positive patient experience.

Just as medical students and residents are taught pharmacology and surgery so that they learn how to use drugs and a surgical knife properly, we need to teach them how to leverage interpersonal skills in order to help patients.

Many good doctors learn these skills by copying their seniors, who act as role models. Unfortunately, some doctors are never exposed to good role models, so they never fine-tune these skills. Tools such as play-acting and memorizing scripts can help these doctors acquire the needed skills. Caring and empathy are critically important, and patients expect doctors to have these qualities.

Measuring patient satisfaction

As with any effort that you undertake in your business, it’s important to monitor and measure outcomes. Teaching doctors these types of skills has been shown to improve patient satisfaction scores, which is of course a desirable outcome for both patients and doctors. You can easily track your patients’ satisfaction scores through anonymous surveys dropped into a comments box at your clinic, or even online through your medical practice’s Web site.

Patients who have a positive experience at your clinic will be more likely to stay with you and refer their family and friends. There is no better way to build your practice than through satisfied patients.

Empathy has always been considered an essential component of compassionate care, and recent research has shown that its benefits go far beyond the exam room. Greater physician empathy has been associated with fewer medical errors, better patient outcomes, and more satisfied patients. It also can decrease the likelihood of malpractice claims and can create greater professional satisfaction for you and your staff.

Aniruddha Malpani, MD Dr. Malpani is medical director of Malpani Infertility Clinic in Mumbai, India, medical director of the HELP-Health Education Library for People, and author of a physician and patient education blog. He is an angel investor in Plus 91, which offers customized Web sites for doctors.


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This entry was posted in Business of Medicine, Practice Management and tagged , , , , , . Volume: .

One Comment

  1. Samprati Badjate
    Posted Aug 2013 at 2:05 am | Permalink

    good piece of information

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