Good Physician-Patient Communication is Sometimes the Best Medicine

It’s no surprise that the content of most physician Risk Management courses and seminars focuses on improving communication with patients.  This is because experts know that better communication between physicians and their patients reduces the likelihood of a medical malpractice lawsuit.  This fact has been proven again recently in a new survey of doctors and patients, which was commissioned by Capson Physicians Insurance Company.  They surveyed 200 physicians and 1,000 consumers to assess the value of physicians receiving patient feedback.

Most doctors agree that many malpractice lawsuits could be avoided altogether if patients had an opportunity to give immediate feedback about their experience and treatment.  According to the survey 70% of consumers said that good communication would help to reduce claims.  The survey verifies what we’ve known for years.  So if this is not new news, why does it deserve any new attention?  Why do the Risk Managers continue to harp on this same old subject?

The answer to that question is this:  Even if everyone already knows that better communication is important, in many doctors’ offices it is not a priority.  In a busy practice there is simply not enough time in a day to communicate with patients the way they would like to be.  As more and more patients are added to the U.S. healthcare system, the patient load at physician offices and hospitals will continue to increase, making communication even harder.  So what can you do in your office to help facilitate better communication?

There is no one easy solution, but here are a few suggestions:

Purchase and use an EMR/EHR system that works for your practice.  This will reduce paper work and free up your time for patient care.

Try using a computerized survey that patients take before leaving the office.  Capson Physicians Insurance Company offers Capson Care, which includes an iPad for use in the office.  You will know right away if someone is unhappy.

Slow down.  No matter how busy you are, take time to listen to your patients and make sure you’ve addressed their concerns.  Ask questions to find out if you covered everything and that they understand you.

Contact your Keane representative if you would like more information.  Most of our insurance carriers offer courses or seminars in Risk Management that could help you avoid claims in the future – they also give premium discounts if you take the course!