For Clinicians

12 Things Your Patients Truly Value

Patients need to trust doctors with their health, and that means a good doctor-patient relationship is crucial. When that relationship is positive and strong, the patient’s health is more likely to improve. When the quality of trust isn’t right, patients can feel unclear and uneasy about their illness, the diagnosis, and even the treatment. 

Research by the PwC Health Research Institute reveals people expect the same level of facilities, care and service from their private medical practitioner as they’d expect from their bank or a good hotel. 

Surveying thousands of patients showed that active listening and transparency are the biggest priorities for patients choosing a doctor. While a warm welcome at a hotel means a lot, a friendly welcome when you’re feeling ill and worried matters even more.

Did you know that today, patients are twice as likely to either choose or reject a medical practitioner because of the friendliness – or otherwise – of the person they first see when they walk through the door? 

70% of people want their doctor to provide multiple services under one roof, and almost 65% say they appreciate the chance to use smartphone apps to communicate with their doctor. Interestingly, in private healthcare, the price of medical treatment isn’t anywhere near as important as the personal side of the experience.

People are twice as likely to make a decision based on personal preferences than finances. Patients have the right to participate in their own healthcare instead of being passive in the ways of yesteryear. All this has changed the face of private medicine. 

So what else do patients typically expect from a doctor? Here’s what you need to know to perfect your practice and delight your patients every time.  

What patients expect from doctors 

1. Transparency matters to patients.

While it’s OK for a doctor to not know absolutely everything about the illness or diagnosis, people expect their doctors to share what they know. The truth is important, even when there’s uncertainty. As patients we realise doctors are human beings and mistakes happen. If something goes wrong, people simply expect an apology and the assurance the error will be fixed. That’s why it’s so important to educate people about the success rates and risks around medical procedures. 

2. Empathy & knowing how someone feels

Empathy is all about relating to patients in a very human way, an interaction that creates a real sense of connection and shows you care. Great patient relationships help people feel comfortable and safe, happy to share their personal stories, routines and lifestyle choices with you. When the treatments you prescribe come with potential side effects, it’s your job to educate the patient about the risks and benefits. Business-wise, when people feel connected, they’re more likely to become loyal customers. 

3. Trust is vital

When a doctor is an active listener, people relax. It’s easier to share important information on sensitive topics, talk about embarrassing symptoms and bust myths when the patient-doctor relationship is a trusting one. Your patients must find you trustworthy enough to talk about everything that affects their health. 

4. Finance comes second

Patients can tell when they’re being over-treated. People know that more care doesn’t mean better care. They need to feel certain they’re getting the right care without financial incentives getting in the way. 

5. Everyone deserves respect

Smart offices and state-of-the-art equipment don’t mean a thing when the people you treat don’t feel respected. Medical staff with great people-skills matter a lot, those who treat patients with compassion and dignity. Medical staff with great people-skills matter a lot, those who treat patients with compassion and dignity. Take appointment times, for example. It doesn’t feel good to wait 40 minutes for your appointment then spend just five minutes with the doctor. This kind of casual disrespect for the patient’s time makes them feel like they don’t matter, even when things are out of your control with other patients going over their appointment time.

6. Active listening is best

There’s a big difference between a speech and a conversation. Conversations involve patients as equals who matter. Listening to a patients’ medical history means you actually connect with them on an emotional, physical and spiritual level. A doctor who respects a person’s opinion, listens to their description of the problems they’re having and asks the right questions is more likely to fully understand the cause of the illness. If you rush an appointment or interrupt the patient they won’t feel they’re being properly cared for. 

7. Clear, honest communication

People who are ill can easily feel vulnerable and helpless. It’s a doctor’s job to explain diagnoses and treatments clearly and simply in language the patient can understand. Excellent medical professionals are masters of clear, concise, and empathetic communication skills.

8. Giving patients time

Some patients will be as efficient as you are, others will need more support from you. Take the time to pay proper attention to what people are saying, value their time as well as your own, and let them ask as many questions as they need to.

9. Being there for people

Seeing sick people often means working late through appointment times or working through lunch due to appointment overtime, but that’s unfortunately part of the job. 

You have to try to be available when you’re needed. 

Often this means clear communication if an appointment needs to be rescheduled, or when an appointment is late. This will make patients feel like you truly care about delivering them excellent treatment.

10. Using cutting edge tech

Patients should never have to call your practice numerous times to get their lab results. Electronic health records make things so much easier, great for simplifying any practice communication and access issues. Your patients should always find it easy to find their own personal healthcare information.

11. Being calm and steady

Take your time when giving instructions. Be accurate and clear. Ideally, give patients a typed sheet with written instructions to take home, as well as taking the time to explain and simplify any technical and medical terms. 

Patients look to their doctors in an advisory role, a special position of authority. Being able to be calm and steady in their clinic time will help them feel reassured they are in good hands.

12. Collaboration

Your patient probably knows their own body, their lifestyle, their weaknesses, strengths and problems pretty well. You must get their consent before ordering tests or offering treatment. It’s good to talk things through until the patient understands all the possible implications. As a specialist, it is crucial to really listen and be understanding to a patient as they are more knowledgeable with more resources at their disposal.

Policies and awareness are driving healthcare like never before. Patients have the right to actively participate in their healthcare. These days the patient experience matters more than ever before. People have choice, and they vote with their feet, and their patient reviews. Everything you can do to make their experience with you a positive one helps you to retain patients, build trust, and create a thriving, happy, popular practice.