Does building strong patient-physician relationships even matter?
Yes, on many fronts, according to a review of literature on patient-physician relationships published in the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics. Through analysis of the research by Fredericks et al., Barry et al., and others, surgeon and bioethics expert Scott B. Grant, M.D, examines why the relationship is critical.
In summary, patients’ trust in their providers can:
- Promote adherence to a recommended medical regimen
- Support patients’ commitment to healthy behaviors
- Improve patient satisfaction and outcomes
- Affect physicians’ satisfaction levels within their own careers
- Support the patient’s family and caregivers, reducing stress levels
- Embolden patients to voice their medical concerns
- Promote open communication, leading to fewer malpractice claims
This is especially important for providers taking locum tenens assignments, as they face unique challenges in building doctor-patient relationships:
- Locums providers do not have time to establish these long-term patient relationships
- Their patients may associate the care they receive with the facility rather than with the individual physician
- They may be caring for underserved populations who face socioeconomic barriers
So, how can locum tenens physicians build strong doctor-patient relationships?
There is a wealth of research and information on building trust between physicians and patients. Foremost among these is the American Academy of Family Physicians Division of Medical Education’s Tips on Building Doctor/Patient Relations, a general refresher on building trust overall. But what about suggestions for physicians and advanced practitioners who take locum tenens assignments? Here are a few specific recommendations for how to build trust as a locum tenens provider:
- Greet patients with a smile, make eye contact, and use their names
- Listen actively, avoid interrupting, and be empathetic
- Remain sensitive to patient body language, clues, and unvoiced concerns
- Consider patients’ sociocultural and family contexts during interactions
- Be aware of how your personal cultural values and assumptions may affect delivery of care
- Use translators, interpreters, or family members if necessary
- Discuss healthy lifestyle habits with patients and families
- Support patient autonomy by giving treatment options and explaining your rationale
- Disclose and apologize for any errors promptly and properly according to the facility’s policy
First, examine thyself.
An interesting note regarding perception of doctor-patient relationships: In a national survey of 807 patients and 700 orthopedic surgeons conducted by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), 75 percent of the orthopedic surgeons surveyed felt they communicated satisfactorily with their patients, but only 21 percent of the patients reported satisfactory communication with their surgeons (Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Tongue et al.).
To learn more:
To investigate additional ways locum tenens physicians and healthcare providers in general can build positive, trusting relationships with patients, check out Communication Skills for Patient-Centered Care and Improving Provider-Patient Communication: A Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication Skills Curriculum. To discover how you can enjoy the freedom, excitement, and adventure of leading the locum lifestyle, connect with one of our recruiters at Cross Country Locums and put your doctor-patient relationship skills to use doing what you love – caring for patients!