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    Solving problem patients

    Research suggests patient encounters are deteriorating, but solutions are at hand


    Urologists can improve therapeutic relationships with patients by making every step of the care delivery at their practices responsive to patients’ needs, according to Jeff Gorke, senior vice president for the consulting firm the Coker Group, where he oversees practice management services. That includes how the staff at the front desk greets patients to when those patients leave the practice.

    Read - The switch to OTC: Are urologic drugs next?

    Jeff GorkeMr. Gorke“I know that sounds like health care 101. But every hiccup along the way in the delivery of the care process to patients can get them sideways. It all starts at the front desk—the whole presentation—the warmth and friendliness upfront. Prepare the patient if the provider is running late and the appointment may take longer than expected, and assure the patient that you’ll get them in as soon as possible,” Gorke said. “A lot of this comes down to management of patient expectations.”

    Understand what patients might not like about a particular practice, Gorke advises. So, if patient feedback is that the urologist doesn’t look up from the electronic health record to make eye contact with patients, the urologist should consider having a medical assistant or scribe take those notes, so he or she can have a one-on-one conversation with the patient.

    It isn’t necessarily a matter of spending more time with patients, but rather better time with patients, according to Gorke.

    Research shows that many of these approaches effectively improve relationships—at least from the patient’s perspective—with higher patient satisfaction, better outcomes and compliance, and fewer medical malpractice claims.

    Still, despite a urologist’s and practice’s best efforts, sometimes nothing works and it’s best to part ways with a patient. (See, “When it’s time to part ways with a patient.")

    The solution may start with you

    As with any relationship, the urologist-patient therapeutic relationship needs attention and it very well may start with the clinician. Dr. Rhee cites a national program at Kaiser Permanente, called “Clinician-Patient Communication Teams,” which supports physicians with 1:1 coaching with physician-coaches, creating individualized needs assessments that are integrated with physician wellness strategies. These programs (negotiation training, motivating training, having difficult conversations, emotional intelligence) provide clinicians with communication tools leading to higher personal and job satisfaction.

    “The idea that things will change to promote a healthy clinic environment will not be possible unless creativity and innovation are borne out of recognizing the personal and professional needs of both the urologist and the patient,” Dr. Rhee said.

    More from Urology Times:

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    Lisette Hilton
    Lisette Hilton, president of Words Come Alive, has written about health care, the science and business of medicine, fitness and wellness ...


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