Five Ways to Connect With Your Patients

Written by Vivian Lei

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This study identifies specific practices for clinicians that can enrich the patient-physician encounter, promote presence, and foster meaningful connection.

Why does this matter?
Connecting with patients in a meaningful way during a brief clinical encounter is increasingly difficult in the age of electronic medical records and administrative excess. Having a good bedside manner can be cultivated through mindfulness and has the potential to reap beneficial outcomes for both patient and physician.

Be present
This was a mixed methods study that identified 5 practices that promote presence and connection with patients. The authors initially identified potential practices with a literature review, clinical observations, and interviews with patients, physicians, and non-medical professionals. These preliminary findings were then reviewed in a modified Delphi process, resulting in the following recommendations:

  • Prepare with intention

    • Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the patient you are about to see.

    • Create a ritual to clear your mind and focus your attention before beginning the encounter.

  • Listen intently and completely

    • Sit down, lean forward, and avoid interrupting the patient. Remember to use silence.

  • Agree on what matters most

    • Set an agenda based on the patient’s priorities and concerns.

  • Connect with the patient’s story

    • Consider the patient’s context, including sociocultural background and life circumstances.

    • Acknowledge the patient’s efforts positively, offer praise, and celebrate small successes.

  • Explore emotional cues

    • Be sensitive to verbal and nonverbal cues, elicit emotions, and offer validation.

This study is a unique evidence-based approach to improving the patient-physician relationship. While systemic burdens on the practice of medicine continue to tax this relationship and are not fully addressed by these recommendations, implementing a few of these practices at the bedside may still enrich the daily clinical encounter.

Practices to Foster Physician Presence and Connection With Patients in the Clinical Encounter. JAMA. 2020 Jan 7;323(1):70-81. doi: 10.1001/jama.2019.19003.

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