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Five Ways to Connect With Your Patients

February 21, 2020

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.

Source
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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