Accountable Healthcare - 5 Ways Doctors Can Empower Patients
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April 28, 2021

5 Ways Doctors Can Empower Patients

Tips to help patients become their own health advocates.

Visiting a doctor can be nerve-wracking for patients – which is why it's particularly important for doctors to take steps to put them at ease.

Doctors, here are five ways that you can empower patients and help them become their own health advocates.

Tip No. 1: Toward the end of your patient's visit, as you're summarizing what took place, ask your patient to summarize things back to you in their own words. If a patient is able to do this, it means they understand what you did today and what the next steps are. If you find that your patient doesn't do a great job summarizing what happened during the visit, rewind to where there may be a gap in understanding (eg. explaining the diagnosis or what a medication is for). Understanding leads to taking charge of one's own health.

Tip No. 2: When you ask your patient if they have any questions, really take the time to answer. It's a habit for some doctors to end an appointment with, "Do you have any questions for me?" In reality, however, they might not have much time left with that patient, since many others could be waiting. Be ready to answer the commonly asked questions and the not-so-commonly asked ones. Patients will trust medicine more when you take the time to share what you know with them and don't seem rushed.

Tip No. 3: Share contact info for when your patient has follow-up questions. This could be the direct number to your office, or to your nurse's line. Health care requires sustained lines of communications even after the doctor's visit, and sharing important phone numbers with your patients shows them that you're available to support them at any time.

Tip No. 4: Show your patient what their online patient portal looks like and how to navigate it. This is perhaps the most commonly used method for a patient to communicate with a physician's office to set up follow-up appointments, reminders, requests for med refills, etc. But it can be confusing for first-timers. Taking the time to show a new patient how to obtain their login information and navigate the platform is one of the best ways to empower your patient to take the lead on their health issues.

Tip No. 5: Place yourself in your patient's shoes. What's very familiar to you may be brand new to your patient. A great doctor is one that asks themselves, "What questions would my patient be asking themselves? What would they want to know?" It takes away a lot of the guesswork, frustration and enigmatic stuff of being at the doctor's office.

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