Tips to Improve Physician Communication with Patients

Properly educating patients allows them to play a significant role in their own care. Because of this, physicians have a duty to accurately inform their patients, but to do so in a way that is clear and understandable. To be effective, patient education needs to be more than just regurgitating tired instructions and information. Here are five techniques that can help improve physician-patient communication.


Remember that you are trying to comprehend the patient’s message and then assess so don’t rush into explanations and allow interruptions. There are occasions where a patient simply wants someone to listen to his or her feelings. By rushing into a quick reply, it can make them feel as if their concerns are being dismissed. Patients often have their own plan, and listening to them with purpose may reveal important concerns, underlying issues and useful diagnostic information.

Slow down.

Physicians have a reputation for rushing, so make a conscious effort to slow it down. A simple approach is to pause often, creating a strategic silence. This gives time for the patient to think and allow information to sink in. It can be especially important when delivering bad news as a patient’s mind will need time to reset and recuperate. It allows the patient more time to process and speak, while you implement your tools for listening.

Avoid overusing medical verbiage.

When talking to patients, medical jargon can seem like a foreign language. Be sure you avoid complex terms, break down big concepts and most importantly just keep it simple.

Build rapport.

Patients want to feel a “we are in this together” type bond with their physicians. It’s imperative that you focus on details that help build your relationship. Focus on eye contact, using the patient’s name repeatedly, ask the right questions and showing compassion without judgement.

Be empathic.

A physician’s day is hectic to say the least. However, a patient’s emotional health shouldn’t get lost in the hustle and bustle. The tone with which you speak can lessen pain and reduce anxiety. Focus on facial expressions, body language, time spent and acknowledgment of patient feelings to express concern and understanding. Genuine caring and concern has a long-term impact that surpasses a doctor’s appointment so keep this in mind every time you see a patient.

Communication is critical to providing high-level quality care and establishing a strong patient-doctor relationship. Ultimately, a practice’s ability to interact with patients will play a huge role in building a strong relationship. Developing communication methods that nurture this relationship will help keep patients satisfied, engaged and loyal.

Posted by
  • As a speaker at the first ad hoc meeting of rheumatology practice managers gathered in a single small room at its infancy a decade ago, I’m amazed to see how NORM has blossomed into a high energy organization of depth and professional meetings with parallel break-out symposia between plenary sessions. NORM has truly come of age. This is where the “business” of rheumatology gets learned. The ”guildmanship” for rheumatology practice management is now strong.- Paul H. Caldron, DO, FACP, FACR, MBA, Arizona Arthritis and Rheumatology Associates
  • In a time of demanding changes in the management of medical practices in the US, NORM has been a lifesaver to the community of Rheumatology practices.  NORM has allowed our practice to stay ahead of the many demands of CMS and others payors and has ensured that our practice remains cognizant of new issues that arise in HIPPA compliance, human resources and medical billing to name a few. Sending our Practice Manager to NORM's conferences has been cost-effective and beneficial to our practice because she returns to our office with an abundance of information that otherwise would have taken months to compile. Every Rheumatology practice that wishes to stay on top of emerging issues in practice management should consider sending a member of their staff to NORM's conference.- Michael S. Rosen M.D., Chester County Rheumatology PC
  • Thanks to all those wonderful people in the NORM Network who respond to emails, offering their advice, experience, time, and support ... I haven't even been a member a full year yet and I am amazed at the dedication of everyone who responds to helping via emails and the NORM Organization itself! I have barely had a chance to explore the resources and I have yet to really dive into requests for help still I am silently learning so much and do occasionally offer what I can! Thank you all!- Cheryl Piambino, Kenneth E. Bresky, DO

What We Offer

We’re adding value to practices across the nation by creating a thriving community of rheumatology managers and physicians.

Membership Benefits

Become a Member

Annual Conference

Conference Registration