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5 Surprising Ways to Create a More Patient-friendly Vibe at Your Practice

By Lisa Mulcahy via Multibriefs

You know that patient satisfaction is crucial. Because of this, you no doubt check all the standard boxes to keep people happy — you're flexible with appointment times, try not to make patients wait too long, and instruct your staff to be courteous.

Cutting-edge research suggests that these steps may not be enough. Your patients can feel a lot more reassured, supported and comfortable if you make the effort to employ some unexpected — but incredibly effective — steps to create a more helpful, inclusive practice environment.

Create a patient personality questionnaire.

A study from the University of Miami found that patients who feel they have personal things in common with their doctor actually feel less pain when they receive treatments like shots. The researchers believe this is because cultural connections, such as liking the same foods, or living in the same city, makes you feel more trust toward your doctor. Therefore, you don't notice physical discomfort as much as if you didn't relate to your doctor with familiarity.

After receiving your healthcare organization's permission, make up a short question sheet asking your patients about their personal preferences — their favorite foods, places they like to go in their neighborhoods, which place of worship they choose to attend if that is appropriate — and ask them if they would like to fill it out. Then, your practice's PCP can bring each completed questionnaire into patient appointments and talk with them about things he or she have in common to foster connection and create comfort.

Be more supportive of patients who need to lose weight.

Research from the American Psychological Association found that many practices unintentionally "fat-shame" overweight or obese patients by being too firm about their need to shed pounds. Your PCP and staff no doubt mean well, but this study showed that a "tough love" motivational approach often takes a significant toll on patients' well-being, causing them stress that may actually stymie their efforts at weight loss altogether.

Emphasize to your staff and doctors that talking compassionately about their patients' weight, being sensitive and polite during weigh-ins, and expressing empathy and encouragement are the right strategies to implement.

Ask your patients to rate your practice’s cleanliness.

Researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston found that patients are positively empowered when they feel it's OK to speak up regarding infection control. Let all patients know it's OK to ask your staff if they've washed their hands, to inquire about sterilization of instruments, and ask about disinfection practices in exam rooms.

If an obviously sick patient exits an exam room, make sure there is a fresh exam room available so that subsequent patients see they won't be exposed to airborne germs. Make hand gels readily available and encourage each patient to use some as they enter and exit appointment rooms. Also, encourage patients to bring any cleanliness concerns to your attention so they can be addressed immediately.

Create a happy waiting room.

Soothing colors like blue are great for walls and furniture; playing mellow music played at a low volume can also help patients relax. Replace dog-eared magazines with humorous or inspirational reading material.

If you have a TV in your waiting room, tune it to a channel playing classic sitcoms or game shows, rather than a depressing newscast.

Provide wellness resources to your staff.

Mayo Clinic research shows that employees of medical centers report feeling very stressed because of their job demands, which can lead to less-than-friendly behavior toward patients. If your PCP's office is located in a hospital, make sure your employees are getting the support they need for themselves.

Access to stress reduction programs that emphasize better sleep, journaling, spending time with family and friends, and practicing gratitude are helpful. Look into how you can make these kinds of resources available through the hospital to your employees.

Good feelings spread fast. When you and your staff greet your patients with genuine enthusiasm, everyone feels better!

Lisa Mulcahy is an internationally established health writer whose credits include the Los Angeles Times, Redbook, Glamour, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Health, Good Housekeeping, Parade, Woman's Day, Family Circle and Seventeen. She is the author of eight best-selling books, including "The Essentials of Theater," an Amazon No. 1 new release.


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