As a health care professional, it’s important for you to establish good communication and trust with your patients. Studies have shown that patient satisfaction and health outcomes are both affected by whether patients feel that the people caring for them are sensitive to their needs and empathize with them.

This Press Ganey report on the state of patient experience surveys patients in hospitals and has found that the following items are top priority issues.

  • Response to concerns/complaints made during your stay
  • Staff sensitivity to the inconvenience that health problems and hospitalization can cause
  • Staff effort to include you in decisions about your treatment
  • Degree to which hospital staff addressed your emotional needs
  • How well the nurses kept you informed

Clearly, these will also be important to patients in any medical setting, not just hospitals.

So how can you help address these concerns as an individual health care provider?

  • Listen to what patients have to say. It can be easy to make assumptions, especially if you have a heavy workload and are pressed for time. However, it’s important to make sure you’re hearing and working to address each patient’s concerns or complaints. Patients want to know they’re being heard, even in cases where they know nothing can be done to change a situation.
  • Always explain what is happening. Medical experiences can be frightening and disorienting, so patients find it reassuring to be kept informed of what care is being given and planned for them. The more information you share, the more comfortable and safe patients tend to feel.
  • Put yourself in your patients’ shoes. Be aware that age gaps and cultural differences can make it more difficult for patients and health care professionals to relate to one another. Always be alert for any unsupported notions you might have about a patient and work to overcome those ideas to ensure that you are communicating as effectively as possible.
  • Have empathy and sympathy. There’s a chance that you’re seeing many patients at their worst simply because of the pain or emotional aspects of their health situation. Cultivate patience and work to smooth each patient’s way as much as possible.

In the rush of any given day’s work, many of these can be difficult to achieve consistently, but every health care professional should strive to keep improving in these areas. Patients who are satisfied with the people who provide their health care are likely to respond better to treatment. They are also less likely to complain or file a lawsuit, which means that their peace of mind is ultimately your peace of mind.