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How to Train Physicians on Patient Experience

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, December 12, 2012

The patient experience mission is not about making patients happy at any cost, Rudolph says. This false notion, rather, is a byproduct of the term "patient satisfaction" and the frequent comparisons to customer service concepts and practices.

"The real mission is to improve patient outcomes on a number of levels," he says. "I believe that decreased patient anxiety is a valid endpoint in its own right and when you combine it with increased patient understanding and compliance, it's truly a recipe for better patient experiences and outcomes."

Once physicians understand the true mission, leaders must then teach them how to reach those goals.

"The fact is, neither the patient experience mission nor these communication techniques were taught to us during medical school and residency," Rudolph says. "Physicians need to be given the tools and training to understand what they can say and do differently to improve the patient experience."

Learning to better communicate with patients
Sound Physicians follows The Studer Group's five fundamentals of patient communication and has used its concepts to create tools that give providers specific communication interventions that can be implemented at each stage of the patient encounter. Physician education begins at the time of hire.

"Providing education about the patient experience mission in a way that resonates with physicians is critical and sets the stage for meaningful adoption of best practices and innovative interventions that can truly improve the patient experience," Rudolph says.

"A constant focus on the core fundamentals of patient communication and the routine review of physician performance then serves to maximize the impact we can have on our patients' perceptions that make up their individual experiences."

Rudolph has found those simple acts of courtesy and the process of sharing information with patients account for the biggest patient experience gaps. Three simple steps can improve doctor-patient communication and decrease patient anxiety.

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