Risk Refresher: Patient Relations
Risk Management

Risk Refresher: Patient Relations

If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, then a smile a day may just keep the lawsuits at bay. No matter how experienced you are as a practitioner, it is important to never lose sight of these importance of patient relations concepts.

Here are some simple things you can do to show your patients that you really care about them as people, not just their clinical conditions:

  • Keep patients informed about delays. Your receptionist can explain the reason for the delay and the wait time. Even better, anticipate delays, notify your staff and ask them to try to reach patients before they leave home. Let them reschedule if necessary. Once you do see the patient, be sure to apologize for inconveniencing him or her.
  • Think like a patient. Patients want to believe they are the most important person you will see that day and that you are 100% focused on them. While not always feasible, taking time to understand their perspective can help you build a better relationship.
  • Get patients involved. Present options and ask your patients to help decide on the best course of action. This will give them a feeling of ownership in their treatment.
  • Don’t criticize other treatments. Criticism of other doctors who have cared for a patient can give rise to lawsuits. Listen to what the patient says but avoid judgment.
  • Respect privacy. If you have to leave the treatment room, don’t leave the door open or invite others into the room without warning.
  • Listen and learn. Patients are generally not shy about providing feedback. Implement a suggestion box, e-mail box, and/or satisfaction survey and then share the results with your team. Be sure to take action and show patients you listened to their concerns and suggestions.

Common courtesy and consideration go a long way. Remember, people are less likely to sue a doctor with whom they have a positive relationship, even if something goes wrong.1,2

1 Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink: the Power of Thinking without Thinking. New York: Bayback Books/Little Brown and Company. Wendy Levinson research
2 JAMA Good Communication Practices Can Minimize Malpractice Risks, Feburary 19, 1997

The information in the NCMIC Learning Center is offered solely for general information and educational purposes. It is not offered as, nor does it represent, legal or professional advice. Neither does this information constitute a guideline, practice parameter or standard of care. You should not act or rely upon this information without seeking the advice of an attorney familiar with the specific legal requirements of the state(s) in which you practice. If there is a discrepancy between the site and an insurance policy you have with NCMIC, the policy will prevail.