How To Improve Patient-Provider Communication In Your PT Clinic: 7 Best Practices

May 16, 2024 | Blog, Front Desk, Healthcare

Take a look at your list of clinic improvement items. Factors such as provider expertise, patient care quality, and waiting room facilities may most likely be included in your list — but have you considered patient-provider communication?

Studies show that poor patient-provider communication leads to lower patient activation and satisfaction.

(Ghosh et al., “Effective Patient-Physician Communication – A Concise Review”)

Patient-provider communication has a substantial impact on overall clinical operations. Without sufficient focus, your patients may be dissatisfied with their experience with your clinic.

To help you achieve clinical success, here are seven best practices to consider when learning how to improve patient-provider communication and grow your business in physical therapy.

Why Is Patient-Provider Communication Important?

There are several reasons why you should put a premium on patient-provider communication. Here are four strong ones to start you off:

  1. Increases patient satisfaction and retention. A 2011 study on patient satisfaction found a 93% correlation between patients’ satisfaction and their perception of their providers’ empathy.
  2. Encourages patients to follow their providers’ advice. A 2021 study on the importance of patient-provider communication showed a 63% correlation between patient-physician communication and patient activation.
  3. Enhances provider motivation and performance. A 2019 study on provider burnout confirmed an inverse correlation between (1) burnout and (2) relationship-building communication and provider care quality.
  4. Decreases the risk of medical malpractice. A 2016 study by CRICO Strategies revealed that 30% of malpractice claims are due to medical errors caused by miscommunication.

7 Best Practices For Effective Patient-Provider Communication

1. Employ Active Listening

In addition to gathering insights into patients’ issues, active listening is highly effective in establishing empathy. Patients will then feel encouraged to share as much information about their concerns as possible.

Ask patients follow-up questions about essential details. Use consistent eye contact and friendly gestures to create a conducive environment for your patients to share their issues.

2. Give Regular, Clear Updates To Patients On Their Progression

Some patients may be confused or uninformed about the progression of their treatment plan, which can make them think it’s ineffective. This also happens if the provider uses intricate language to describe their progress, as patients may be unable to understand and value their message fully. Regularly sharing clear updates increases patient satisfaction and ensures they return for their next appointment.

Use a conversational tone when sharing updates with patients. Ask patients if they have any questions about the progression of their treatment plan.

3. Congratulate Patients For Their Progress

Congratulating patients gives them a sense of reward when they work on their improvement. This increases patient engagement and improves clinical outcomes.

Praise your patients for any progress they’ve made since their last appointment. Ask patients how they feel about their improvement and assure them they will eventually reach their goals.

4. Encourage Two-Way Communication

One of the most effective ways of achieving treatment success is to coordinate patients and providers so they can both have a say in how the treatment plan is carried out.

Approximately 69% of physicians rarely or sometimes incorporated shared decision-making with their patients about their health care plans.

(Al-Zahrani et al., “Knowledge, Attitude, Practice And Barriers Of Effective Communication Skills During Medical Consultation”)

Actively encouraging patients and involving them in developing their treatment plans improves patient satisfaction, activation, and clinical outcomes.

Train your providers to constantly encourage your patients to share their concerns and thoughts about their treatment plan and how it can be improved. Take note of recommendations that may be effective and give constructive feedback on less practical suggestions.

5. Provide Regular Training To Providers Dedicated To Communication

Your current provider training program may primarily consist of the latest PT techniques and technologies that will be implemented in your practice. While these are essential to provider performance, including patient-provider communication in their training can significantly improve clinical outcomes and staff satisfaction in the long run.

Dedicate a significant portion of your provider’s regular training regimen to patient communication. Utilize key performance indicators (KPIs) to tweak protocols and drive exercises such as role-playing activities to target areas of improvement.

6. Send Timely Patient Reminders

In addition to reducing cancellations and no-shows, sending regular appointment reminders fosters communication by encouraging due diligence in relaying important information frequently.

With the patient’s consent, send texts or emails regularly to remind your patients about upcoming appointments. For example, you can send one text or email 14 days before the appointment, seven days before, three days before, and 24 hours before.

7. Survey Your Patients On Their Experience

Gathering your patients’ feedback about their experience allows you to identify better how you can improve patient-provider communication. It also gives the impression that your practice values their feedback, encouraging them to be more open with their concerns.

Include a “Communication with Provider” section in the patient survey feedback. You can also have your front desk staff talk about their experience with patients to acquire valuable raw insights.

How Your Front Desk Can Help Improve Patient-Provider Communication

Your receptionists can support your patient-provider communication so you can provide the best possible experience for your patients.

There are various ways your receptionists can improve communication with your patients, including:

  • Inspire confidence in the providers’ expertise. Your receptionists can vouch for your providers’ skills and experience, as well as the effectiveness of the treatment they will administer.
  • Encourage your patients to ask questions at the front desk. With sufficient training, receptionists can provide nuggets of information about the patient’s treatment to reassure them of their success.
  • Schedule appointments based on both patient and provider preferences. When your receptionists ask patients about their scheduling preferences, it encourages patients to be more open with their needs (in addition to making your providers’ workload manageable).
  • Assume your providers’ administrative responsibilities. Your providers are more likely to engage in active communication with your patients if they have fewer tasks to worry about (e.g., answering calls and verifying insurance).

Communicate Confidence Into Your Patients’ Treatment

Regardless of your practice expansion strategy, determining how to improve your patient-provider communication should be included in your plan. When providers speak to patients proactively, they take the initiative more frequently to advance their treatment, improving your clinic’s patient experience, engagement, and overall success.

Empower your receptionists with WelcomeWare, a virtual front desk reception platform that enables them to cover all your clinics remotely. This allows you to leverage a single remote front desk team to improve patient-provider communication across your entire practice.

Transform your PT clinic’s patient-provider communication

Empower your receptionists to better support your providers with WelcomeWare

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