Tips to Improve Patient Communication
A pharmacy that works like a well-oiled machine depends on a strong and dependable relationship between a pharmacist and their patients. And, just like any other relationship, that strong foundation relies on good communication.
Good communication between pharmacist and patient relies on using patient-centered communication. Patient-centered communication takes into account every type of patient - all ages, ethnic backgrounds, and education levels, and accommodates those aspects. When this type of communication is done right, it improves patients’ usage of their medication, which then produces better outcomes, and better business.
In today’s times, there are plenty of methods of communication to choose from, such as:
● Verbal Communication
○ Something as simple as talking to a patient when they pick up a prescription or having a conversation over the phone can make all the difference.
● Written Recommendations
○ Whether this is done through secure emails or in-store handouts, written recommendations are something that patients can hold onto and reference later.
Many modern pharmacists are turning to digital solutions, because that makes the pathway of communication between themselves and the patients even easier.
How To Communicate?
The first step of a successful, communicative relationship between pharmacist and patient involves evaluating your patient’s health literacy - whether this is done in the form of individual medication counseling or through a wellness class that your pharmacy offers.
Determining the level of health literacy within a patient helps you understand what degree of health information they understand, and how well they can make informed decisions. Counseling and wellness classes can help improve this literacy to allow your patients to make more proactive choices.
Health literacy skills include:
● Reading prescription labels
● Reading health education materials
● Understanding treatment directions
● Following diagnostic test instructions
● Completing health-related applications and forms
Nearly one fourth of the population in the United States struggles to understand basic health information. You can help lessen this percentage by aiding your patient base along their learning curve, at their pace.
5 Tips on Improving Communication
In order to keep patients engaged and adherent to their medications, communication is integral to the relationship that you hold with them. Here are five ways you can enhance that line of communication.
1. Make It Short and Sweet
Instead of giving a long-winded, medical-jargon filled monologue to your patient (either in person or over the phone), keep your information and/or directions short, simple, and easy to digest. When a patient receives something verbally instead of written down, it becomes difficult to remember and retain information, no matter how important that information may be.
You can also:
● Simplify your language
● Avoid medical abbreviations (they are familiar to you, not your patients)
● Offer specific examples rather than vague ones
● Include visual aids
2. Focus on What’s Important
It’s been proven that information is easier to retain when it’s given in small groups. In order to help your patients hold onto the knowledge that you’re sending over, reduce your conversation to three main points. If giving more is absolutely unavoidable, it’s a good idea to provide a written handout to go along with your verbal instructions.
After a longer conversation, be sure to summarize what you’ve said and put extra emphasis on the most important points.
3. Ask Your Patient to ‘Teach Back’
Having your patients restate what you’ve said back to you in their own words helps you gauge whether or not they have an understanding of what you’re telling them. Instead of simply asking them if they have any questions or if they understand, you can ask:
● If you had to explain this to someone else, how would you explain it?
● Tell me what happens when you ______
● Show me how you would _________
● What would you do if _____ happened?
If they can teach back to you what you’ve just taught them, then it proves that you’ve done a thorough job of explaining the information that needs to be conveyed.
4. Encourage Questions
It’s likely that patients will always have questions. But the thing is - they’re used to hearing the phrase ‘Do you have any questions?’ and will most likely answer by saying no. Instead of phrasing it like that, instead you can instead phrase it like:
● What questions do you have?
● What would you like me to go over?
● What can I clarify for you?
Even with these prompting questions, some patients may struggle to articulate their concerns and/or issues. In these cases, you should have resources available that can help them formulate the right words to address what they’re trying to communicate.
5. Provide Easy-To-Read Materials
It’s likely that patients have a lower level of medical literacy than you do. Instead of providing pamphlets and brochures chock-full of medical jargon, provide something that meets them where they are.
Reading material like this should include:
● Plain language with short sentences that use familiar words
● Large fonts that are easy to read
● Plenty of white space
● Visual aids
● Pharmacy contact information - phone number and email
It’s also a good idea to provide resources that include audio and video. Every patient’s learning style is different, and it’s up to you to accommodate that fact.
Increased engagement can only mean good things for you and your pharmacy. It keeps patients happy, it keeps them coming back, and it makes more people want to utilize your business.
By maintaining a strong and healthy relationship with your patients that’s based on communication, you’re amplifying your space in the community and creating a sphere of your own that can help build not only your patient outreach, but your revenue as well.