Treatment Conference Etiquette

July 1, 1996
During a treatment conference (case presentation) patients listen to your every word. The problem: They sometimes interpret what you say or do, differently than you intended.

Bob Levoy

During a treatment conference (case presentation) patients listen to your every word. The problem: They sometimes interpret what you say or do, differently than you intended.

The following "dos and don`ts," gleaned from patient surveys, may help to avoid the communication breakdowns that lead to misunderstandings and patient dissatisfaction:

- Asking patients: "Do you understand my explanation?" puts the onus on them to understand what may be a poorly-given explanation; makes some patients reluctant to admit they don`t understand; causes others to say they understand when, in fact, they don`t.

- Ask instead: "Does it make sense the way I`m explaining it?" This phrasing puts the onus on you; makes it easier for patients to say they don`t understand if they don`t.

- Don`t show the exasperation you may be feeling if a patient asks you to clarify something you believe you`ve already explained, by doing one or more of the following: closing your eyes; removing your eyeglasses; looking at the ceiling; taking a deep breath; audibly sighing; holding your forehead.

- Do listen to your patients with your eyes as well as your ears. Someone worth listening to is worth looking at.

- Don`t look at your watch. Doing so suggests you`re rushed. Doing so while supposedly listening to the patient, may be interpreted as boredom.

- Don`t become (or appear) indignant if patients want to get another opinion.

- Do call patients by name. Failing to do so may send the message you are cold, distant, possibly indifferent.

- Don`t end the treatment conference without asking patients if they have any questions. Patients often become flustered and forget to ask.

* Asking patients if they have questions while standing in the doorway of the operatory, conveys a strong message that you don`t want questions. It`s the right words but the wrong body language.

Bob Levoy is a marketing consultant, seminar speaker and writer based in Roslyn, NY. For further information, contact: Success Dynamics, Inc., 11 Vanad Dr., Roslyn, NY 11576; phone 516-482-5959.

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