Patient psychology isn’t just for psychiatrists and psychologists. Research shows that perceived, if not real, outcomes improve when patients trust and respect the medical professionals who treat them. It’s even possible that real outcomes are better. The placebo effect is already well-researched, and there is evidence to support that belief in treatment can have far-reaching effects. However, it is not only the treatments that matter: confidence in the people administering them will also have its effect. In this article, we take a closer look at some patient psychology basics with actionable implications.
1. Look the Part
Surveys show that patients have greater trust in medical professionals who dress the part. Older patients were particularly influenced by attire, finding professionals wearing clothing such as formal wear, a doctors’ coat, or dentist uniform more trustworthy than those in smart-casualwear. That’s quite apart from obvious no-nos like grubby-looking fingernails or other grooming faux pas. Although the results of the survey should come as no surprise, it has led to calls for greater attention to dress code at hospitals and clinics. While it is certainly true that the “right” clothes don’t indicate skill or competence, patients’ perceptions will influence their perception of the professionalism of the care they received.
2. Empower Patients Through Communication
When seeing dozens of patients a day, it is all-too-easy to assume that they understand the “obvious” basics regarding their condition and the treatments prescribed. However, simply offering a diagnosis, the details of which are poorly understood, will lead to mistrust. Studies show a higher percentage of patients asking for additional medical tests and second opinions when doctor-patient communication is sub-par. In short, it is better to explain details with which patients are already familiar than to risk a communication gap that leaves them feeling uncertain.
3. Be Cautious When Debunking Patient Misconceptions
While some patients may visit medical professionals convinced that their condition is far worse than it really is, others may be suffering from over-optimistic wishful thinking or even denial. The problem with such patients is that they already think they know what their health problem is, how it should be treated, and what the outcome is likely to be. Contradicting preconceived ideas places patients outside their comfort zone and is likely to lead to a breakdown in communication in which the patient refuses to accept a diagnosis or to comply with treatment programs. Separating fact from fiction requires patience, tact, and a great deal of caution.
4. Take Your Time
When dealing with patients, busy schedules may leave healthcare professionals feeling rushed. Unfortunately, this all-too-easily communicates itself to patients who may then experience reduced confidence in diagnosis and treatment programs. In order to forge a healthcare partnership between provider and patient, the latter needs to form a perception that his or her individual case is of importance to the person whom they are consulting. Good communication and the development of a trust-based relationship also requires time and patience. Overfilled schedules can lead to a communication breakdown that affects trust and negatively impacts patient compliance.
Patients Have High Expectations
Patients visiting medical facilities have a series of fairly basic expectations – but these are nonetheless quite high. If nothing else, it’s worth remembering that patients want to feel respected as individuals, know that their concerns are being heard, and perceive that the medical professionals they deal with have their best interests at heart. Patients want to feel respect for medical personnel, and they have the need to feel respected in return. Finding the ideal balance can be more difficult than it may superficially seem, but it may make a significant difference to eventual outcomes.