How Doctors Can Enhance Patient Understanding And Satisfaction

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How Doctors Can Enhance Patient Understanding And Satisfaction

Over the past decade, a shift in the healthcare paradigm has led to a focus on patient satisfaction as part of overall care. In the past, it was acceptable — if not expected — for nurses to carry the bulk of the education of a patient after a doctor’s instructions. But today, doctors are expected to be both informative and explanatory.

When a patient understands the why behind the physician’s instructions, they are more likely to take responsibility for their choices when they leave the treatment room.

Gone are the days of, “Here’s your prescription.” Now, the doctor must help the patient understand how they got to their current state and how the prescribed treatment will help them recover. This comprehension ultimately leads to satisfaction.

So how can you, as a doctor, with your busy schedule and limited time in front of each, help enhance the understanding of each person’s care? These tips can guide you as you adjust to a patient-centric treatment perspective.

1. Recognize the Patient’s Level

If you’re talking to your patients as though they’re a peer, chances are, they’re not comprehending you.

Recent studies performed by the Department of Health and Human Services show that only 12% of Americans are healthcare literate. This finding means that slightly over one in ten of your patients understand the terminology you’re using when you speak “medical jargon” to them.

When your patient barely comprehends how to understand their prescription drug labels or can’t use a map to find the nearest healthcare center (both in the study), they aren’t likely to understand the information you’re giving them about taking care of their bodies.

Finding the Patient’s Healthcare Knowledge Level

This lack of knowledge extends to things like choosing insurance plans with the right coverage instead of the cheapest premium. Many physicians become frustrated with patients when their insurance plans barely cover anything, but a lack of knowledge of the healthcare and insurance world is predominant.

As an example, how you’d discuss the information you learned about disability insurance costs from an article you read by Physicians Thrive would be distinctly different when talking to your peer as when discussing disability coverage with most.

This isn’t to say that every patient you have lacks the knowledge to care for their bodies and comprehend your instructions. Through careful questioning and probing, you can find each person’s healthcare knowledge level and adjust your conversation to meet their needs.

2. Correct Misinformation

Many times, patients are at the point in their health journey that brings them to you because of misinformation. This same faulty knowledge can make them hesitant to follow your instructions.

For instance, it’s not uncommon for patients to misunderstand their body’s need for carbohydrates. In this diet-centered world, we hear and read so much about avoiding carbs to get and stay in shape.

However, extreme lack of carbs can lead to health conditions such as cardiac disorders, increased risk of cancer, osteoporosis, and more. But if you tell a patient they need to add carbs to their diet and they’re worried about gaining weight, they will be resistant.

Instead of walking away and leaving them with their faulty knowledge, sit down and explain why the body needs carbs. Educate them on the difference between good and bad carbs.

Correcting misinformation can be an easy way to make a permanent health impact in someone’s life — and stop the spread of incorrect info to others.

3. Make Sure They Understand Your Treatment Plan

Ah, if most nurses had a nickel for every time the doctor left the room and the patient asked questions because they didn’t understand the treatment, they’d be able to retire.

Before you leave the patient, ask them to explain what you’ve instructed them to do and why each step is important. With this strategy, it’s easy to see where the he misheard or misunderstood your treatment plan and correct them.

Keep going through the steps until he can explain what they’re to do at home without a mistake. It may take a few extra minutes now, but it could save hours of complications later.


Finding ways to involve patients in their care is the most effective way to get them to follow through with your instructions. But when he wants to listen but doesn’t understand what you said, it’s not their fault if they mess up their treatment plan. Follow these three simple strategies while you have he in the room with you, and you will see noticeable differences in the results.

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Amanda Mills

By Amanda Mills

I am a marketing communication and administrative professional with over 5+ years of experience. My experience encompasses strategic marketing, office administration, public speaking, blogging, and creative content.