Top tips for the doctor-patient interview: red flags, cues and communication techniques
By Dr. Emily RobackFeatures Business Management Techniques health history patient intake form patient interaction patient interview
Presenting a positive, lasting imprint on a potential patient’s…
Presenting a positive, lasting imprint on a potential patient’s memory is key when you want to be remembered as a chiropractor with impact. Take the time to prepare for introducing yourself as this will enable you to make the best of all first impressions.
When first interviewing your new patient, introduce yourself by expressing not only your name and who you represent, but also incorporate a memory hook or a tagline while providing a straightforward explanation of what it is you do. Wear a clear mask if possible and speak clearly with the use of hand signs as you elaborate on how the patient can benefit by accessing your particular product and/or services.
When introducing your patient to other members of your clinical team, be sure to say their names distinctly and provide a succinct description of what it is they do.
Prior to heading into your standard interview questions, present a basic outline of what the patient can expect from their first visit and the nature of questions that will be addressed. Again, slip in a memory hook while discussing the key benefits the patient will achieve by participating in the interview. Work on a closing sentence which may be as simple as asking them if they have any last-minute requests or questions.
While reviewing the patient’s health history form, look for red flags, missing responses, and ask for clarification whenever there is evidence of lack of information. Paying attention to what is not shared by the patient is like reading between the lines. According to The College of Chiropractors of British Columbia Bylaws, the history intake must always include the following items: 1) Chief complaint; 2) Onset (probable cause); 3) Duration (when it started); 4) Radiation; 5) Frequency; 6) Intensity; 7) Character of pain; 8) Aggravating factors; 9) Relieving factors; 10) Associated symptoms; 11) Previous or similar complaints; 12) Previous care by all providers; 13) Outcomes of previous care; 14) Systems review; 15) Family health history; and 16) Social history. To help close the interview and move onto the physical examination, always request last minute disclosures, questions, or concerns. When the interview is completed, a Consent to Treatment form must always be signed by you and the patient before starting the physical examination.
Ten Rules for Interviewing a New Patient
- Have plenty of business cards, brochures, and pens at the front desk as well as on your own desk. You may have a chance to display your promotional materials.
- Wear a professional looking name tag or have your name engraved onto your clinical attire.
- Be interested in your patient by asking sincere questions. There are scripts available but should only be used as an aid to help improve communication.
- Maintain eye contact (head & face) when listening to your patient.
- Be aware of your patient’s verbal/non-verbal cues/comfort (ie observe pupils, skin color)
- Wear a clear mask, be positive, enthusiastic and smile.
- If the patient is wearing a covered mask, politely ask him/her to bring the mask down to chin level when speaking. This temporary removal helps remove communication barriers.
- Summarize patient’s problems and concerns.
- Know and believe in your message.
- Maintain control of the interview and time.
Six Secrets of a Natural Interviewer
1) Curiosity. It is perhaps ironic that the best interviewers really do not set out to interview people. Some doctors just like talking to people. Some are more interested in hearing patients’ stories than getting their business – which is precisely why some doctors end up getting so much business. They are highly curious about people. Doctors understand that everyone has a story, and they solicit those stories at every opportunity.
2) Risk-taking. Master interviewers are typically not afraid to speak up or ask questions, even if doing so might make one look ridiculous. The best interviewers are most likely willing to look foolish or be in the spotlight if it serves a purpose to do so.
3) Generosity. Many interview successes can ultimately be traced back to four simple words: “How can I help?” If you want to know and be known, sit in the waiting room and be ready to give information and resources and help others. Alternatively, train your chiropractic assistant to be ready to give information, resources and help prepare your new patient for the first visit.
4) Attention to Detail. Great interviewers may not always be good with names, but they can manage to recall the intricacies of a patient’s story. Even if you cannot always remember a patient’s name, think of what an incredible impression you make when you connect the physical exam results to something that was casually mentioned during the interview.
5) A Welcoming Attitude. The best conversationalists are known to be the best listeners. A doctor with a welcoming attitude can go out of the way to make newcomers feel included and an important decision maker in caring for their health. For instance, appear to be actively listening by nodding your head and using verbal reinforcers (ie uh-huh).
6) Ability to Put Patients at Ease. Top communicators have a knack for building doctor-patient rapport. Good communication requires the ability to tailor the topic of conversation to each patient and change speech patterns when it seems appropriate. It is a mistake to assume that there is only one way of thinking and behaving at any given moment. Always monitor and adjust the volume, pitch, and speed of your voice accordingly when you speak.
Report of an Interview
There are two sides to every interview. While you are interviewing your patient, your patient is likewise interviewing you. It is, at all times, a good idea to maintain a stylish taste in clothing, articulate clearly, be exceptionally friendly and sensitive to the patient’s feelings, quick to respond, very composed, confident, motivated, able to demonstrate stable work patterns, and be well adjusted/positive about yourself. A bad interview is in the works if you are poorly dressed, confused, show no signs of emotion (wearing a concealing face mask does not help), slow to get to the point, easily flustered, timid/cocky, demonstrates little interest in your patient’s health goals and feelings, exhibit a habit of tardiness or not showing up for appointments, and being distinctively negative.
Do not feel you have failed, if a patient does not complete the interview or physical examination. Some patients just want a second opinion whereas others are simply “window shopping” for a product or service that meets their needs. Regardless, the patient will appreciate your candor and objectivity. Do suggest alternative therapies or evaluations or refer the patient back to their medical doctor if there is evidence of a medical issue. Your honesty will be the best memory of you.
With sources from the College of Chiropractors of British Columbia Bylaws
Dr. Emily Roback is a North Cowichan chiropractor with 10+ years of clinical experience. She works as an associate at Cowichan Chiropractic and producer at Dr. Emily TV. She has grown her accessible practice from zero to almost 6-figures revenue in twelve months of operation using a combination of proven structures, systems and strategies that she now shares with healthcare business owners across North America who are looking to build an accessible and growth-like business. Visit: cowichanchiropractic.ca or email email@example.com
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