8 Ways to Connect and Master the Art of Communication in a Healthcare Setting

by Dr. Vicky Prokopiou

Your communication style could be letting you down. It does not matter how smart you are in your profession. What truly matters is that you are ethical, open-minded and exude warmth to your patients/ clients. You must radiate a certain level of kindness and care. The same level that you give to your family.

Success Relies On Your Communication Style

People want to feel like you care for them, have time for them, engage with them. Put yourself in their position…Seeking advice or help from a health professional takes courage.

Remember that they choose to come to see you and they can choose to never see you again. Much like going to a hairdresser or any professional, I always say that your patient/client has to feel a connection with you so that they like and trust you. Without a connection your recommendations or treatment plans will be rejected and so will you.

You could be the best clinician with the worst communication skills.

Being too cold towards clients can make you unsuccessful in converting them into loyal clients.  Always remember to be realistic and  that it is ok not to gel with everyone. Sometimes it just comes down to being aligned in values and expectations and you can’t be likeable to everybody. But you must be your best self  and always remain ethical. Open up a little and you’ll see how quickly others warm up to you.

Communication and Long-lasting Relationships

Communication is everything when you want to build long-lasting relationships. A breakdown in communication can lead to failed personal and professional relationships.

Communication is both verbal and non verbal. Without it you can’t get far with your team or your patients/clients.

I’ve always had the natural ability to connect with other people on a personal level. It is quite complicated and has a lot to do with personality and patience.

But I put successful communication down to 8 simple tips that you can apply to your communication style. You too can win your clients’ trust and master the art of communication.

Self-reflection

I had never thought about my communication style until recently. I asked myself these questions:

What is it I did that made me likeable and trusted by others in a clinical setting? 

What was it in my experience that has given me the natural ability to communicate better?

As much as communication is a natural part of life it can be draining, particularly listening to others’ problems all day. I don’t have the gift of the gab but if you do then you’ll find speaking with others a walk in the park.

Listening is Your Best Tool

Communication is different in that it involves listening. We each have a story. And with COVID, our relationship with our family can be distant. Loneliness is far more common than people let us believe. Take a minute to listen  to the needs of your clients.

Remember to listen and not just speak. We as clinicians are also individuals with our own problems and issues. And so are our patients, so be genuinely interested in them and they will be of you.

The Human Connection

Humans crave and seek personal connections. Raw honesty can help you reach your goal of connecting with others quickly. I try to be happy and positive around my clients but sometimes it’s great to just tell them a personal part of your life that you don’t mind them knowing. Most actually care for you too and it is amazing to receive support from the community that you intimately work with. It is all about finding a common ground and tapping in to the human connection.

The core of effective communication relies on human interaction, empathy and care for one another.  

 

8 Hot Communication Tips That Lead To A Strong Human Connection

Here are my 8 communication mantras to follow so that you can succeed at growing your patient numbers and having happy patients that want to return to see you.

1. Be Empathetic

There needs to be a balance of empathetic and direct communication. Judgement has no place in healthcare, as everyone’s circumstances are different. 

Connection with your patients is important in instilling their trust in you. In their mind they will be spending a lot of time and money with you and it has to feel worthwhile. Empathy helps to show them that together, you’re one team that has a common goal.

2. Listen well

Take time to listen and act on it. I have a 80% listening and 20% talking rule for conversation with clients that is not you presenting a treatment plan or treatment options.

Your client is telling you their concerns and sometimes you’re the person that they vent to. Yes it isn’t part of our job to solve all of their life’s problems and we are on strict time constraints. Don’t be urged to rush them along immediately. If indeed they’re just procrastinating treatment you’ll get a feel for that with experience.

Often their dental concerns are misaligned with reality of their conditions or what they perceive as important vs what is actually going on in their mouth. We as clinicians prioritise treatment plan tasks from urgent/ worst to least urgent. To a patient the more aesthetic issues may be more important so education is extremely important in helping them understand. I find that by using visual aids and discussing photos and X-rays taken at their appointment they understand and see what is going on in their mouth. And are more likely to accept their treatment plan.

3. Be a United Team

Clients can sense when there is a disconnect with the team. There is no reason for ever talking down to or back to a team member. Your team should not be spoken down to, ever. The biggest mistake team members make is to belittle other members or gossip in the presence of patients. As a team leader it is your role to train, guide and teach the team in a patient tone

Being courteous and respectful to your team plays a large role in success of a practice. Everyone has to have a common goal and be on the same team. I’m not saying to be best friends but you should all get along. If there is an outlier that does not belong it is best to bring it up with them and try to sort it out or walk away.

4. Deliver Your Message Calmly and with a Friendly Tone

It’s all about your delivery. Be assertive and confident in your findings and possible solutions. Don’t be that didactic type of clinician who tells someone off like a teacher would a child. People have a lot going on in their lives and the last thing they need is for someone to make them feel even worse or to stress them out more. Remember your manners and that you want to get patients on board with making changes to their lifestyle with a focus on their oral health. 

I always say things in a more light hearted way but delicately stress urgency or importance. It’s a sweet balance.

5. Be Personal

Try to remember at least one thing about your client. It’s a great conversation starter at their subsequent visits. Get to know your client as an individual. My hot tip is to write some personal information somewhere in your practice management software.  Find out their dog’s name, kids’ names, partner’s name and anything you feel can be a trigger point for conversation. Ask questions about them and you’ll find some common ground.

6. Be Mindful of Body Language

Mean what you say and show that you mean it. Make eye contact and engage with your clients.

I have a separate consultation corner in my rooms so that I can face my patients when we chat. Always sit in front of the patient at the start and and of an appointment to look them in the eyes and have a short chat. I never just dive into treatment, no matter how time poor or late I may be. 

7. Train Your Team To Be Conversational and Have Common Goals

Your team is your biggest strength. Adequate training and a united vision ensure that patients accept your treatment plans and rebook their next visit.

How you ask? Hire the right team and train them how to respond in different scenarios. 

If your staff are self- sabotaging you will not have any repeat clients and what you will have is empty books. Every business owner’s nightmare.

Believe me, I’ve had team members who weren’t on my team and instead said the opposite of what I had advised, and so clients walked out the door without rebooking. Even when 100% of the time I clearly indicated to my team to secure the next booking. It’s extremely frustrating as within minutes of walking out of the surgery room the clients had a completely different attitude and treatment vision to what they had in the surgery based on individual team member interactions immediately after. As clinicians we spend a lot of time and energy formulating a plan and educating patients on findings and solutions to their oral health needs. My solution to resistant team members was team training, letting go of staff who did not fit or agree with the practice vision and forming a more solid team who was on board with dentistry treatments.

A great team knows what treatments feel like, how they are performed, understands the importance of treatment plan items and can help educate on the importance of what you’ve said in the room and follow through with booking the patient’s next visit. I’m sure you’ve heard patients ask staff for some form of affirmation upon walking to the reception area.

 

8. Genuinely Care 

Be genuine and have an interest in improving someone else’s dental experience and overall oral health. People can tell when you are not being genuine. You’ll find that they care for you too. This is the human connection.

After achieving and maintaining a close relationship with your clients, you will then feel a much higher level of personal job satisfaction. This in turn improves your attitude, psyche and team spirit. Just try and see the benefits of connecting and mastering the art of communication. You’ve got this!

For a complete training guide on how to have your team be on board with your vision, go to Above It.

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