Communicating with Patients Effectively

As the medical director of the geriatric and neuropsychiatry treatment units at MetroWest Medical Center in Massachusetts, Antonio Bullon, MD, is responsible for leading a multidisciplinary team of professionals in the treatment of patients with various neurodegenerative disorders. Possessing over two decades of medical experience, Dr. Antonio Bullon has maintained a strong personal and professional interest in effective patient-physician communication.

Effective communication between patients and physicians is an important part of the patient-physician relationship and it plays a role in patient outcomes. When greeting a patient, physicians should welcome them by name, introduce themselves and their role, and sit down to help the patient feel more comfortable. Making patients aware of how much time they have to talk and what the physician hopes to cover helps things go smoothly and helps patients know when they should ask any questions.

Since the time available for physicians and patients to discuss things is typically short, finding out what the patients already know and what they want to know greatly improves communication effectiveness. Providing information slowly and in a simple way promotes understanding and cuts down on time. Patient-physician communication is also improved when physicians show empathy towards a patient’s feelings, but also tell the truth. Although the truth may be difficult for patients to handle, it’s important that they know exactly what is happening.