Learn To Listen: The Impact of Listening to Patients
Same Story, Different Result
A few months ago, I noticed a pain in my side that wouldn’t go away. Initially, I ignored it, thinking it would resolve itself in time. After a few weeks passed and the pain remained, I knew it was time to schedule an appointment with the doctor. Naturally, I attempted to self-diagnose myself the entire time leading up to the appointment and I envisioned how the visit would play out before I got there.
I assumed I was going to encounter a battery of tests, as that’s what I have come to expect over the years with numerous injuries. But, what actually happened made me realize what’s missing in many of our relationships these days. The art of listening, truly listening.
That’s exactly what my doctor did; she truly listened. She listened intently to all of the symptoms I had been facing without attempting to get a word in until she knew I had finished. Our conversation went on and instead of undergoing any tests, she requested the records of those I had already taken for similar symptoms in the past. After she reviewed the results, I got a call within a few days with a diagnosis and a treatment plan that put me on the path to wellness. I haven’t had the pain since!
Why It Matters
The first thing I thought of after my experience was a study we conducted with data from our Patient Experience Platform. SE performed a statistical correlation analysis to understand key drivers of patient loyalty, a combination of the 2 global ratings: provider satisfaction and likelihood to recommend practice. One of the strongest indicators of patient loyalty is “Listening Carefully” to what the patient had to say. I can certainly attest to this after my personal experience of truly being heard when speaking with a physician.
We live in a world that requires us to constantly be multitasking. Sending emails while we are on conference calls. Checking our phones when a notification comes up during a face-to-face conversation. Similarly, doctors are also multitasking, trying to see all of their patients on time while juggling a number of other responsibilities. Sometimes they have so much going on outside of that specific patient’s visit that they can get distracted while the patient is talking to them. But, what would happen if we stopped and just listened when someone is speaking?
It sounds easy, yet few people do it. Genuine listening builds and strengthens relationships inside and outside the workplace. Productivity increases because fewer mistakes are made. Problems or conflicts are resolved with better understanding and empathy of the other person’s perspective.
What We Can Do
The first thing we need to do to be a good listener is to make sure we are focused and present in the moment. We can do this by paying attention to our frame of mind and body language. We should then show expression, maintain eye contact and make sure our posture is relaxed. Once we are present and listening, we need to try to shut out all distractions, refrain from looking at the clock, phone or computer. Remember good listeners don’t interrupt or cut off the speaker, they listen and ask questions as well as summarize to show their understanding of what is being said. Listening is a skill and it needs practice.
“You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.”
– M. Scott Peck
People who view conversations as an opportunity to learn something new are often the best listeners. They are open to the idea that their way of seeing things may not be the only way or perhaps the best way. So, the next time you are in a conversation with a patient, put away all distractions and truly listen, you just may learn something, and you could see a boost in patient satisfaction.