Even before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, health care providers have been attempting to reform the physician compensation model to reward quality over quantity. Imagine the transition as a shift from trying to sell a few luxury vehicles instead of multiple American-made vehicles, but now you must sell to everyone regardless of their budget. It’s not overly optimistic to say that this is still very possible if the physician engages the customer through the same basic communication methods used in the field of sales. Let’s discuss the effects of Physicians as Salesmen/Saleswomen.
Physicians as Salesmen/Saleswomen
1) Know your patient like the nurse knows their patients: How can a physician get to know their patient on a more personal level? According to the physicians and physician assistants I work with, “time management” is the solution. Why should the physician use their time to get to know the patient? It’s critical for the individuals directly involved in patient’s care (health care tech, nurse, physician) to know the patient on a personal level since individuals are more apt to share information, whether they are consciously aware or not, that could significantly affect the treatment plan. A very basic but very important example is the cultural taboo of sex and sexuality.
2) Ask questions to discover what the patient wants/expects: Patients should feel comfortable enough to express their concerns and share the information that they have researched on their own. Physicians can clarify what the patient understands and expects by asking questions, which also empowers the patient more compared to some methods of patient education that rely on instruction. I was personally able to help a patient make a decision of stent placement versus CABG (coronary artery bypass grafting) by printing an article from The Society of Cardiothoracic Surgeons website. The patient left the hospital, but did return a few weeks later and opted for the physician’s suggestion of a CABG. If physicians as salesmen/saleswomen rely less on asking the patients a thorough amount of questions, then the patient may not fully understand their options and feel pressured into the “sell.”
3) Recommending your professional opinion for treatment: Having worked in health care for the past 8 years, I completely understand how patient education material is very thorough in discussing every aspect of the procedure, including both pre- and post-care instructions. I am not suggesting reliance only on overly-simplified information for the patient, but sometimes a simple + and – chart may be beneficial. One of the most common patient complaints about the care that was provided to them is how easy it was to understand the physician when communicating a treatment plan and alternative options. Many hospitals have improved in this are through simple visual aids and informational videos for the patient, but the physician should also be able to effectively communicate their thoughts and relevant medical terminology in a way that the patient can understand.
4) Demonstrating that you care encourages the patient to be a loyal customer and tell others too: For many reasons, and some beyond the physician’s control, the patient will disagree and decide against the physician’s option for treatment. As frustrating as “non-compliant” patients may be, continuum of care demonstrates to every patient that they are extremely valued by the physician. How do you know if the luxury car you recently sold a customer was the “right fit” for them? Simple. You give them a follow-up call. It may not always be possible for a physician to call every patient, but some form of communication would be nice. With increasing developments in technology, a teleconference with the patient’s primary care physician or other follow-up physician may (pardon the pun) “kill two birds with one stone.”
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