Patient satisfaction is essential for every physician practice. Happy patients come back, keeping the financial state of a practice on an even keel. Furthermore, satisfied patients are overwhelmingly more likely to recommend a physician practice to their family and friends than those who have no particular positive feelings about their experience with a certain doctor or at a certain office. A huge part of patient satisfaction is good communication skills. Physicians who can listen effectively can make patients feel comfortable, which increases their overall satisfaction with their medical care.

According to research cited by NPR, there are five key elements of physician communication. These are:

  • Sitting to speak to a patient.
  • Introducing oneself to a patient.
  • Explaining one's role in the patient's care.
  • Shaking hands.
  • Asking open-ended questions.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins followed internal medicine interns to gauge how often they used these productive behaviors. Interns touched patients during 65 percent of visits, and used open-ended questions 75 percent of the time. However, they only sat down next to patients some 9 percent of the time.

In a health care climate where accuracy and efficiency are key, especially for independent physician practices that depend on these qualities for success, it can be easy to lose sight of simple rules of communication. There are some quick fixes for these issues, as many physicians who have attempted to use the five key skills above will attest. Making chairs available in any room where a physician is likely to have a consultation with a patient is one step that can help make sitting next to a patient and listening to his or her concerns easier. Other behaviors come naturally, like introducing oneself.

Generally, residents in the Johns Hopkins study perceived themselves to be more proficient in the use of these skills than they really were. It's important for physicians to be realistic about where their communications skills currently are and where they can improve.

Physicians should be aware of their bedside manner in order to ensure high rates of patient satisfaction. Using outside services, like revenue cycle management companies, can free physicians to concentrate on patient care instead of administrative details. These companies can obtain high rates of reimbursement for physicians, who can themselves work to ensure a high patient volume.