Physicians know their relationships with patients are vital in providing high-quality care. However, sometimes it seems there just isn't enough time to develop a rapport, what with shorter appointments, regulatory burdens and other features of modern medical practice. It is still vital to work on patient relationships no matter which constraints are in play, though.

"In my practice and in family medicine, I think relationships are important – you knowing me and me knowing you," Robert L. Wergin, president-elect of the American Academy of Family Physicians, told Physicians Practice. "I think there are evidence-based articles that show that just that one thing can improve your outcomes by almost any measure."

Here are a few ways to maintain good patient relationships even with limited appointment times:

Delegate patient education
Patient education is a very important task for every physician practice, not least because educated patients are more likely to comply with their treatment plans. However, physicians don't necessarily need to be the ones imparting information.

"When I was practicing, you'd have these little tapes in your head and you'd click them on and you'd talk for a couple minutes about 'X' disease," Bruce Bagley, president and CEO of TransforMED, told Physicians Practice. "I'd be willing to bet it comes out pretty much the same every time you do that. That's the kind of thing that probably should be done by somebody else."

It may also be helpful to integrate patient education throughout a practice. For example, it could be a good idea to keep educational literature organized by condition in the exam room, or even the waiting room. Written information has been found to be very useful to patients.

"There are studies that show that if I just write your name on a handout and say, 'Now I want to point out the highlights on this,' and hand it to you, you're more apt to follow through on that," Wergin said.

Visualizing a condition can be hard for patients, so drawings, models or even short films can be helpful in patient education. Mobile technology is a great way to make visual representations more accessible, as well.

Keep appointments on schedule
Seeing patients for their scheduled visit on time is very important, but so is the conversation that takes place in the exam room. Physicians should ask for the primary reason for the visit and any other issues the patient would like to discuss at the beginning of every appointment, and structure their conversations accordingly. Non-urgent concerns can be pushed back to the next appointment so every issue gets the time patients and physicians need to discuss it.

Help patients stay engaged
Patients who are engaged will be more apt to comply with treatment plans as well as handle appointments in the most productive way. Helping patients stay engaged through means like patient portals or a dedicated phone number for a nurse who can answer quick questions is a good idea for any practice.

With these tips, physicians can build a strong rapport with patients, which can help improve outcomes and even draw new patients through referrals. Both of these can result in better revenue cycle management, as payers transition to pay-for-performance models and a high patient volume becomes ever more important in the current health care industry.