From the Society

Everything We Say and Do: Take time to leave a good impression


Editor’s note: “Everything We Say and Do” is an informational series developed by SHM’s Patient Experience Committee to provide readers with thoughtful and actionable communication tactics that have great potential to positively impact patients’ experience of care. Each article will focus on how the contributor applies one or more of the “key communication” tactics in practice to maintain provider accountability for “everything we say and do that affects our patients’ thoughts, feelings, and well-being.”

What I say and do

I say “thank you” to each patient at the close of the clinical encounter and ask if there is something I can do for him or her before leaving the room.

Why I do it

The beginning and the end of a medical visit each have a significant impact on how patients view their overall experience with the physician. Devoting energy and thought to these critical moments during the patient-physician interaction is simple and rewarding, and helps leave patients with a good impression.

Dr. Meghan Sebasky, assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Diego

Dr. Meghan Sebasky

Closing the visit in a deliberate manner, by thanking the patient and asking if there is some way I can assist before departing, ensures that I remain attentive and engaged until the encounter concludes, shows compassion, and helps patients feel appreciated and understood.

How I do it

At the close of each patient visit, whether in the emergency department with a new admission or during daily rounds, I incorporate a “thank you” prior to leaving the room.

For example, I thank the patient for going over the details of her history with me; I know she has repeated the same information several times already. I thank the patient who brought in a detailed home medication list that made medication reconciliation a breeze for this organization. If I discussed a sensitive or difficult topic with the patient, such as substance use, I thank the patient for being honest. Another option is to thank the patient for trusting me with his care during the hospitalization. My favorite “thank you,” and one that will work in any situation, is to thank a patient for his or her patience. Whether it is waiting for a procedure, waiting to eat, or waiting for the green light to go home, our patients’ patience is tremendous and absolutely deserves to be recognized.

After saying “thank you,” I close with a simple but powerful question: “Is there something I can do for you before I leave? I have time.” Perhaps I can assist with a refill of ice chips, help find the call button, or relay a message to the bedside nurse. Whatever the task may be, offering to help before departing humanizes the interaction between physician and patient and is sure to be appreciated and remembered. Furthermore, taking a pause in the hectic pace of the day to show patients that we care can give busy hospitalists a moment to recharge before moving on to the next item on the to-do list. Any way you look at it, thanking our patients and offering to help is time well spent.

Dr. Sebasky is assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Diego.

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