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Seven communication tips for medical staff

Visiting the doctor is not the same as shopping at the mall; patients are not typical customers. There is an added seriousness to the reason for their visit. Even if it is a routine physical, there are few things more important than a person’s health.

Customers choose to shop and purchase good and services based on their preferences. Patients are much more vulnerable than customers. Their power of control is often diminished by illness or injury and they are often in pain, medicated, weak and confused.

However, whether someone chose their physician or was subjected to an emergency situation, the patient’s perception of the quality of care is greatly determined by the interaction they experience with the administrative staff, nurses and doctors.

Healthcare is a science combined with business and requires even more intention and attention to earn a level of trust in their service provider. The staff set the tone and expectation before the doctor is ever seen.

Here are seven tips that your team can incorporate to enhance the patient experience.

Remember everything communicates: appearance, speech, work area. Your frontline staff must represent in every way. First impressions tend to be indelible. What a patient sees will register subconsciously. A messy desk or sloppy-looking employee may convey the entire practice is lax. If your presentation is meticulous, it may be assumed the entire practice is the same. Pay attention to details. An immaculate office and staff can scream volumes in your favor.

Great representation over the telephone is imperative. A great voice and outstanding etiquette communicate professionalism. The goal should be to come across as personable and helpful. If you sound too busy to assist over the phone what does that say about the attention the patient will receive once they come in?

The ability to juggle a busy office is essential. Managing the demanding phone lines while ensuring the people standing in front of you do not feel ignored requires cognizance and self-awareness.

Words are important. Learning to use the right words goes a long way to deliver the intended message. For example, you can say, “Ms. Smith, you have to call your insurance company.” Or “Ms. Smith, may I suggest you call your insurance company.”

Body language speaks louder than words. You can say all the right words, but gestures and facial expressions take precedence when it comes to communicating the attitude behind the words.

Tune in. Develop active listening skills. It is easy to assume you know what the patient is asking or telling you, as you hear the same questions and queries every day. Learn to listen intently, every time.

Learn to build rapport. Everyone the patient encounters should have rapport-building skills, from the receptionist to the billing clerk.

If you manage a healthcare office of any type, I have a workshop coming up this month specifically designed for healthcare staff, send me an email or go to

• Kim Welcome is the CEO of Influential Voice. A communication trainer and coach, she assists businesses and professionals to achieve their goals by helping them to develop deliberate, skillful, polished communication skills. Contact: or call 242-225-9013.

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