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Dealing with Difficult Patients
How do I deal with difficult patients?
In everyday practice, doctors and medical assistants (MFAs) are repeatedly confronted with "difficult" patients. Every day the doctor's office is visited by many different people who have the most varied of concerns. Dealing with difficult or sick people places high demands on the entire practice team and can push everyone involved to the limits of their abilities and personal patience.
In this article we would like to give you a few tips to make it easier for you to deal with and communicate with "difficult" patients.
Which patients are "difficult"?
You will immediately think of patients who you personally find difficult. But not everyone finds the same patient difficult. Which people you find difficult depends on many factors. The situation and the form of the day play a role, but it also depends on what kind of person you are. Are you more relaxed and not so easily disturbed, or do you get upset quickly about supposedly trivialities? “Difficult” patients are generally patients who trigger negative feelings in the doctor or the MFAs. Negative feelings can e.g. B. anger, frustration, anger, overwhelming or helplessness. Often these are patients who make excessive use of the healthcare system, who frequently change doctors, who spend a lot of time with the doctor, who require many examinations or who often call the emergency doctor. Such patients reject examinations and treatment proposals, complain about co-payments or want to be pushed between other appointments quickly. The behavior of such patients is perceived as unjustified or inappropriate. Therefore, patients with the following behaviors are often perceived as "difficult":
- High standards
- Reprehensible and demanding behavior
- Lawsuits, complaints, insults
- Aggressive and contentious behavior
- Failure to follow existing rules and lack of insight
- Pain patients and patients with a poor prognosis
- Passive, disinterested behavior and silence
- Depression and addiction
- Selfish behavior
Doctors and MFAs are "just" people too
However, unpleasant situations in medical practices often arise not only because of "difficult" patients. Doctors and MFAs are under great time pressure and want to do justice to all patients. The stress means that doctors and MFAs do not always manage to remain calm and understanding, which is completely understandable and just human in view of the high demands. However, many patients often do not understand this, as they only see their own supposedly difficult situation.
Perhaps the patient's inappropriate behavior also has explainable reasons. The patient may have had a bad experience with another doctor or during their last hospital stay. Chronic illnesses or longer extreme situations in particular should not be underestimated. If such reasons come to light in the conversation, it does not mean that one has to approve of the patient's reaction, but it can help one to better understand the patient and his behavior - with the necessary distance. Difficult patients also have a right to good treatment. But you don't have to put up with everything. Your time is limited. You cannot re-educate the patient, nor is it your job. You can only offer the patient help in your area of expertise. If he doesn't want to accept this help, he doesn't have to.
Improve communication with difficult patients
In general, it is important - whether at the registration or in the treatment room - to adopt a professional and empathic attitude towards the patient and the situation. Even if the patient is suspicious and unreasonable, you must treat them with respect and respect them as a person. Respond to the patient and behave in every situation as your practice philosophy requires. That means staying friendly and nice, being polite and appreciative and not allowing any aggression. Do not let the patient's inappropriate behavior disturb you and do not adapt your behavior to that of the patient under any circumstances. In some situations it is appropriate to ask the patient about his behavior. However, one should also make sure to remain objective and factual.
Tips for registration:The waiting area is bursting at the seams, the phone rings without a break and the paperwork still has to be done. A difficult patient who appears rude or even aggressive was just missing.
- Let the patient finish. Show serious interest and actively listen.
- Remain calm, confident, objective and friendly in every situation.
- Put yourself in the patient's shoes and try to understand their needs. Show empathy, understanding and authenticity in behavior.
- Admit your own mistakes or mistakes in practice and explain them.
- Try not to take the patient's problems personally and try to maintain an emotional distance.
- Make the patient an offer or offer him a decision.
- Explain the rules of practice that the patient must also adhere to.
- If the patient does not calm down, move them to a separate room and talk to them calmly so that other patients are not worried.
Tips for the treatment room:As a doctor, it is your job to respond to the patient and to consider his or her needs. This is the only way to achieve your own goals: anamnesis, information and treatment.
- Be kind, authentic, and honest at all times. Ask with interest and listen actively.
- Try to use positive formulations and, if possible, let the patient state specific treatment goals.
- Help the patient to find solutions to his problem himself or look for an alternative together.
- Package suggestions and suggestions in a friendly and appealing way.
- Involve the patient in the treatment process and provide them with clearly structured and transparent treatment plans.
- Try to release your own emotions from the conversation.
- In the case of supposedly difficult patients, prepare yourself in advance and have well-founded arguments ready. Convince with competence.
Learning from mistakes in the practice team
Certainly, these tips cannot be implemented in every situation or in every medical practice in everyday life. The tips should be understood as food for thought and one or the other tip may actually help you to keep calm in one or the other situation or to find a solution to the problem. Targeted changes in behavior and communication can help to better deal with difficult patients. However, for sustained success, the entire practice team must be involved. Analyze difficult situations in retrospect with everyone and try to learn from mistakes together. B. To develop strategies for dealing with difficult patients, which everyone can then use for orientation.
We at Meyer-Wagenfeld can support you with a waiting room TV, a practice website as well as posters and flyers with which you can inform your patients and draw their attention to internal practice regulations. With our appointment cards and appointment slips in your corporate design, your patients are guaranteed to never forget an appointment.
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