Why Communication is Key to Making the Most of Primary Care

Primary care doctors are the go-to for overall health and wellness. They guide patients on how to live a healthy lifestyle, help manage chronic disease, and are a direct connection to a wider team of specialists.

But there’s one more key element to primary care that shouldn’t be overlooked: communication.

It’s really the cornerstone of everything that doctors do. Here are four benefits that are a direct result of good communication:

More likely to get right diagnosis.

When a doctor makes it clear they’re going to listen to what their patient has to say, and the patient is willing to share their full health history, the doctor will be able to make a faster and more accurate diagnosis.

But for this to work, there needs to be effective communication on both sides.

If a patient doesn’t disclose all their symptoms or give the full story, their doctor will be challenged in coming up with a correct diagnosis.

Accurate patient information allows a doctor to order the most appropriate tests, and go down the best path of treatment.

The doctor needs to do their part, too, by not rushing patients and allowing them time to reveal what’s going on.

Otherwise, patients will sense their doctor isn’t interested, causing them to clam up and omit important details.

Better outcomes.

Good communication makes patients feel more engaged with their care, which will result in them being more compliant to treatment.

This means they’ll be much more likely to adhere to treatment plans, pay attention to medication instructions, or follow-up with recommended specialists.

Establishing a strong relationship will also allow the doctor to pick up on other lifestyle aspects that could indirectly affect a care plan.

For example, if a patient has expressed they are in a tight financial situation, the doctor should keep that in mind when it comes to medication costs.

In this case, it wouldn’t be wise to prescribe the most expensive medication because the patient would be less likely to buy it, and the outcome wouldn’t be as successful as it could have been.

Confidence to ask for a second opinion.

It’s important for a patient to feel confident when moving forward with any type of treatment. Building a trusting relationship can help remove hesitation in asking for a second opinion.

If there’s any inclination to ask, the patient should feel comfortable enough to speak up.

In fact, a lot of times it makes total sense to ask. As for the provider, they shouldn’t have hurt feelings, but rather feel confident that others’ recommendations will mirror their own. And if they resist or refuse, that’s simply not good care.

Both patients and doctors should realize that sometimes there’s more than one course of action. Doctors should be able to offer treatment alternatives, and patients should be open to those alternatives.

Higher quality of care.

There are a lot of factors that lead to a higher quality of care, and they all point back to good communication.

For a doctor, it’s everything from the way they greet patients, to showing respect and empathy, to giving patients a voice and perspective so they feel heard.

For a patient, it’s being open and honest with their doctor, and having the willingness to work together to find the best solutions.

When you establish a relationship that’s built on trust and honesty, it can be an extremely rewarding experience on both sides.

Good care isn’t possible without good communication, which is why it’s so important to find a doctor that feels like the right fit for you.

Ed Nalband, MD practices Internal Medicine at South Shore Medical Center.

Learn more about Primary Care at South Shore Health.