Communication: It’s the key for doctor-patient interaction. In 2015, resolve to communicate with your patients better and more effectively using these easy and quick strategies!

1)    Listen. A well-known study conducted by Beckman and Frankel in 1984 revealed that physicians are likely to interrupt their patients within 18 seconds of speaking. (Source) So take a minute or two to listen to your patient and understand the complexity of his or her situation. Hear his or her entire situation, symptoms, and give the patient space to speak about the health issues he or she is facing without interrupting.

2)    Explain Clearly. There are plenty of guides to teach patients how to talk to their doctors, but are there any guides to teach doctors how to talk to their patients? KevinMD.com, Social Media’s leading physician voice offers advice, including: “Think about what you want to say, then in your mind translate it into what you believe a sixth grader would understand. Make it as simple as possible.” Read more from Kevin here.

3)    Provide Clear Directions. Nearly one-half of Americans do not fully understand how to take their medications or follow directions in order to feel better. Often, patients are embarrassed that they do not understand and are afraid to ask for further clarification. This can be avoided by writing down the plan for the patient in simple steps. Learn more about providing clear directions here.

4)    Be Alert for Red Flags. These red flags include patient registration forms that are incomplete or inaccurate, frequently missed appointments, nonadherence with medication regimens, and lack of follow-through with laboratory or imaging tests or consultant referrals. Medscape offers advice to combat these red flags: “To learn what your patients really understand about following their regimens, schedule a “brown bag review.” In this, your scheduler asks the patient to put all of his medications into a bag and bring it to his visit, Osborne explains. You then remove the medications one by one. Can the patient name each of them? Does he know why he’s taking it? Can he explain when he takes it?” Learn more here.

5)    Be a Teacher: A doctor’s main goal is to make his or her patient feel better. An often overlooked part of this process is that the patient will not be able to feel better if the patient is unable to fully understand how to manage his or her health. Nevil Cheesman, in his article “Doctors as Teachers” notes that: “One of the most important principles of good teaching is planning.” It is essential for a doctor to teach his or her patient through the establishment of a healthcare plan. Read more here.

The field of medicine is fast-paced and consistently changing. By communicating with your patients, you will be able to help them as you help yourself provide a better connection and atmosphere for promoting healthy behavior. Make 2015 the year of excellent doctor-patient communication habits.