In movies and television or streaming channels, I observe 2 things that never happen in real life.

  1. There is ‘always parking in front of a building or whatever they need to park
  2. Doctors are visiting patients in their rooms regularly or having a consultation in their offices which are lovely environments

Back to reality with what will help Patients communicate with their Doctors

Ask staff to make sure patients have a comfortable seat in the waiting room and help to fill out forms. Older patients may need to be escorted to and from exam rooms, offices, restrooms, and the waiting area. Staff should check on them often if they have a long wait in the exam room.

Take a Few Moments to Establish A Personal Rapport

Introduce yourself clearly and do not speak too quickly. Show from the start that you accept the patient and want to hear their concerns. If you are in a hospital setting, remember to explain your role or refresh the patient’s memory.

In the exam room, greet everyone and apologize for any delays. Try a few comments to promote rapport with new patients: Are you from this area?” or “Do you have family nearby?” With returning patients, friendly questions about their families or activities can relieve stress.

Don’t Rush the Consultation

Older people may have trouble following rapid-fire questions or torrents of information. 

Speaking more slowly will give them time to process what is being asked or said. Try to slow down if you tend to chatter, especially if your accent is different. This gives them time to take in and better understand what you are saying.

Avoid hurrying older patients. Time spent discussing concerns will allow you to gather important information and may lead to improved cooperation and treatment adherence.

Feeling rushed leads people to believe they are not being heard or understood. Be aware of the patient’s tendency to minimize complaints or worry that they are taking too much of your time.

If time is an issue, always recommend that your patients prepare a list of their health concerns in advance of their appointments. With this information, you will have to write the important topics. 

Doctors should not Interrupt and know that doctors are always on a time schedule.

Doctors will interrupt patients within the first 18 seconds in the exam room unless you are a concierge patient or Queen of England. 

This means finding out what you need may require another visit or follow-up phone calls. Once interrupted, a patient is less likely to reveal their concerns.

My mantra: “Doctors attended medical school (trade school). “They did not graduate with a divinity diploma, or I know everything college.”

Use Active Listening Skills

Look at each other and maintain eye contact, and when they are speaking, use f responses, such as “okay,” “I see,” and “uh-huh.” 

Active listening keeps the conversation fluid.

Demonstrate Empathy

Watch for opportunities to respond to patients’ emotions, using phrases such as “That sounds difficult,” or “I’m sorry you’re facing this problem; I think we can work on it together.” Studies show that clinical empathy can be learned and practiced and that it adds less than a minute to the patient interview

It has rewards for patient satisfaction, understanding, and adherence to treatment.

Avoid Medical Jargon

Most patients do not know medical terminology or about their disease. Introduce information by asking patients what they know about their condition and adding to the information. Terms may seem commonplace, but some tests may not be familiar. 

Ask the patient to repeat the diagnosis or care plan in their words.

“Tell me more about how you spend your days.”

Are you exercising, do you feel alone, are you having hearing issues, are there topics you want to speak with the Doctor about which is confidential? Doctors may ask, but if not, volunteer your activities. I write memos to explain my medical issues.

Be Careful About Language

Words have different connotations based on cultural or ethnic background. Some words may have different meanings to older patients than with your peers. For example, the word “dementia” may mean you won’t be able to remember, and the word “cancer” may be considered you will die soon. You cannot anticipate every generational and cultural/ethnic difference in language; being aware of the possibility may help you to communicate more clearly.

Use everyday language, and ask if clarification is needed. Offer to repeat or reword the information: “I know this is complex. I‘ll do my best to explain, but let me know if you have any questions or want me to go over it again.”

Low literacy or inability to read also may be a problem. 

Reading materials written at an accessible reading level can help.

Write Down Important Items

Doctors are rushed to explain or show you something and then leave. If you and an advocate, be pleasant, be confident, and ask ‘nicely’ to explain and clarify. REMEMBER, you are the patient (the customer). 

Physicians, when asked nicely, will explain. If they are not helpful and do not explain, I recommend that you find health care people who have the medical and personal skills to communicate. 

It is often challenging to remember everything discussed with your condition and care during an appointment, whether young or older. 

Older adults will benefit from having written notes to refer back to that summarize significant points from the visit. 

Make your notes straightforward. For example, you might write, “Drink at one a 6-oz glass of water every 2 hours” instead of Increase fluids.”

Ensure an understanding of the Health Information

Summarize what the patients needs to know:

  • Have you answered their health questions
  • What they need to do
  • Why it is crucial to act

A practical method is the “teach-back method”—ask patients to say what they understand from the visit. Also, ask about any potential issues that might keep the patient from carrying out the treatment plan.

Compensating for Hearing Deficits

Make sure your patient can hear you. Look at the auditory canal for the presence of excess earwax. Ask if the patient has a working hearing aid.

  • Speak slowly and clearly in a normal tone. Distorted language sounds gives the impression of anger.
  • Avoid using a high-pitched voice; it is hard to hear.
  • Face the person directly, at eye level, so that they can lip-read or pick up visual clues.
  • Keep your hands away from your face while talking, hindering your lip-reading ability.
  • Be aware of background noises, such as whirring computers and office equipment.
  • Have a notepad or electronic tape recorder with you, so you can write down the information or record the information. Write out diagnoses and other essential terms.
  • Let the Doctor know when you want them to transition to another topic. Remember, it is your time and your money. 

Visual Disorders

  • Make sure there is adequate lighting, including sufficient light on your face. Minimize glare.
  • Check that your patient has brought and is wearing eyeglasses if needed.
  • Make sure that handwritten instructions are clear.
  • If your patient has trouble reading, consider alternatives such as recording instructions, providing large pictures or diagrams, or using aids such as specially configured pillboxes.
  • When using printed materials, make sure the type is large enough to read.