As a health care professional, you have undoubtedly encountered patients who are difficult, if not impossible, to please. Worse still is that these unhappy and unmotivated patients will not get much out of physical therapy. What can your clinic do? Here are suggestions to help you and your team handle complex patients.
How to Best Deal With Difficult Patients
Concentrate on Engagement
To develop a positive relationship with patients, it is crucial that you set expectations at the beginning. Expectations include payment policies, procedures, the role of patient participation, and engagement in the therapy process. Establish ground rules and communicate exactly how the techniques you use, and the prescribed home exercises will connect with your patient’s goals. This action will allow you to get buy-in from patients early on and demonstrate that you care about their progress.
You must develop a care plan tailored to the whole patient, not just a condition or injury. Make a point to:
- Explain the why behind your actions
- Celebrate milestones to build momentum
- Keep patients engaged between sessions
Collect and Act on Feedback
Physical therapists see patients for multiple visits over their entire course of care. This practice is unlike other health care providers who might see a patient occasionally to treat an illness, complete an assessment or perform surgery. Rehab therapy is only effective if your patient keeps coming back. Unfortunately, this is something complex patients often choose not to do. It is essential that you keep updated on patient satisfaction. Knowing this information will help you identify patients who are not pleased with their experience and might bail on you. Feedback will also allow you to spot downward trends and act on them quickly.
If a patient is angry, there is an excellent chance that they are mad for a good reason, like they sat too long in the waiting room or they are just having a bad day. It might be something more profound, like they have had a bad experience with therapy in the past, heard negative things from family and friends, or received a referral from a physician who does not value therapy.
Regardless of what might be influencing their view of you and your services, it is wise to pull back and better understand the situation before you react to it. By listening, empathizing and communicating, you demonstrate to the patient that you understand the issue and are ready to work on a resolution with them.
It is essential that you use non-confrontational phrases in discussions with patients, especially those who are upset. Remember that you will typically tailor your communication approach to the patient’s specific situation. The critical thing to remember is to keep calm and professional and always carry on.
Your Next Challenge Awaits
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