Whether you have a new patient coming into the office or a patient you see regularly, the focus is often on why they are there that day. You may think about what tests or labs you need to run if they are doing better and the next step for their care. This is the perfect time to slow down and remember you are dealing with an actual person with feelings who could be nervous about their appointment, who could be scared, or who just needs an adult to talk with. Building rapport with your patients is more effortless when you find something in common with them.
When you first meet with a patient, ask them questions that have nothing to do with the visit. This can be as simple as how the weather is. Once they answer, you can say something like, yes, I love this fall weather and watching the leaves fall. Ask them about kids, and respond with if you have kids and their ages. You could also ask about what they do for a living and even how their day is going. Taking 2-3 minutes to ask a more personal question can give your patient the mindset that you want to know more about them as a person, and they are not just another patient to you.
Another way to get your patient to talk more and open up is to say tell me more. Once you have found out how their day is going, follow up with what you are doing today or tell me more about your plans for this weekend. People love to talk about themselves and their interests, and using the words tell me more can give you a chance to learn something new about that patient and perhaps something you have in common. You may find yourself generally intrigued by what you hear, and it can turn into a great conversation. This also helps a patient feel more at ease with telling you personal information, and if they are dealing with anxiety over a health issue, this can calm them down before getting into the real problems.
Put yourself into your patient’s position; if they have never seen a functional medicine doctor before, they could be intimidated and act closed off or shy. Talking with them and not at them can help put them at ease and release some nervous energy they could be having. When you ask questions, be sure to smile, make eye contact, and do not cross your arms. This can make you appear unfriendly or closed off to a patient. If you are relaxed and friendly, you are more likely to put a patient at ease and come across as a good listener and someone who can help them on their health journey.
Building rapport with your patients is essential in your functional medicine office. You want your patients to feel like you have a friendly and harmonious relationship. You need them to be open and honest with you and feel like they can tell you about every aspect of their life. This makes your job as a health provider easier and helps you get to the root cause of some of their issues. Each time your patient has an office visit, make sure you ask them open-ended questions and talk with them. Relating with your patients helps them realize you are just a person like they are and can help you build a stronger relationship.
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