Trust takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair – Anonymous

Trust has always been a cornerstone for effective doctor–patient relationships, as it correlates a patient’s vulnerability with the competence and intentions of the doctor. Building trust takes time and effort, but as a doctor, a strong rapport with patients will improve your ability to provide the best care and gain continued business.

Certain factors are known to encourage patient trust in clinicians:

  • Doctor’s competence
  • Respect for patient’s views
  • Information sharing
  • Confidence in a patient’s ability to manage their illness

So how can a doctor build trust with patients? Here are 5 simple tips.

1. Be aware of what you say and the manner in which you communicate

Ensure that your message and the manner in which you communicate are in sync. E.g. If you’re giving bad news, your tone should be positive and encouraging. Another important part of communication is body language. As non-verbal communication often reveals intent, you must relax and ease your mind before beginning an appointment with a patient, as well as be aware of your facial expressions, hand gestures and tone.

2. Educate your patients

Provide your patients with complete and updated information on their medical issue. This ensures that they understand the healing process and make educated choices. Patients trust their physicians to be their educators. They want to understand their treatment options and disease consequences.  Hence, when educating, be sensitive to visual or auditory limitations and language barriers.

Some ways of  educating patients:

  • Offer appropriate reading material in the waiting room and office
  • Proactively provide website links and video resources
  • Set patients up with community resources
  • Allow opportunities for questions and a healthy dialogue

In the end, part of a doctor’s job is to offer options to patients, not make all decisions for them.

3. Maintain transparency

Always be authentic when you’re working with patients. Simple gestures such as eye contact and personal attention show your genuine interest in the patient’s problem. Being transparent with a patient gives them the confidence to be transparent with you and allows you to address all needs of your patients thoroughly.

4. Be sensitive to patient needs

Be extra sensitive when dealing with patients who open up about their lifestyle and experiences. People are more honest with medical professionals than anyone else, making this relationship incredibly important. Hence it is always necessary to approach a patient with empathy and care.

5. Ask for help

If you’re perplexed or worried about a certain case, never hesitate to seek help from other doctors or specialists. Many patients feel anxious about building a relationship with a new doctor, especially when their condition is complex or very personal. Therefore, when you don’t have the skills to offer a patient, be honest and ask for a specialist’s opinion.

To conclude, don’t underestimate the power of patient communication. When a patient is informed about the source of their issue, what you can do for them, what they can do for themselves, and what their goals are, they actively participate in the planning of their treatment. In turn, they will automatically open up, follow instructions and proactively build a lasting relationship with you. After all, at the center of a successful healthcare relationship is a core element – trust.