Referral Generator: Work Smarter At Patient Education

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By Chris E. Vance, DPM

Predictably, the most sought after and most efficient medical practices have a common denominator: the ability to educate and communicate in a timely and effective manner. Patients do not come to us for our ability to make a buttress pad or apply an Unna boot. They come to us for our diagnostic ability and to be effectively educated on their condition and the available treatment options. As an educator, you are viewed as the authority and the relater of valuable information.
Patients will retain information differently but all learn by different methods: verbal, tactile, visual or auditory. Most patients have a dominant method of learning. As educators, our job is to convey information in a way that is processed best by each individual patient. How do I find out how my patients process and learn information? You communicate with your patients to ascertain their learning style.
While your medical assistants are rendering hands-on care, you can effectively listen and communicate. By using key words and feedback, you can determine the patient’s learning style. As an example, a visual learner will respond by saying “I see” when affirming questions that you ask them for feedback. A visual learner responds best to drawings and pictures. The verbal learner will say “tell me more” if he or she has additional questions. These patients learn best by verbal communication and will give more feedback during the course of your dialogue.
Tactile learners process information best when you show them a “model,” such as a negative cast, positive cast and orthotic. These are hands-on people. Auditory learners will ask you to repeat what you have said if they do not understand. These auditory patients learn best if you give them a cassette that describes their diagnosis and various treatment plans available.
In the patients who have combined learning styles, combine drawings and pictures for the visual type, skeletal models for the tactile, cassette tapes for the auditory and clear communications for the verbal learning style. Informed patients make better patients because they know what caused their condition and understand their treatment better. This education process makes your practice more productive and more rewarding. You will have a happier patient in the long term and less frequent calls to your office with questions.

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