Referral Generator: Work Smarter At Patient Education

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. Emphasizing Staff Education And Staff ‘Contributors’ Education starts with the initial phone call to our office. Callers are given feedback regarding their condition and potential treatment plans. These initial educational “bites” are based on the extensive training program that all of our medical and front office staff undergo. The staff education is supplemented with educational seminars and monthly staff meetings that are focused on treating patients. Our meetings are the same day and time every month in order to allow the part-time staff to adjust their schedules so they may attend. We have an educational lecture each month by one or more staff members. At least one of us is prepared to share new pharmaceutical information, biomechanical principles, insurance problems, surgical criteria and other topics of value. Each staff member is encouraged to share an idea, insight or observation during the course of the meeting. A typical meeting may be held on the third Tuesday of the month from noon to 1:30 p.m. with lunch provided in the office. If the lunchroom is too small or non-existent, have the meeting in the reception room or hallway. The meeting starts with a flexible agenda that is prepared ahead of time. The agenda usually lists the contributors, topics and time allocations. Notice that I said “contributors” and not “speakers.” Not everyone is a speaker, but everyone can be a contributor. We start with prepared topics. Last month, Lisa shared how to take impressions for a diabetic shoe and I spoke on the biomechanical examination. Peggy, our primary receptionist, shared how she was able to educate and encourage a caller to come in as a new patient. Rhonda shared her recommendations on durable medical equipment and how more insurance companies are not paying for durable medical equipment. She recommended and followed up with a “No Durable Medical” sticker to place on appropriate patient charts. Angie shared her positive experience with Lidoderm Patches and we resolved to share the topical treatment with appropriate patients.

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