When a patient initially comes in for care, their end-goal is to be free from whatever illness or injury is plaguing them. Though this can be the case after a period of treatment, sometimes even the simplest illnesses require more intervention than expected. Patients can become frustrated when they aren’t seeing progress in their treatment, and they may begin to question doctor’s orders and treatments. Communication can help to manage these expectations and create an environment that allows for discussion and change of direction, as well as a better understanding of possible outcomes.
As you are discussing diagnoses and treatment possibilities with your patient, make sure to communicate clearly. Explain the diagnosis in layman’s terms and walk them through the evolving symptoms of their illness, side effects of treatment, and how to measure healing and progress. Make sure that they understand possible complications and when to reach out with new or problematic symptoms. If their prognosis is questionable, make that very clear and do not hide information from them.
Share Various Scenarios
No treatment plan is exact, and certain treatments may work better for one patient than another. Share all of the possibilities with your patients and make sure that they can make informed decisions about their healthcare. Giving your patients options and alternatives will help them to more in control of their bodies during a difficult time.
Employ a Patient Advocate
Patient advocates can be a great asset to both medical staff, as well as patients and their families. They can help patients to make better sense of a diagnosis or treatment plan and develop a list of questions and concerns. They can also assist in facilitating communication between doctors, treatment staff, and the patient and family. Having a third party involved in conversations and decisions can sometimes help to clarify concerns and manage expectations.
Maintain a Positive but Realistic Outlook
Even when the news is bad, you must approach your patients with a realistic outlook. Give them the tools they need to accept their prognosis, but the hope to keep fighting when there is a chance to improve the outcome. Maintaining positivity is important to keeping up morale which can improve the overall health of the patient.
Address Patient Concerns Immediately
When you dismiss or put off the concerns of a patient, it can affect their level of trust. While it can be frustrating to have them question every twinge and ache, by letting them know that their concerns are heard and noted, they are more likely to feel as if they are receiving the best care possible.
Managing patient expectations is a delicate balance of sharing facts while listening to and addressing the concerns of the patient. With clear communication and careful consideration, patients can understand what to expect from their illness and treatment. This can help you work together and create a plan which works for everyone.