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Any conversation centered around medicine as a business should always start with patient satisfaction. Patients are the focal point that drives the entire practice, and ultimately can either be the reason your practice succeeds, or the reason it fails. Patient satisfaction is the single more important driver to success in the medical industry.

Patients who leave your practice feeling like they’ve been heard, have a sense of resolution to the matter at hand, and feel as though they had an overall positive experience will be more likely to return in the future. They will also become your advocates by referring their friends to your practice, and possibly write a positive review about their experience for anyone in the market for a new physician.

The best ways to achieve this outcome center around how they feel about you, their physician, as a person. Physicians who are successful often get to know their patients beyond the scope of standard medical questions. This includes learning about their patient’s interests, hobbies, or family activities, which are also great ways to break the ice and better understand each other. Truly listen to them and hear them out, demonstrate that you too are a real person who thinks and feels. Physicians who know their patients beyond their charts can better adjust their approach and understand their patients perspective. This will also promote the trust between patient and physician, and ultimately more trust in your medical skills and advice in the future.

People can easily sense when they are being rushed, overlooked, or as if they are just another thing to cross off your to-do list. This does not necessarily mean that every interaction with your patients must result in spending hours together, but it is important to take your time and fully hear patients during the time you do spend with them. Time constraints are a fair concern in making some of these things happen. If you feel as though you do not have enough time to get to know your patients, consider bringing in a physician’s assistant to help facilitate some of the medical aspects of the job.

Great physicians know and understand everything I have already stated in this post, and instill these values within their practice and patient interactions every day. It becomes easier and easier over time to treat your patients when you know and understand things about their lives. Getting to know your patients as real people as opposed to medical charts will go a long way in the success of your practice.

Dr. Arnold Peter Weiss is the R. Scot Sellers Scholar of Hand Surgery; Chief of Hand Surgery; Vice Chairman & Professor, Brown University.