P R A C T I C E M A N A G E M E N T
kits to support patient-centred practice
Jonathan Carpenter Photo
In October, the NLMA
mailed physician resource kits to all primary care physicians in the
province to help improve patient-doctor communication.
By Jonathan Carpenter
In October, the NLMA mailed physician
resource kits to all primary care physicians in the province to help
improve patient-doctor communication. Since then, the NLMA has
received a number of requests from clinics around the province for
additional patient-centered materials.
The kits include a brochure and poster
designed to educate patients about making the most of their office
visit, while helping physicians manage issues that may impact on clinic
efficiency. It includes guidance for such topics as urgent care
protocol, how to communicate symptoms and booking appointments, among
“An important aspect of the work of the
NLMA is to provide information on issues of importance to physicians and
to our patients,” said NLMA President Dr. Joseph Tumilty.
“As physicians, we believe in partnering
with our patients and we hope these materials will give them the skills
to improve communications with their physicians and encourage people to
take an active role in their health care.”
The shortage of doctors coupled with an
aging population means more physicians in the province are coping with
growing personal demands and more cases of complex health conditions.
They are increasingly forced to accommodate large numbers of patients
with less time to assess and address their individual needs.
In order to accommodate all patients while
minimizing wait times, primary care physicians typically designate 12 to
15 minutes for a standard consultation. Therefore, it is extremely
important that the patient knows how to effectively communicate their
needs within the allotted time.
In January, the NLMA surveyed family
physicians to determine if there are more appropriate ways for
physicians to manage their practices and patient visits. Some
respondents expressed a need for patient education materials on how to
communicate appropriately during appointments.
Like any partnership, the patient-doctor
relationship needs to be crafted through good communication. More and
more patients today are becoming health consumers who want to
participate in medical decision making. Problems can arise when patients
arrive at their doctor’s office with preconceived expectations about how
the practice functions. It can involve anything from the amount of time
spent in the exam room to expecting an instant cure from the physician.
It is the physician’s responsibility to
ensure patients reveal their expectations about their practice and their
knowledge of how medical exams are structured. Distributing an
educational brochure to patients will facilitate dialogue and help
physicians align a patient’s thinking with their clinic’s policies and
the way their practice functions.
“Part of our role as primary care
physicians is being skilled communicators,” says Dr. Susan King, a
family physician in St. John’s who assisted in the development of the
materials for the kits.
Dr. King, who has also made the patient
education materials available in her clinic, says that patients are more
likely to evaluate their consultation based on a physician’s
interpersonal skills rather than clinical competency.
“Communication is often thought of as a
soft science. However, studies have shown that improving the quality of
interactions in the examination setting can result in higher patient
satisfaction, increased patient compliance and better health outcomes,”
Because chronic disease management can be
very complex and complicated, especially for some elderly patients, it
is important to tailor communication to a patient’s level of
understanding. Included with the resource kit is a list of Quick Tips
that physicians may use as a reference for improving communication and
managing patient expectations.
“By applying these simple Quick Tips in
the examination setting, patients may be more adept at identifying areas
of concerns, recalling information and adhering to instructions. We
recognize that many of our physicians are already implementing a number
of these strategies, but because our required communication skills are
likely to change throughout our career, we should all review them from
time to time,” said Dr. Tumilty.
Copies of the brochure and poster as well
as additional Quick Tips for physicians and their reception staff are
available on the
NLMA website or by calling or (709) 726-7424. Also available
online are patient forms for listing symptoms and questions, which
physicians may make available in their clinics to help prioritize and
manage discussions during examinations.