Overcoming the language barrier in person & online.
In my experience working one-on-one with patients, I often found a language gap. In most cases, the problem wasn’t with English, the problem was with understanding medical jargon.
I worked for an ophthalmology practice with the philosophy that a well-informed patient would make the best healthcare decisions. It was a great philosophy that lead to happy patients with good outcomes!
My role was to educate patients on LASIK and Advanced Technology Lens implants choices for cataract surgery. I needed to make sure the patients understood the process and the products before they made their decision about treatment.
The first step was explaining terminology. I tried to communicate free of jargon…staying clear of TLAs (three letter acronyms), like IOL, OCT, ASC, etc. I explained the terminology that they may have heard during their exam, or read about in our brochures. Once we established that we understood the basics, we could move on to the next step, and put our new common language to use.
In some cases, the patients THOUGHT they understood what the doctor said. Others came in with a preconceived idea about their condition…”When my neighbor had this surgery ten years ago…”
I had to clear any misconceptions they had, and then give them the straightforward information that they could understand. It was a back and forth conversation. I listened as much as I spoke.
Most of the time, It is great to have the patient in front of you. If you are on-on-one with the patient, they have the chance to ask questions. If you see a bewildered look on his or her face, you have the option to explain it a different way. It’s easy to use visual aids, demonstrate techniques and show patients equipment.
On the other hand…when you are communicating with patients on-line you they don’t have the opportunity to ask questions, and you can’t see the bewildered look on their faces. That’s why your on-line presence needs to have a clear, concise message.
Online you can use the same tools and techniques. Keep the terminology simple. Add photos or videos to help get your message across. Visual aids are great to include on your website & your blogs.
Think about the areas that patients find confusing. Ask your staff what questions they often come across in patient conversations. Keep a running list of these issues and you’ll find great topics for blog posts that educate, inform, AND help build your practice.
A well-informed patient DOES make the best decisions about their health. It’s our job to make sure we are speaking the same language.