Physicians and residents get a bad rap for not being the best communicators. In 2014, reexamine how you communicate, and find new ways to educate patients on three important health topics.

Physicians and residents get a bad rap for not being the best communicators. Whether it’s outdated practices, a lack of compassion, or the inability to explain things well, there are times when healthcare providers just can’t connect with patients. That disconnect can lead to problems with patient education, which has a huge impact on patients’ overall health. In 2014, reexamine how you communicate, and find new ways to educate on three important health topics. While patients know they should live healthier lives, they may not fully understand what this entails or how certain behaviors can reduce their risk of developing chronic illnesses. These topics are not “new” in the world of medicine, but a constant stream of new information points to the astonishing effects these factors have on patient health and longevity.

1. Healthy Eating

With obesity and diet-related diseases on the rise, healthy eating is a critical topic of discussion. Venture beyond the food pyramid to address issues patients are likely hearing about, like how different “buzz foods” or ingredients (trans fats, sugar substitutes, antioxidants, etc.) affect our bodies. Help people gain a better understanding of how eating habits can impact the treatment and prevention of diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and certain cancers.

2. Exercise

Since our society has become glued to TVs and gadgets, active lifestyles have become a thing of the past. Patients must not only understand the importance of exercise, but they should also be educated on how much and how often they should be moving their bodies. As motivation, share exciting new activities that might pique their interest — such as stand up paddleboarding — and educate them on the many health issues that are preventable through exercise.

3. Stress Control

All people deal with stress differently, which can potentially cause major health issues, including high blood pressure, shingles, and heart attacks. Helping patients understand their sources of stress and how they can control their reactions to stress could be beneficial to their overall health. Discuss modern causes of stress, like increased screen time, decreased social interaction, and lack of time in natural sunlight.

[Read about managing college stress here]

Patient Education 2.0

All patients are different, and at the end of the day, they’re in charge of their health. But think about how you communicate with patients, and determine how you can improve communication to enhance education.

Utilize wait time: Patient education can begin in the waiting room. Point-of-care educational TV offers free educational programs that help patients build upon their understanding of health and wellness. Hospitals and private care facilities should also make a point of stocking up on educational magazines that discuss health-related topics of interest to patients.

Open lines of communication: Speaking to patients so they understand, taking time to offer full explanations, and giving patients more time to ask questions can significantly improve the chances of compliance with healthy behaviors.

Invest in reassurance: Patients want to know that medical professionals will do everything possible to help them. Your confidence in their treatment plan, your colleagues, and the facility goes a long way.

Make 2014 the year you focus on the way you communicate with your patients. Take a modern approach to re-educating them on important topics, and build a mindset for working with patients that will sustain you through your years as a full-fledged physician. It could make all the difference in your patients’ overall health and well-being.

Member Outreach & Marketing Manager for ContextMedia, Inc., a mission-driven patient education company that partners with healthcare professionals to educate patients on how to manage their conditions through lifestyle changes. Matt is a huge Chicago sports fan and was constantly mistaken for Ralphie from “A Christmas Story” growing up. Connect with Matt on Twitter and Google +.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ProspectiveDoctor.

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