Isn’t it strange how patients sometimes just “hear what they want to hear.” For example, you are positive you didn’t say “I love WebMD, go ahead and read that instead of asking me for advice.” Yet somehow, that is the primary piece of information they left your office with. They are truly missing some of your best advice.
Today I’m going to give you my Top 5 Tips on How To Be Heard for healthcare providers. Scroll to the Top 5 Tips list and video at the bottom if you like.
For starters, I’d like to acknowledge that clearly, patients (aka all humans) can be in denial, have a case of ‘confirmation bias’, simply aren’t paying attention, or have memory issues. But far more often than you might think, a hearing loss is causing or exacerbating such misunderstandings, and they may not even know it.
48 million Americans have hearing loss – thats 20% of Americans over the age of 12! Does every single one of them have trouble understanding their healthcare providers? No.
But I can tell you from conversations with my patients (even the ones with hearing aids) that they feel many of their healthcare providers “don’t speak clearly” or they stopped going to an office because they couldn’t understand the front desk staff.
You would think people would just say, “I didn’t hear you, can you repeat that?” This, unfortunately, could not be further from reality.
With a gradual, adult onset hearing loss, we often don’t notice we are losing our hearing. It can actually sound exactly like other people are mumbling, not that something is wrong with our hearing.
My patients say even when they know they have trouble hearing, they don’t want to have to ask people to repeat and they don’t want to seem rude or demanding. Also, do not assume that because they are wearing hearing aids, that said hearing aids are functioning properly.
My point is, be aware that your patient may not be aware of their own hearing issues or they may not be ready to advocate for themselves enough to say anything. Furthermore, you CAN’T SEE if they have hearing loss.
Some research has started to shed some light on the fact that hearing issues are impacting how highly patients rank their providers.
(If you can’t access the full text, email me and I can get you the PDF)
Even outside of getting medication recommendations right or instructions on taking care of joint pain, it’s important for your patients to know when you’ve chuckled at a joke they made, or said “It was so nice to see you, have a great time at the wedding!”
For some individuals with hearing loss, if they can’t see your face, they may not know what you said or possibly even that you said anything.
This means if you are turned to the side, charting on your laptop, you’re standing side by side looking at a scan or lab reports, or if they are face-down in a massage table, that they can’t see your face. The same goes for your front desk staff or medical assistants if they are looking down while taking notes, not projecting their voices to try and keep check-in information private, or walking out of the room while they say something.
Believe me, hearing loss is affecting far more of your patients than you think. While the incidence definitely increases with age, it is not safe to assume your younger patients have normal hearing.
It is nearly impossible to catch all these little areas where words sound more muffled to a patient with hearing loss unless you’ve experienced it for yourself. Have no fear, I’ve got you covered.
Here are my Top 5 Tips on How To Be Heard for Healthcare Providers (video below):
1) Let them see your entire face – don’t cover your mouth or turn away.
2) Slow down your rate of speech and articulate. Take a look at the video blog post I did on these tips specifically.
3) Be aware of how the sound of scanners or other equipment may mask the clarity of your voice – you may have to give instructions first and then not talk while running equipment.
4) If you work with many geriatric patients, a device like a Pocket Talker can really come in handy in the clinic for patients who need hearing aids but aren’t using them for one reason or another. I suggest disposable earphone covers as well.
5) Make sure your colleagues and other staff are aware the above – share this blog post. It’s important for your team to be aware and on board with these communication strategies to achieve the greatest success with patients.