A wellness exam should be time well spent. But often patients are unprepared or forget valuable takeaways as soon as they leave the office.
Effective doctor-patient communication is key to getting the most out of wellness exams. There are several ways you can help your patients maximize their annual exam.
- Request patients come prepared: Before their appointment, ask patients to compile a list of current medications or supplements, recent test results, a complete medical and family history, names and contact information for other physicians involved in their care and a list of questions or concerns they would like to discuss during their exam. You may even want to send a notebook set and med-tracker, along with a letter asking patients to jot notes prior to their appointment. This notebook can be a dedicated space to document any changes, questions or concerns in an effort to prepare for future appointments, too.
- Communicate vitals: Patients are used to having their weight, height and vitals, such as blood pressure, pulse and respiration rate, checked. But these numbers aren’t always discussed. Effective doctor-patient communication involves discussing what each number means, what the healthy ranges are and where patients fall within that range. It is also a good idea to tell patients how to improve the numbers. Print out a summary so patients have easy access to their health scores. A logo’d grab bag is a great way to neatly organize this and other wellness exam takeaways, including prescription samples, coupons and informational inserts.
- Emphasize prevention: Talk to your patients about preventative screenings and lifestyle changes appropriate for their age and individual risks. Send seasonal reminders during national health observance months. For instance, a shower card imprinted with a reminder to get a mammogram during breast cancer awareness month, or a jar opener imprinted with tips on living a heart healthy life during American Heart Month. During appointments, talk about the importance of diet and exercise. Wellness exams also provide the opportunity to review risky behaviors, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and inconsistent seatbelt use. Pocket sliders are helpful takeaways for patients.
- Effective follow up: Be sure you are communicating and explaining test results, labs or upcoming follow-up needs using the communication methods patients prefer. Ask patients during their visit whether they’d like to be contacted by phone, mail, text or email. Doing so ensures patients receive your message and quickly respond. Patients will appreciate being able to easily access their physicians’ office in the manner they prefer, too. Imprint all communication channels on a magnet or mouse pad.
A wellness exam can do a lot for patients. With a little help, and some tweaks to doctor-patient communication, your patients will come prepared and leave ready to lead a healthier lifestyle.
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