008: 4 Simple Things You Can do to Create a Stronger Patient Relationship
When a patient has a health issue, before they call their healthcare provider, there’s a good chance that they’ve already turned to Google. Unfortunately, they’ve also probably learned that they’re going to die within the next 48 hours of a wide array of weird, random, and crazy diseases. There’s more misinformation than accurate information when it comes to health out there, and lots of it ends with your patient purchasing a boatload of low-quality supplements and wondering why they’re not improving.
When the patient finally comes to see you, as an alternative medicine practitioner, they give you a barrage of symptoms, and you may think that it’s time to educate them about everything going on with their bodies and recommend your particular supplements. This strategy is all but guaranteed to fail, and it rarely leads to positive, lasting relationships.
As clinicians, there are three simple things you need to do to win great patients: listen more than you speak, let them know they’re doing a good job, and provide them with action steps that don’t involve buying herbs, supplements, or tests. Today’s podcast is all about how to do exactly that – and why this strategy helps grow practices and produce better patient outcomes.
- What makes the internet such a dangerous place for patients – and why attempts at self-diagnosis almost never improve outcomes.
- Why so many clinicians fail to empathize with and honor their patients.
- How to approach a scared patient who has already jumped to the worst-case scenario and endangered their health by adopting strategies and supplements they read about online.
Sadly, on the internet, there's more misinformation as it comes to health than there is accurate information. - @DrRondaNelson Click To Tweet Start slow, get them a win, make rapport with them, get the relationship going, and they will stay with you. - @DrRondaNelson Click To Tweet
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Welcome to The Clinical Entrepreneur, a business podcast that’s dedicated to healthcare practitioners just like you who are hustling every day to build a business and a life you’re proud of. Join me, Ronda Nelson, as I share my own experiences and extract actionable advice from industry experts about what it takes to build and scale a profitable wellness practice.
Well, hello, my friend. Welcome back to The Clinical Entrepreneur Podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Ronda Nelson, and I am so glad that you are here. I’ve got something I want to share with you today. A perspective, I think, as clinicians we often overlook. It is the place that the patient is in when they come to us. We’re going to take a step outside of where we are as clinicians, and we’re going to put our feet in the shoes of the patient. So, if I’m a patient and I have a health challenge, where’s the first place I’m going to go? What’s the first thing I’m going to do? Well, of course, I’m going to go to Dr. Google, since you can obviously get a Ph.D. from Dr. Google. So, I go to Dr. Google, and I’m going to start looking up my what? Well, I’m going to look up my symptoms, because if I look up my symptoms, I am sure to find the underlying cause of all of my ills. But as you know, when you start looking up symptoms, you’re definitely going to die within the next 48 hours. I mean, you probably have every kind of weird random disease.
Now I’m freaked out because I’ve looked all my symptoms up and I don’t have any hope. It’s dismal. I have some crazy disease. So, then I panic a little and start looking at how to cure X symptom, how to get rid of bloating, how to cure dysbiosis or leaky gut, or how to get rid of a headache. And sadly, on the internet, there’s more misinformation as it comes to health than there is accurate information. For the patient, they don’t know how to weed through that, they have no idea. So, they just do their best as they move along trying to kind of figure it out as they go. And then one website says, “Oh, you need to take so many milligrams of curcuminoids,” and another one says “you need B vitamins”, and another one says “you need CoQ10” and another one says that “you need ashwagandha” and another one says that you need this supplement or that supplement or some nervous system, brain health, gut health, whatever it might be.
The poor patient is now on the other side looking into Google for their health answers, and that is never going to work. Often the regular medical doctor, the conventional medical doctor, they’re just not trained in this. It would not make them wrong, it’s just not what they know. They went to school to be medical doctors to stay within that realm, given a framework of what they’re allowed to do. Many of them aren’t able to step outside of that traditional or conventional medical model if there’s not enough solid research about alternative or complementary therapies, and there are some risks involved for them. So, it’s very easy for them to just stay in the box of conventional medicine, in which we cannot fault them for that. So, a patient who wants to improve their health goes to their medical doctor and the medical doctor says, “Oh, no, all you need is TSH and your TSH is normal so you don’t have a thyroid problem.” But yet the patient is overweight, constipated, dry skin, headaches, etcetera, and they’re being told by their practitioner that they’re all normal.
Now, what else are they going to do? They haven’t found you and me yet. So they go back to Dr. Google and now after realizing that they probably have some horrible illness and trying to figure out solutions for it, they end up with a shopping bag full of an assortment of supplements. Now, supplements can be very beneficial if they’re good quality, if they’re manufactured well, and if they have been tested, i.e., they’re not just a company that’s slapping a label on something that’s manufactured somewhere. We don’t know what in the world is in it. For real, what’s in it, because the label can say what’s in it but when you test them, often you find that the ingredients aren’t what they say on the label, but the patient doesn’t know that. So, now we have the patient, they got this bag full of supplements, and they’re not getting better. And I don’t know about you, but I see this all the time. They’re not getting better and they’re frustrated, so they go back to Dr. Google and they’re looking more. They then add five more supplements on, and now they’re starting to not sleep well. So, now they look for sleep remedies. And it just starts to multiply, multiply, multiply. It’s like a snowball rolling downhill and they can’t get ahead of it fast enough.
Hence, here we are, it is our turn now. We’re not the patient anymore. Now we’re going to put our hat on. So, as clinicians, we know what we know, we’re really good at what we’re really good at, i.e., whatever your niche or your specialty is, the kind of patient that you love to see. So, that patient finds you. They find you online, on Facebook, Instagram, or wherever you’re out there spreading your message. The patient comes in and they say, “Oh, Dr. So and so, I have X, Y, and Z symptom. I have headaches. I think I have a thyroid issue, although my doctor says I’m fine, and I’ve got all this stuff going on. Can you help me?” And here’s where it gets dicey. We think that we need to tell them everything. We think that this is the moment in time where we need to show how smart we are and we need to educate them about everything that might be going on with their body and why this and their supplements are wrong and why they are bad. And, “Oh, I’ve got this magic bottle over here that’s going to cure all your things. I’ve got this great turmeric over here. Those curcuminoids that you’re taking, they’re not going to work but this turmeric will work really well.”
Okay, I hit the pause button right there because how’s the patient feeling right about now? This patient has a shopping bag full of supplements that they’ve probably paid several hundred dollars for. They feel horrible. They’ve not had good results from this supplement bag of stuff that they’re taking and then they come and see you and me, and we just rattle off all the things that need to happen. That is not a good plan, my friend, because the patient is the one who ends up leaving feeling more confused or more overwhelmed. They start to see dollar signs like, “Oh my gosh, how much is this going to cost me now?” We often forget to put ourselves in the position or look at this from the perspective of the patient. I think it’s a big mistake that we make as clinicians. It’s not that we don’t care, but I think it’s because we start to think about how we can help them, which is absolutely right. However, when we’re not considering where they’re coming from, it can be like a train rolling right over the top of them, and I don’t think that’s what you want to do. It’s definitely not what I want to do.
So, how do we language this or position ourselves so that we are honoring the patient rather than making it about us? What can we do to leverage this educational opportunity and try and bring the patient into a different way of thinking about their health, rather than running right over the top of them? Here are a few things I want to share with you. Number one, be a better listener than you are a talker. Listen more than you speak. Patients will tell you lots of information if you give them an opportunity and listen between, behind, and around what’s really being said. Their words may say one thing but you may be able to figure out that there is more going on there, i.e., there could be an emotional situation happening, or something happening at home, or with a child; and that high level of stress might be causing or contributing their symptoms. You don’t need to say, “Oh, well, that’s your stress response that’s all jacked up.” First, we need to listen more than we speak. That’s number one. It’s so important.
Number two, if we allow them the opportunity to know that they did a great job, your words will be much better received by them than if we start rolling over the top of them. So you might say something like, “You know, Mary, I can see that you have really worked hard at your health and you’ve really tried. You’ve done a great job of researching, investigating, and finding products that you really think are going to help you. I want to commend you for that because that takes a lot of work and it takes time. You’ve done a great job and I love and appreciate that about you. Kudos to you, sister, for doing an awesome job at that.” Now, how’s the patient feeling? Like, “Hey, well, I might not have done it all right, but I did well. I did well. Okay.” Now, that patient’s going to be much more able to hear what you have to say. So, number one, listen more than you speak. Number two, affirm the patient. Let them know that they’ve done a really great job so far.
The third thing is to give them something actionable to do. What can they do today that doesn’t involve buying an herb, getting a supplement, going and having a test? What can they do today that will move them forward? So, one of the things that I see, I’m sure you see the same thing, is everybody’s got messed up digestion. Everyone does. So, one of the easiest things you can do is have them start to use bitters, just digestive bitters, Swedish bitters. Just have them get some bitters. And when they begin to take the bitters, they’ll start to feel better. And so, you give them a recommendation of whatever bitters you want them to have. I love the ones from Urban Moonshine, UrbanMoonshine.com, and they’re great. They have organic Swedish bitters or I think it might be organic digestive bitters. So, just a few drops in water to taste, however, whatever level of bitter they can tolerate and then have them just start drinking a little bit of those bitters in water with every meal.
It makes them feel like they’ve done something that has a direction, it’s focused, but without a target, their efforts will not be nearly as effective and it ends up costing them money. So, we can give them something actionable to do right away, that helps get them a win, a quick win. They can even go down to Whole Foods or their local health food store and just go buy some bitters and start there. Then give them another actionable thing to do. The most important thing is that whatever you give to them to do, make sure that it’s easy and they can feel like it’s a win. They can draft off of your compliment that they’ve done the right thing. Because remember, these patients are overwhelmed. There’s so much bad information on the internet about health. It’s really bad. I just got a text message from someone who is a family member and someone that she knows has kidney problems, and the kidney problems are heading towards dialysis. And so, this lady gets on the internet, and she starts researching, “What do you do for kidney failure?” Well, we know that a high sugar diet can influence kidneys and can cause kidney degradation, shall we say, or loss of function.
Over time, we’ll also know that the emotion associated with the kidneys is fear. So, if the person is fearful and they’re eating a lot of sugar, that’s a recipe for kidney problems down the road. So, this sweet lady is on blood pressure medication, she’s also on a blood thinner, and she is heading towards dialysis. So, I get this text message from a family member who says, “Hey, what can she do?” Now, I probably could have written this text message out without even reading it but here’s what I guarantee she is already doing, because of what she found on Dr. Google. She’s heading towards full-on kidney failure, so she’s going to start fasting 20 hours a day. She’s going to cut out almost all protein. She’s going to have nuts for a snack and she’s going to try and get super full twice during that four-hour period. So, she’s going to slug a bunch of food in for two hours and get super full, and then wait two hours, and jam a bunch more food in there and then she’s going to go 20 hours and not eat.
Because somewhere on Dr. Google that was what she was told to do. She’s taking chromium, berberine, bile, pancreas, astragalus, vitamin D and K2, magnesium, resveratrol, CoQ10, B-complex fish oil, a multivitamin, and she says, “I probably forgot a few things,” and she just is doing the best she can with the information that she has. So, now with all that money spent on all those supplements, it would be the worst thing that I could do to come in and say, “All right. You need to throw all that stuff in the trash, baby. We’re going to get those kidneys fixed. Here we go, boom, boom, boom. This is what we’re going to do.” That’s not respectful towards her. What I’d rather do is have a very genuine conversation with her, listen more than I speak, acknowledge the great job that she’s done trying to take care of her health, give her a few actionable things to do, and then explain very simply what my plan is.
That’s number four, what is the plan? Part of explaining the plan is making sure she understands that with kidneys, we’ve got to really make sure that her diet is right and that she will put more stress on those kidneys if she is not eating, and having a big flux of glucose during the four-hour window. And so, part of this is the education piece, but we can’t roll over the top of her with the education. We’ve got to come in slow. We’ve got to acknowledge that they’re doing the right thing and then educate and make a very simple plan because, for this particular patient, the one that I just talked about, she’s already overwhelmed. She’s scared. They’re talking about dialysis and she doesn’t want to do that. She’s relying on Dr. Google. So, you and I play a big role in helping these patients get better, but only if we can listen more than we speak. Let them tell their story. Make sure that you give them kudos, give them simple action steps, and then number four, lay out your plan, and do it using visual clues or visual images. Show how kidneys work or show how digestion works. Explain it very simply like a fifth-grade level and then the patient feels valued and respected. They feel like, “I’m going to be okay. I’ve got someone who knows what’s happening, and I’m going to be okay.”
And that, my friend, is how you take that patient relationship and you build a long-term relationship, not just short-term. They come in and you lay it all out. You send them out the door with $500 worth of tests or $2,000 worth of tests, supplements, and this or that, and they don’t come back. Start slow, get them a win, make rapport with them, get the relationship going, and they will stay with you. Even when it gets bumpy and things aren’t going the way that you think or their diet starts to get wonky, you’ve got their back and you stay right with them the whole time. Do that, and they will stay and be as loyal as loyal guests with you, but you have to go slow in the beginning. You can’t just rush right through this. I think it’s a huge mistake and it’s not intentional. I don’t think any of us do it intentionally, but I’ve been guilty of it and I try so hard now to make sure that I follow those four guidelines. I know when I do follow them, I can make sure that everything that I’m doing is wrapped inside those guidelines and I’m communicating with the patient, I find that they stay, and they’re more willing to do what I’m asking them to do. This then means that at the end of the day, they’re going to get better.
So, my friend, that’s my tip for you today. It was so appropriate. I wanted to share it with you because of this text message that came through. So, go do your thing. Find those people that love the sound of your voice, i.e., the beat of your drum, find your perfect patient, establish what your niche is because you can attract those patients that are the perfect ones for you, in other words, they’re the ones that need your superpower. Your superpower is different than my superpower and that’s what makes plenty of room for all of us to be doing what we do together in the same arena, the same space, the same place of wellness or holistic medicine.
So, thank you for joining me today. I’m so glad that you stopped by and you listened to the podcast today. Coming up, I have an online seminar that I’m doing and I’d love to have you join me. It’s on understanding and applying Functional Blood Chemistry in your practice. So, check out the show notes for the link. If you’re listening to this later and the seminar is already over, you can always get the seminar notes. You can purchase those online and that link will be in the show notes as well. So, my friend, take care. Go check out that Functional Blood Chemistry Online Seminar. You will love it, it’s a game-changer. I teach it all the time and everybody loves it and I really love teaching it. So, thank you again for joining me. Subscribe to the podcast wherever you listen. I’d love to have a review if you love what you’re hearing. Otherwise, I’ll see you back next week with another episode of The Clinical Entrepreneur Podcast. Take care.
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