Dr Tattersall has treated the same patients, and increasingly more members of the same families, for decades. It is probably safe to assume that, over time, this familiarity and intimacy has led to some strong doctor–patient relationships, where communication has been good.
“Part of being a doctor is finding out everything about the patient. I’ve always maintained this approach – this ‘goodwill’ of communicating well with patients – and this has prevented any new risks in my practice. The relationship between doctor and patient is absolutely vital. Your interest in them as people, and in their families, their lives – it’s why people keep coming back to see me.”
It is probably also why some doctors reduce their medicolegal risk. MPS has campaigned exhaustively through its publications, workshops and conferences about the value of good communication, and our own figures have justified this by showing how poor communication is consistently among the top risks for those working in healthcare. Patients are unlikely to be equipped to assess the technical competency of a doctor, so will frequently judge the quality of clinical competence by their experience or their interpersonal interactions.
Such factors as your body language – eye contact, turning your body to face the patient – play their part in establishing a strong rapport and therefore an effective line of communication with your patient. Allowing the patient to speak, without interrupting them, is another factor – and is even more vital when one considers that patients are unlikely to present their information in order of clinical relevance.