Communication

The patient should be able to gain access to the clinician on the phone, by e-mail, or by an early appointment, without having to run an obstacle course created by an overly protective staff. Delay in returning a phone call may result in a patient remaining home all day waiting; if the call is not returned at all, the negative effect on rapport is great.

Unwillingness to make communication convenient for the patient usually results in a spiral of increasingly frequent attempts to reach the physician and mounting frustration for everyone. In contrast, physicians who give a high priority to communicating discover that most patients are considerate and even protective of the physician's time. At the beginning of a practice, patients do a certain amount of testing to determine a physician's accessibility; physicians who pass the test find that they are rarely inconvenienced by unnecessary calls or patient visits.

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