An RMT’s Guide to Dealing with Difficult Patients
Throughout your career you will be faced with difficult patients. These are not patients with difficult conditions to treat. Instead these are patients who will be difficult to manage. Difficult patients can be very trying on you and your staff. They are demanding and often unreasonable and can have unrealistic expectations in not only their treatment but also in the demands made on you and your staff. Difficult patients can wreak havoc on a practice if not handled properly. Here is a guide to help you stop difficult patients from manipulating your time and emotions.
This is the most important rule when dealing with all patients. Effective communication is the cornerstone of good patient/healthcare provider relationships. If you are not effective in communicating with your patients even the easy going patients can be turned into difficult patients. Start by ensuring all of your office policies are clearly explained to all new patients. This includes expectations regarding payment, cancellation and no show policies and policies on lateness. Then be certain you have an effective questionnaire that identifies all patient issues and concerns in order to collect information not only on their condition but on their expectations. Review the questionnaire at the first appointment and take the time to ask questions so you get a good feeling for their needs. Be sensitive and listen carefully and take notes so you can remember the special needs or expectations of each patient. Then be certain you are clear with expected reactions to treatment such as pain following or during treatment. If possible provide handouts on the treatment so they have something in writing that will support your treatment is progressing as expected. This will help set a good foundation and will demonstrate you are professional and organized at your clinic. This is important if you practice from home or visit people’s homes as well, not just in a clinical setting.
The Importance of Policies
Whether you are on your own or have a practice with staff, policies will prove to be an invaluable tool when dealing with difficult patients. Have your policies posted at home where you treat patients, in the waiting room of a clinic or have a pamphlet you give patients if you provide home massage. This same policy in the exact same wording should be reviewed with the patient when they book their first appointment and you can even have the major points that might be cause for dispute listed and signed by each patient at their first appointment. When issues arise you can then refer to the written policies instead of arguing with the patient, or worse giving in to them. Many difficult patients are bullies at heart and are used to getting what they want by being aggressive. Always stand by your policy in order to maintain control of the situation and your practice.
Disruptive and Unmanageable Patients
Luckily most patient/RMT issues are resolved when a review of policies is made or a discussion with the patient is performed to find a way to continue care without issue. Many difficult patients will end the relationship on their own as they are either embarrassed or feel they will find someone else to meet their needs. When they do leave count your blessings and carry on. It is also a good idea to record any disputes or “events” involving the patient’s behaviour in case it becomes necessary to discharge them. If they don’t leave and are proving to be disruptive to your practice or unmanageable due to their behaviour you can legally discharge the client in accordance with public health standard 16.