Imagine that you go to a doctor for acute back pain, you obviously need treatment and keep following that up until it mitigates. But here is when things can go different, let’s see two possible interactions with two doctors.
This first doctor just hands you a pre-made patient instruction sheet and gives you very brief comments about it, like exercise, diet, and weight loss to mitigate the pain and come back for check-ups. Basically a “do-this-and-call-me” kind of approach.
The second doctor begins by telling you a story of a similar treatment he had with another patient which worked well:
“I had a patient with a similar problem before, he was a very busy man so there was definitely not much time left on his schedule for a full exercise routine. However, he started walking most mornings for an hour before going to work. It was an easy habit to build and not very stressful. Gradually he lost 10 pounds and that reduced his back pain. You can try implementing a similar habit to your routine, it can help you start with the treatment.
See the contrast between the two doctors? Which one would help you stick more to the treatment? Good storytelling can go a long way, it helps to connect the needs of the patients to a solution in a more realistic way. The information given by both doctors was basically the same -weight loss for improvement- but with the storytelling approach, the patients are more likely to stick to the treatment given.
As a doctor, you already have the background, training, and experience needed to get storytelling material. Plus, the patients already see you as an authority and trust you, which helps with success.
Here are some tips you can use to tell a great story:
Organize the way you tell these stories so they are easier to understand. Keep in mind the message you want to transmit.
Stories need a beginning, middle, and ending. Skipping one of these might give your patient a sense of confusion. And remember to make your first and last words memorable.
Keep it short. An extensive story might get the opposite outcome. Go for clarity and emphasize just what you and your patient needs.
A good story needs a conflict. It’s more interesting to hear a story when there’s a challenge or problem that gets a solution.
Tell real stories –even if they’re not real- by identifying times, and places, connecting with real people’s circumstances, and touching feelings.
Begin your story with the end in mind. If you know where you want to go, the beginning and the middle are easier to create.
It might be difficult at first, but with these tips and a bit of practice, you’ll be improving the engagement with your patients in no time. Remember that better communication, understanding, and compliance are the results when you give a message that resonates with your patient’s needs.
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