Patients’ experience with family doctors’ listening

Patients’ survey rating of the way their family doctors listened to them. (see data dictionary)

What do you think?

  • What has been your experience with a family doctor listening to your health concerns?
  • What might you see or hear from a doctor that demonstrates they are listening?

Understanding “felt listened to”

In a survey conducted October 2018 to January 2019, the HQCA asked patients, “how would you rate the way your doctor listened to you in your most recent visit?”

Patients could choose “excellent / very good / good / fair / poor”.

Patient experience is likely better if patients feel the reason for their visit is addressed and they are able to share what is important to them with appropriate acknowledgement from their doctor in return. For example, it is common for patients to have more than one issue to discuss at their appointment. Asking inviting questions and paraphrasing can be great ways to ensure patients feel listened to. Likewise, so is removing all signs or messaging relating to one issue per visit.

Considerations when viewing the results

There are a number of factors that family doctor’s offices can consider if looking to improve experiences with doctor’s listening to their patients. Some questions they could ask include:

  • What processes are in place to learn what the patient wants to talk about during their visit?
  • Does the doctor start by asking patients what they would like to address during this visit? A common strategy is to “wait till eight”. Eight seconds is a common amount of time to wait for a response after asking a question.
  • Are patients interrupted when they are speaking?
  • Does the patient have the ability to bring up other things that are important to them even if they are outside the main reason for the visit?
  • Are patients encouraged to write down what they hope to cover during the visit? Some patients might benefit from jotting their thoughts down in advance.

For information about the HQCA’s patient experience surveys offered to individual clinics in Alberta, please visit the HQCA website.

The Health Quality Council of Alberta uses the Alberta Quality Matrix for Health as a way of organizing information and thinking around the complexity of the healthcare system. The information in this chart can be used as input to think and have conversations about primary healthcare in Alberta using the lens of the dimensions of quality shown on the right:

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Dimensions of Quality

  • Acceptability
  • Accessibility
  • Appropriateness
  • Effectiveness
  • Efficiency
  • Safety