5 Tips on How to Improve the Patient Experience by Changing Your Body Language

Effective communication between clinicians and patients is vital to ensure better care outcomes. While we often focus on how to improve the patient experience by being more careful with our words, we may not realize the important role our body language plays in making patients feel comfortable and understood.

Body language is vital in improving the patient experience as it conveys non-verbal messages, helps clinicians understand emotions, builds trust, and facilitates collaboration between clinicians and patients. This knowledge makes clinicians uniquely positioned to provide effective treatment, empathy, understanding, and a sense of partnership that patients yearn for in their care journey. 

In this blog post, we will explore five essential habits clinicians should be aware of during patient interactions to cultivate a harmonious care relationship.

1. Check Their Body Language

Body language conveys more than words ever can. Clinicians must be attuned to their patients’ verbal expressions and the non-verbal cues they emit. Patients may not always articulate their concerns verbally. Still, their body language can reveal anxiety, discomfort, or confusion. By paying attention to cues like facial expressions, posture, and gestures, clinicians can gain deeper insights into their patients’ emotional states and needs.

For instance, a patient crossing their arms may signal defensiveness or discomfort. Meanwhile, a patient leaning forward with engaged eye contact can indicate active participation and trust. Acknowledging these non-verbal signals allows clinicians to tailor their approach, providing more empathetic and patient-centered care.


2. Mirror Your Patient

Mirroring is a powerful technique that subtly emulates a patient’s body language to establish rapport and trust. When clinicians mirror their patients, it creates a sense of connection and understanding. Patients tend to feel more at ease when they sense their clinician is “in sync” with them.

Mirroring can be as simple as matching the patient’s pace of speech, adopting a similar posture, or using gestures that align with the patient’s communication style. However, it’s crucial to employ this technique subtly and respectfully, as overt mirroring may come across as insincere.


3. Be More Attentive

In today’s fast-paced world, clinicians often face time constraints and heavy workloads. Nevertheless, being fully present during patient interactions is essential for building trust and enhancing the patient experience. Patients want to feel heard and understood, and attentive body language is key to active listening.

Clinicians should maintain eye contact, avoid distractions, and employ open and welcoming body language to convey attentiveness. Simple gestures like nodding in agreement, leaning slightly forward to show interest, or putting your phone down signal to patients that their concerns are valued.

4. Understand Emotional Impact

The care journey can sometimes be an emotional rollercoaster for patients, encompassing fear, uncertainty, relief, and gratitude. Clinicians can positively impact the patient experience by helping patients navigate these emotional ups and downs by paying attention to their body language.

Clinicians can convey understanding and support using empathetic gestures like a reassuring touch on the shoulder, a comforting tone of voice, or a warm smile. Such gestures can significantly impact a patient’s emotional well-being and perception of the quality of care they receive.

5. Support Our Teammates with Our Gestures

Effective healthcare is a collaborative effort involving the patient and their primary clinician and a team of clinical and non-clinical staff. In this context, body language is pivotal in demonstrating unity, respect, and support among the healthcare team.

Clinicians should use body language to convey trust and respect for their colleagues. Gestures like a firm handshake, a pat on the back, or a shared smile during a team meeting can foster a sense of camaraderie and collaboration. When patients witness such unity among their healthcare providers, it bolsters their confidence in the care they are receiving.

In patient-affirming care, body language is an unspoken yet potent tool for building trust, enhancing communication, and fostering collaboration. By embracing these five essential habits, clinicians can cultivate a healthcare environment where patients feel heard, valued, and actively engaged in their care.

This blog post is based on our Body Language Skill project in partnership with Mark Shapiro, MD. For more information about this program, please contact connect@practicingexcellence.com. For more, here’s a sample video.

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