The most important part of speaking with your patients is making sure that they understand the information you’re giving them. They base everything around their understanding of your words, so it’s crucial that you make sure they understand everything before leaving your office. Unfortunately, there will be times when you need to explain a diagnosis without relying on complex medical terms that the average person would otherwise be unaware of, so as a medical professional, it’s your job to figure out a way to explain these concepts in a way everyone will understand. Here are some strategies to help do that.

Start with Explaining the Big Picture

When you’re explaining complex situations, you should start by painting the big picture for your patients. It’s helpful to frame a situation in a way that’ll drive the main points home in a way that covers both your concerns and those of your patient. You’ll be able to address your patient’s concerns through this method while still emphasizing your main concern as well.

Use Patient-Friendly Terminology

Unless your patient is also in the medical field (or just so happens to be interested in medical terminology), it’s more than likely that your patient won’t understand what you’re saying if you explain their diagnosis in complex terms. Because of this, you need to use clear language and avoid technical jargon that will confuse them. Make sure your explanations are easy to understand and communicated clearly—your patient might not understand what you mean by “hepatic” disease, but they’ll know what a liver is. 

Despite this importance, you shouldn’t oversimplify your explanations either. You don’t want to talk down to or diminish your patient’s comprehension skills, after all, and treat them like a child (unless the patient actually is a child). Look for clues to indicate your patient’s comprehension and understanding and explain the situation based on these levels.

Check-In With Your Patient

In order to communicate effectively, you need to check with your patient to make sure they understand what you’re saying. Making assumptions can lead to situations that would otherwise have been avoidable down the line, so you must make sure you and your patient are on the same page when communicating with one another. Their life experiences could color what you say in a different way than you intend, after all, and if that’s the case, you’ll want to make sure that you’re both on the same page rather than let misunderstandings fester.