Alan Reed on navigating conversations between patient and provider

Managing patient expectations is easier said than done, and effective communication is often the simplest way to accomplish it.

For Alan Reed, MD, MBA, professor and chief of the Division of Transplantation and Hepatobiliary Surgery, the Provider Communication Program improved his ability to both manage expectations and set an agenda.

The Provider Communication Program is available to all physicians, APPs, PAs, and ARNPs within UI Health Care. Sign-up today!

“The importance of being able to communicate clearly helps both you and the patient understand the other’s expectations and, ultimately, get to a level communication plane,” says Reed. “I think that’s really critical, especially when we are trying to manage complex expectations.”

Tips you can use

Led by our own expertly-trained UI Health Care providers, the program strives to improve the communication skills necessary to ensure the clinical process is enjoyable for both patient and provider.

Based on the volume of patients he sees, Reed emphasizes that transplantation, in particular, is heavily-focused on patient discussion and explanation of competing risks, making effective communication essential in ensuring a high-quality experience for the patient.

Alan Reed, MD, MBA

“I make a point to ask them what they hope to get from our interaction so we’re able to set an agenda,” says Reed. “By doing that, their expectations are level-set with what I hope to provide them from the very beginning.”

Effective communication is something all providers—both young and experienced—strive for. In that way, the Provider Communication Program has valuable information for every provider.

“What was interesting is that, even being fairly seasoned. I learned a few good tips,” says Reed. “If an old guy like me who’s set in his ways can learn something new, then so can providers in the early or even the middle part of their careers.”

The burden of disease

Aside from just educating him on new communication techniques, Reed says the program also made him more empathetic to the patient point of view.

“Navigating the health care system is difficult,” says Reed. “The burden of disease and the insurance landscape—in the case of organ transplantation—is a heavy one to carry for patients. If you can use communication to uncouple that burden from the medical reasons they’ve come to see you, I think that ultimately makes their experience better.”

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As a multi-faceted approach to communication, the program uses small and large group scenarios to teach techniques on connecting with patients, setting an agenda, closing out patient visits, and more.

“It’s impossible to take the script from ‘soup to nuts’ and employ it in your practice,” says Reed. “They’re clear about that. It’s more about taking two or three things that you deem useful, incorporating them into your practice, and seeing what you can get out of it. It’s about exploring what works for you and what doesn’t.”