Sharing medical test results, especially negative ones, is a sensitive process. What you are about to communicate to your patient is going to alter their life. How you provide this information plays a big role in how your patient will absorb it. Although receptionist oftentimes handles these matters over the phone, a 2015 study found that patients are dissatisfied with their general practitioner’s lack of availability when it came to disclosing results. Regardless of who gives the news, it’s important that they’re relayed in an appropriate manner. We’ve made a short guide on how professionals in the medical industry can share negative results with patients.

1. Ask How They Prefer to Hear Them

Determine how the patient would like their results communicated, whether it be through email, phone, or in person. When dealing with upsetting results, an in-person consultation would be ideal.

2. Understand Your Patient’s Mental State

As their doctor, you’ll have access to all your patient’s medical records, so if they have any documented anxiety disorders you should be aware ahead of time. Over 40 million adults in the U.S. are affected by some form of anxiety disorder, and this is certain to affect how they mentally cope with receiving their results.

3. Ensure Their Comfort

Do everything you can to make your patient feel comfortable while they receive their results. Offer them a glass of water and lead them to a relaxed environment, such as your office, where you can speak in private. From here, if your patient requires further evaluation, ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible by investing in high-quality equipment such as tilt or echo tables.

4. Be Clear

If possible, explain things is simple terms. Too many medical terms and jargon may cause your patient to feel uncomfortable and make things appear to be worse than they already are. Be sure that you make things easy to understand and regularly ask your patient if they have any questions.

5. Provide Resources

Your patient is going to receive a lot of information, and it’s challenging for them to retain it all in a mere few minutes. Your patient is going to need time to process what they’re hearing. The best way for them to achieve this is to learn more about their results and what complications may occur in the future. Be sure to provide them with pamphlets and online resources regarding their condition.

6. Show Empathy

You’re not a faceless person with a lab coat and a stethoscope­—you’re someone that’s there to help your patient in every possible way. Help them understand that you’re aware of what they’re going through and you’re there to offer support. Putting your patient first shows them that you care and is going to maximize their trust in you.

7. Document Everything

When you share the news with your patient, both parties should have physical documentation of your meeting that confirms you had a conversation and outlines who communicated the information. A paper trail avoids any potential confusion that could arise in the future.

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