Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

How do you humanize your patient encounters?


“For me the secret is in pre-charting really well so that I can truly focus on and relate with the human before me!”-Dr. Colleen Christmas, Johns Hopkins Medicine

Connecting with Patients | August 17, 2022 | <1 min read


Dr. Colleen Christmas, Johns Hopkins Medicine

For me the secret is in pre-charting really well so I’m up to date on any other visits since I last saw them, reviewed labs and preventative stuff due, and can minimize clicks on the EMR and enter the room with a calm mind. I can truly focus on and relate with the human before me!

Dr. David Kopacz, University of Washington

Well, I wrote a whole book on it! “Re-humanizing Medicine: Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine.” Short answer, you can’t give what you don’t have. We need to cultivate our humanity as clinicians to be able to connect to the full humanity of patients.

What do you think?

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Dr. Kavita Chapla, Johns Hopkins Medicine

I try to close the distance between myself and the patient by speaking to them like a neighbor/friend, being open about things I don’t know, reflecting on the gifts they bring to our relationship, and regarding them as THE expert of their experience of illness.

Dr. Susan Mirabel

I learned from @MackLipkin not only to check my assumptions at the door, but to check myself, my mood, my tone, and my attitude. I do a mini-meditation as I approach the door. “I must be full in order to share.”

Rev. Margot Willis, nurse

Look at them, listen actively, and ask or mention things important to them. Smile and make eye contact. Always ask if they have other questions or concerns before leaving the room.

Dr. Carl Streed, Boston Medical Center

I ask how have they been since last we met in-person. And then ask them what they want to talk about today.

Dr. Richard Schaefer, Johns Hopkins Medicine

Small chit chat before discussing chief concern. Ask about weather, traffic, weekend, sports team (especially if patient wearing team gear), etc. Non-clinical things that are of interest to both patient and doctor as humans, separate from their encounter roles.

Dr. Eric Last, Northwell Health

With established patients I try to “pay it forward.” try to remember something I learned last time (birthday, wedding, etc.) and ask how it went. Or something I know they like and ask about it.