Communication Skills Get the Message Across

When advising patients on weight management, avoid these obstacles to good communication:

  • Avoiding eye contact may make the patient feel ignored or question adequacy of care or attention.
  • Arguing with patients may intimidate them and cause them to "shut down" or disengage during the office visit.
  • Placing blame could make patients doubt their self-worth or feel hopeless.
  • Failing to address patients’ requests can make them feel they lack control over their own health care.
  • Failing to explore patients’ health history and congratulating good practices may cause patients to become dejected or despondent.

Use these effective communication aids:

  • Engage patients in a discussion about health routines — lifestyle, diet, and exercise — and encourage them to make needed changes.
  • Review weight management options, including pharmacotherapy and surgery and ensure patients are aware of all options that are important to developing a well-integrated weight management plan.
  • Treat patients as partners in developing an effective weight management program to empower them to take control of their own health care.
  • Ask questions, rather than making authoritative statements. Ask about the types of weight management efforts patients have attempted in the past to show you will provide individual attention, rather than just dictate instructions.
  • Help patients set modest, realistic goals. Setting the standard too high may be overwhelming and increase the likelihood patients will drop out of the weight management plan.
  • Follow up with patients. Show patients that you care about them as a partner in the weight management process.

Get your office staff involved:

  • Tell employees which patients who are trying to lose weight so staff will ask patients how their routines are going.
  • If staff see these patients are making progress, the employees should say so. The extra support provides a network for the patients and encourages them to continue.

Source: Adapted from Obesity: Weighing in on a National Health Problem. Executive Summary. Mount Olive, NJ: Knoll Pharmaceutical Co.; year?