It is very important to build a strong and reliable relationship between the patient and the speech-language pathologist (SLP). Healthcare professionals in general have very important functions, which may in the personal lives of the people they serve. Working through the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of various diseases, providers often end up accompanying patients for weeks, months or even years.

As such, empathy is an essential component to the patient-provider relationship. In this period of social distancing, many professionals have incorporated telehealth into their practice, providing several advantages for both sides. Patients continued to be seen and accompanied from wherever they were and providers were able to continue their care despite lockdowns and commuting limitations. 

Effective care from a distance requires the same professional attention as in-person service delivery. Here are 7 basic behavioral recommendations for developing a good patient-provider relationship, either in person or online. Check them out!

Focus on the patient

Before starting,take a moment to prepare for the session. It is important that, if you are still thinking about the previous case, you take a deep breath and release the tension so as not to carry on any of the previous worry to the next meeting. Think about the individual who is going to enter the session, what you know about him or her, what you still need to know, what is the reason for the appointment, and your plan during the time you will be together. Maximize your time with focus.

Establish a connection with the patient

Try connecting with the patient right from the start. Break the ice by engaging in a 5-minute small talk.This interpersonal contact seeks to put the patient at ease and develop a harmonic relationship.

Assess the patient’s response to the problem

The diagnosis and treatment of the patient is the main topic, but still, it is very important to evaluate the patient’s response in relation to the reason for the visit. Why is this important? Patients who have a partnership and trustful relationship with their provider, can potentially contribute positively to the outcome of the encounter. Usually, by sharing aspects about their routine may give hints as to how the problem  may be affecting them. Try building this empathetic listening relationship.

Communicate to promote healing

Communication with patients requires three things: authenticity – allowing the patient to see who you really are; acceptance – showing that you value the person even if you disagree with some of their actions; and understanding – being sensitive to what the patient is experiencing.

Sometimes, patients may be resistant or remain defensive about recommendations. Healthcare professionals can approach these difficult conversations wisely, saying something such as: “I understand how you feel about this and I can’t imagine how difficult this may be for you. This is what my skills, knowledge, evidence-based practice, and/or experience show in regards to this particular issue. Let’s work together to find the best suitable solution that will meet your needs. Count on me.” Communicate on a horizontal level to your patient, and not on a vertical one. Communicate to promote healing.


People’s health is serious and deserves undivided attention. However, this doesn’t mean that there is a need to be in a constant serious mood.. Smiling, especially during online SLP sessions  is very important. Humor may break barriers and  establish a connection, relieve anxiety and help to convey messages in a lighter way, in addition to intensifying healing and eliminating anger and frustration.

Be empathetic

Try to put yourself in the patient’s shoes. Communicate your empathy through eye-contact, listening, and verbal expression, saying something like: “I understand how difficult it must be for you”. This can help strengthen the patient-provider relationship.

Do you know other tips to improve the relationship between you and your patients? Share with us!