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One key to improving medical care: listening

Strong healthcare relationships start with basic courtesies, like using a patient’s preferred name

Talk less, listen more. That’s Dr. Kyle Jordan’s goal in every patient visit.

“Primary care medicine is about reaching out to people and creating connections so there aren’t barriers to care,” he says. “Sometimes, the crucial piece of information isn’t the first sentence a patient tells you — sometimes, it’s the last sentence that slipped out almost by accident. If I jump in too early, I might miss something important.”

Dr. Jordan has a wealth of medical knowledge, but knowing what information to share — and when — is dictated by quality conversations with patients. Strong doctor-patient relationships are essential to improving access to proper care, and building those relationships often starts before Dr. Jordan meets patients face-to-face.

“Things like having posters and literature in patient areas, using people’s preferred pronouns and names — they’re all very important when working with cultures that have been historically suppressed. They’re ways of validating a patient’s personhood, and making sure they feel heard,” Dr. Jordan says. “Patients need to feel comfortable talking to their doctor. If your trust level isn’t high, the fractured relationship will affect your health.”

On your side

During his medical residency in Wyoming, Dr. Jordan saw how broader social issues created barriers to care, particularly for LGBTQ patients who didn’t feel they were represented in the healthcare system.

“I recognized a need and took time to educate myself — I have a whole lot of knowledge in terms of medicine, but am always searching for better ways to apply it in people’s lives,” he says.

In the exam room at Pacific Medical Centers (PacMed) Totem Lake, Dr. Jordan sees patient conversations like a walk down a long hallway with doors on either side. The patient will open some doors, the doctor will knock on others. For a 25-year-old with no previous medical conditions, mental health is likely to be the most important door. For a 55-year-old, colon cancer screening and heart disease are more common. A transgender patient may want to open the hormone replacement therapy door, and Dr. Jordan will make sure that’s a safe and healthy option. As a family doctor he’s often a first point of contact for nutrition counseling, blood work, sexual health education, and other common questions.

“I’m in this with you, as a team member. I’m not here to carry or push you, I’m here to walk beside you,” he says. “You just have to come and talk. It can be nuanced and difficult, but it’s worth it.”

Dr. Jordan is accepting new patients at Pacific Medical Centers (PacMed) Totem Lake, 12910 Totem Lake Blvd. NE in Kirkland. To make an appointment call 425-814-5000 or book online at pacmed.org.