2013 AAFP Scientific Assembly

Fascinating Patients Is Key to Communication, Says Speaker

October 01, 2013 01:22 pm David Mitchell San Diego –

During a typical office visit, family physicians have no more than 15 minutes to evaluate and talk with patients, but they actually may have even less time than they realize to get their messages across. That's because the average attention span of most patients, which used to be close to 20 minutes, has dwindled to nine seconds, or roughly the same attention span as that of a goldfish(sallyhogshead.com), according to Sally Hogshead, the speaker at a Sept. 27 general session at the AAFP's 2013 Scientific Assembly here.

Speaker Sally Hogshead told a general session audience at Scientific Assembly that patients will be more loyal, more trusting and more likely to adhere to physicians' instructions when physicians communicate in a way that is fascinating.

"How can you hold someone's attention in this world?" asked Hogshead, a former advertising executive turned researcher, author and consultant. "You have something important to say. It literally could be life or death."

According to Hogshead, whose book is titled Fascinate, it is a physician's job to communicate in a way that will fascinate his or her patients. Fascinating patients will result in patients who are more loyal, more trusting and more likely to adhere to instructions.

The daughter of a physician, Hogshead said patients don't necessarily need more communication from their physicians so much as they need better communication. The way for a physician to do that, she said, is to play to his or her strengths. "There has never been a more important time to understand how your personality fascinates your patients," she said. "There has never been a greater opportunity to build your practice and help your patients to listen to you and believe you. You do that by fascinating them."

Hogshead developed a 28-question personality test(www.howtofascinate.com) that determines which two of seven triggers -- passion, trust, mystique, prestige, power, alarm and rebellion -- a person is most likely to use when trying to persuade another person to do something. All the possible combinations of primary and secondary triggers add up to 49 different personality archetypes(www.howtofascinate.com), according to Hogshead.

More than 200,000 people have taken the test during the past three years. For the general population, trust ranked as the sixth most common out of the seven primary triggers. Among the more than 2,000 family physicians who took the test prior to Hogshead's Assembly presentation, it ranked first.

One-fourth of family physicians who responded to Hogshead's survey had trust as a primary trigger, compared to 11 percent of the general population. Nearly 8 percent of family physicians had trust and mystique as their primary and secondary triggers, a combination Hogshead refers to as "The Vault," someone who is analytical, discreet and understated. Seven percent of respondents had trust and alarm as their primary and secondary triggers, a combination Hogshead calls the "Good Citizen" -- someone who is conscientious, modest and preventive.

Seven percent had mystique as a primary trigger and trust as secondary trigger. These "Wise Owls" tend to be observant, assured and unruffled, according to Hogshead.

Hogshead's research indicates that people with trust as a primary trigger garner respect and maintain loyalty through their dependability and consistency in chaotic environments. Five defining personality characteristics of such a person are that he or she is stable, dependable, familiar, predictable and comforting. People with the mystique trigger are influential because they are understated, complex, rational, reserved and deliberate.

"It really doesn't matter how you see the world," Hogshead said. "What matters is how the world sees you."