One of the most important tools for any healthcare provider isn’t his or her knowledge of the latest medical breakthrough - it’s their ability to listen and communicate effectively with their patients.
While it seems like a simple skill, communication (and the lack thereof) is at the core of many serious patient care issues.
Poor doctor-patient communication has been linked to increased malpractice risk, lack of patient compliance with treatment plans, poor health outcomes and dissatisfaction for both patients and their healthcare providers, according to an article on the Institute for Healthcare Communication’s website.
Few healthcare providers are receiving training on effective communication, making it clear why this remains an issue in healthcare.
Read on to learn more about improving communication and the benefits healthcare providers can realize by strengthening their communication skills.
Better Communication Delivers Quality Healthcare
A patient interacts with a variety of healthcare providers during their stay - from doctors and nurses to technicians, patient care advocates and billing personnel.
When all members of the team are communicating clearly and consistently, it ensures that nothing is missed and any potential red flags are quickly identified and addressed.
When communication fails, it often results in medical errors. According to an article on the Institute for Healthcare Communication’s website, a study found that ineffective communication among the care team was the source of two-thirds of all medical errors.
Conversely, when a care team demonstrates good communication, all members are happier, turnover is lower and working relationships and job satisfaction are stronger, according to the article. These positive feelings also influenced patient care, with an increased ability for the care team to build a stronger relationship with patients.
Technology companies are stepping in and creating custom solutions to bridge the communication gap among care team members, according to an article in the Columbia Medical Review. Custom solutions have ranged from creating secure messaging platforms that allow team members to communicate quickly while meeting privacy standards to patient engagement tools that increase the number and consistency of doctor-patient communications.
Better Communication Leads To Increased Compliance
Medical apps are dramatically improving doctor-patient communication, from education to monitoring. Patients are able to monitor their vital signs, sending important data to their doctors. Doctors can review the data and are flagged with any issues before they become more serious.
Patients can also learn more about their medical conditions and make sure they’re doing their part to comply with their medication and treatment plans. Reminders to take medication or schedule a follow-up appointment also aid in a patient’s recovery.
According to an article on the Institute for Healthcare Communication’s website, patients that felt like they were understood by their care team showed an increased likelihood of following their post-discharge care plans, managing their chronic conditions and incorporating preventive care into their daily lives.
Better Communication Connects Medical Experts
Video conferencing and voice calling make spanning time zones or even continents effortless. Connecting on video allows doctors to share information, review test results and even view the patient, if needed.
While getting a second opinion or calling in a specialist once took days to set up, it now takes minutes. The diagnostic process can be radically shortened. In cases of rare diseases or injury, timesaving treatment can be administered quickly, mitigating damage caused by delayed treatment.
Better Communication Is Driven By Consistent, Clear Record Keeping
With hospital information systems, doctors and nurses have a centralized location for all patient data. Instead of wasting time searching multiple systems, entering data multiple times or trying to reconcile conflicting data, healthcare providers can easily search and share information.
Keeping all patient data in an electronic medical record also ensures that it can’t be changed or misplaced. If a patient needs to see a healthcare provider at another hospital, it’s easy for the new doctor to review a patient’s records without worrying that they’re incomplete.
Better Communication Starts With Personnel Training
Perhaps the easiest way to improve communication with patients is also the simplest - just listen. According to an article in the Columbia Medical Review, doctors interrupted a patient during their initial statement 77 percent of the time. And they found the average time of this interruption was just 18 seconds into the conversation.
By improving patient communication, doctors not only improve patient care, they also save money. A study cited on Columbia Medical Review found an estimated $765 billion in wasted healthcare spending. More than 50 percent of that was due to inefficient and unneeded procedures as well as missed chances to offer preventive care.
The article also found that when the care team worked together, the length of a patient’s stay decreased and their overall health outcome improved.
Better Communication Includes Teaching Patients, Too
Doctors can improve their patient communication by teaching patients a few key listening techniques. According to an article in the Columbia Medical Review, tactics such as “teach-back,” where a patient explains the information from the doctor back to them, were successful in closing the communication gap.
An article on the Institute for Healthcare Communication’s website found that doctors could also improve patient communication and understanding by asking open-ended questions, using reflective listening and empathy.
Closing The Communication Gap
Clear, consistent communication is the foundation of patient care. Taking the time to develop stronger communication skills and pairing them with the right technology can dramatically improve patient outcomes, save money and increase the engagement and job satisfaction of the care team.
Investing in custom software or mobile apps can help support effective communication between doctors and patients, closing the gaps caused by insufficient, poorly designed software.
How have you improved communication between healthcare providers and patients in your hospital? Any tips you can share?
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