The current state of our healthcare system leaves much to be desired. One area in particular where improvements could be made is in physician-patient communication. Below is a brief look into how medical professionals might enhance their side of the conversation to improve patient satisfaction and, in turn, patient outcomes.
There are many roadblocks when it comes to effective communication in healthcare. A significant factor is that patients often do not possess the health literacy to fully comprehend medical information, whether it’s given orally or through written instructions. In fact, research shows only a mere 12% of adults are proficient in health literacy. When there is a lack of understanding in this area, it can make communicating with providers more difficult, negatively impact self-care and have other detrimental effects on patient outcomes.
To combat this and similar factors impacting communication, it’s important for physicians to be mindful of how they interact with patients and make strides to develop more meaningful relationships. Doing so often starts with establishing trust from the onset. When first greeting a patient, it’s vital to maintain eye contact and take steps to make him or her comfortable. Along the same lines is remaining empathetic while practicing active listening. If a patient misses out on these valuable conducts, it could lead to feelings of being unacknowledged or uncomfortable. Although it may seem challenging to build a rapport at times, it’s an important consideration for doctors of all disciplines.
When it comes time to explain patient values, treatment options and other technical information, a key thing to remember is that even the slightest of changes in tone or word choice can be beneficial. The same goes for watching non-verbal cues, since these may affect the patient’s perception of the physician as well as what’s being communicated. It also helps to ask patients to repeat what was said when instructing on self-care or medication use. Putting effort behind these actions helps to foster trust and leads to a healthy partnership between physician and patient.
On a larger scale, there are ways to improve patient outcomes from the organizational level. For instance, there are many cases where patients may require more time spent with their doctor to fully understand what has been discussed. Structural changes could be put into place to allow additional time, despite heavy workloads stemming from staffing shortages and other issues impacting the healthcare industry. Furthermore, patients should be encouraged to make regular appointments. This helps to reassure patients that their recovery is being prioritized and attended to by those they’ve entrusted with their care.
For more information on the importance of effective physician-patient communication, please see the accompanying resource.