Feb 06, 2019
Patient-centered care encourages patients to take an active role in their healthcare, but in order to be more informed and ready for action, a solid base of communication must be established between care providers and their patients. How can physicians lay the foundation for good communication the moment they first interact with patients in a hospital setting? There are a few good habits physicians can establish that are backed by empirical evidence.
The initial diagnostic conversations are the start of all patient care, but research shows doctors struggle to interact with patients, at least from the patient's point of view. A study published recently in the Journal of General Internal Medicine revealed that more than half of physicians fail to adequately elicit patient concerns or listen carefully to what they have to say. When physicians do ask, most interrupt the patient within 11 seconds of their answer.
It's is understandable that doctors' schedules keep them very busy. Between seeing upwards of 20 patients or more in a single day to following up on lab results, answering calls, and working through a lot of paperwork and administrative work, doctors are hard-pressed to keep patient conversations short. They have a series of questions they need answered, and they need to get through them quickly, but patient-centered care requires doctors to listen, sympathize and let their patients know they are well cared for.
When patients are asked open-ended questions and are allowed to give thorough answers, they feel more connected with doctors. These conversations allow patients to express the issues, concerns and ailments they have. They also allow physicians to take in all the information they need to make a proper diagnosis.
In life, we often feel the frustration of interacting with people we do not perceive are giving us their full attention. Technology has exacerbated this feeling, and it's not uncommon to experience the frustration of speaking to someone who seems absorbed in their smartphone. This feeling carries over to the healthcare field. Studies have shown that patients prefer doctors not use their computers while interacting with them. While health records systems are essential in healthcare, and computers are an essential for entering and maintaining patient records, patients prefer that doctors give them their full attention. At the very least, the study revealed, they prefer it when their doctors take notes using a pen and paper.
In order to give patients the level of attention they want, physicians are making use of scribes to handle documentation while communicating with patients or handwriting notes that scribes can use later to input vital health information on patients.
While patients want to feel as if they are being listened to, it's also important for them to retain any information that is given to them about their condition and hospital stay. Communication aids like patient room whiteboards are an effective tool that allow physicians to accomplish both these tasks. Studies show that using whiteboards in hospital settings improves patient-centered care and makes patients more aware of important information (goals for admission, discharge dates, etc.) regarding their care.
Whiteboards are tools physicians can use to interact with patients while providing them necessary information in a simple, more interactive way. Rather than asking questions and simply taking notes, physicians can document patient goals, concerns and symptoms in a segmented section on a board within the patient's room, keeping them there for patients, physicians and care teams to see.