Oct 24, 2019
Communication between patients and providers has wide-reaching effects across the entire course of treatment. It’s more than simply relaying information from healthcare professionals to their patients, and its effects can be felt in everything from HCAHPS scores to treatment outcomes.
The effects of good communication are well documented. Effective communication can help:
How providers can improve their communication skills and work together with patients during their hospital stay has also been the subject of many studies, and researchers have identified four major areas that can help improve patient/provider communication, yielding better patient outcomes and satisfaction in care.
Communication extends well beyond the words that are spoken and heard, and the perception patients have of how well a provider is communicating includes things like:
- Eye contact
- Facial expressions
- Paralanguage (intonation, pitch, speed of speaking, hesitation noises, gestures, etc.)
It’s not always what is being said, but how it is being said. This is especially true in the hospital setting, where anxiety can be high. Speaking too quickly, hesitating often and not maintaining eye contact can all lead to anxious patients, decreasing their satisfaction in their care and limiting the amount of information they can absorb.
Verbal communication skills are far more than simply speaking in a clear and concise manner. It also includes skills like:
- Attentive and active listening
- Choosing words wisely (i.e. avoiding inappropriate words)
Communicating is a two-way street. Providers must not only convey vital information but also allow ample time for patients to ask questions and speak what is on their minds. When listening, it’s best for healthcare professionals to be attentively listening, asking follow-up questions and engaging with their patients, which lets them know that they are being heard and that what they are saying matters. Patients want to feel acknowledged, and positive verbal communication cues will go a long way during conversation.
In order to improve communication with patients, healthcare professionals need to be cognizant of what information they are providing to patients. If too little information is given, anxiety can set in because the patient is unsure of what will happen. At the same time, giving too much information can confuse or overwhelm a patient, which can also cause significant anxiety. There is a balance that must be achieved that involves relaying the most important information while addressing the concerns of patients and their families.
Other supplementary information (e.g. medication schedules, provider information, meal times, etc.) can be relayed using a patient room whiteboard. Placing this information on a whiteboard within the patient’s room allows them to refer to it as needed, it also cuts down on the amount of information that needs to be verbally communicated, leaving more time for providers to interact with patients and answer any questions they have.
When it comes to communicating with patients, a healthcare professional’s attitude can be broken down into two major components:
1. Empathy: patients are highly attuned to how well a provider understands their situation and appears to care, particularly when it comes to their pain, anxiety and other concerns.
2. Respect: this can be anything from patients not feeling like they are being treated like humans to small “infractions” like providers forgetting to introduce themselves when they enter the room.
Healthcare professionals can significantly increase patient satisfaction by showing empathy and respect for patients. One thing to remember is that patients are not only patients, they are paying customers who want to feel like they are not only receiving good treatment but good service, as well.