Nov 12, 2019
The patient journey, from pre to post treatment, is filled with a series of points where providers must communicate and relay critical information. It’s this communication that makes a world of difference to how well received treatment is by patients and how well they rate their satisfaction with their care. It’s so important to hospitals that major design choices are being implemented in facilities across the country in an effort to streamline and improve upon patient-provider communication.
Where does healthcare communication begin, and how does it guide patients through the entire treatment process? There are three major areas where patient communication matters most.
While not every patient’s medical journey begins in the waiting room, it’s the starting point for many patients, and it’s this pre-treatment area that is a major focus for healthcare designers. Research has shown that hospital patient waiting rooms can promote patient health, and it all begins with healthy and consistent communication. Whether a patient is coming into an emergency room with an unknown condition or is anxiously awaiting an upcoming surgery, healthy communication is the first step in the treatment process.
Studies have shown that patient satisfaction begins in the waiting room, and uncertainty is something that waiting room staff are challenged with addressing both in regards to patients and their families. Although “treatment” hasn’t technically begun while patients are in the waiting room, it’s still their first interaction with the process and will ultimately have a lasting effect on the satisfaction they have with their care.
Patients will undoubtedly spend the majority of their time in their room, making patient rooms the most critical location in a hospital for communication. The average length of hospital stays in 2017 was 5.4 days, most of which is spent with patients waiting in limbo for nurses, doctors and other healthcare providers to update them on their treatment, status, expected discharge date, and so much more. It’s during this time that a large amount of uncertainty and anxiety can set in for patients who are left to wonder what will happen next, why it will happen and what can be done about it.
A patient’s level of anxiety and comfort while staying in their room will ultimately be the determining factor in HCAHPS scores, and much of it can hinge on how well they view their interaction with care teams. If they feel like they were largely kept in the dark, HCAHPS scores can suffer. If they feel like they were well taken care of and everything was explained to them in detail, they will be more satisfied with their hospital stay. This is why patient communication whiteboards have become standard in so many hospitals across the country. They make communicating with patients easier and give patients and their families a source of information to refer back to even after doctors have moved on to other patients.
While doctors and nurses don’t normally visit patients after they have been discharged (except on rare occasions) consistent communication needs to continue after patients are sent home. It’s lack of communication during post treatment that accounts for many (up to 25%) of patient readmissions, something that is costing thousands of hospitals a combined billion dollars in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements every year.
Communication during post treatment is important in ensuring patients feel well taken care of, reducing their anxiety and ensuring they do not readmit after discharge. Hospitals are taking extra care to provide patients with as much information as possible upon discharge, letting patients know what to look out for, what shouldn’t concern them and who they can contact if they have any questions or concerns.
Whether a patient is in pretreatment, actively engaged in treatment or has been discharged after treatment, anxiety is something that will always impact their perception of their care. Anxious patients are unhappy patients, and good communication is the number one thing hospitals can focus on to reduce patient anxiety.