Communication is Key for Patient Care
According to the Institute for Healthcare Communication, “Extensive research has shown that no matter how knowledgeable a clinician might be, if he or she is not able to open good communication with the patient, he or she may be of no help.”
That’s a strong statement, but it speaks to how incredibly important it is for health care professionals to learn and practice effective communications skills to ensure their patients get the benefits of the treatment they seek.
Patients who have not effectively communicated with their health care team miss out on vital information about their own conditions, including the purpose and importance of their medications and other prescribed treatments.
Communication skills encompass a whole range of verbal and non-verbal interactions, as well as everything that goes into being an effective listener. Think about each one of the following skills and consider whether you may need to work on improving some of them.
The skills you need for good communication with patients include:
- Speaking clearly and making sure the other person understands what you are saying.
- Choosing words and phrases that are appropriate to the subject matter and audience.
- Clarifying and repeating information in different ways as needed.
- Projecting empathy and support for patients and their families through tone of voice, word choice and non-verbal cues.
- Organizing and structuring conversations to help set patient expectations and give patients the information they need to make decisions.
- Listening closely to what patients are saying to make sure you are gathering all relevant information.
- Learning to watch for cues from patients that you need to ask follow-up questions to get more detailed information.
- Strategies for overcoming communication style differences between you and a patient due to cultural factors, language, age, or other reasons.
- The assertiveness (both verbal and non-verbal) needed to advocate for patients and ensure proper interpersonal boundaries between you and your patients.
Polishing your skills in all of these areas will help you care for patients more effectively, which in turn should improve both their satisfaction levels and their treatment outcomes.