Dear Healthcare Professional,
How many patients have come to you and again and again with the same complaints? It just may be that they did not hear you the first time. Or they did but did not understand your instructions.
According to research conducted over the past thirty years, there is a very strong relationship between a HCP’s communication skills and a patient’s ability to see through the medical advice given to them. Be it, how to embrace preventive health actions or manage a chronic medical condition.
The HCP’s ability to listen, empathise and explain can have a deep effect on health outcomes and patient satisfaction.
Understandably, some patients may occasionally withhold the entire truth; this is a known to occur but the skilful HCP is able to tease out essential facts that will aid diagnosis. As clinicians, we also owe it both to ourselves and our patients to give them the correct information and clinical instructions- in the way and manner they can understand.
Most patients are scared, worried when they come to you especially in emergencies. They need you to even be in a state of calm to understand what you are saying.
It is also important to communicate with other members of the healthcare team, so that everyone is giving the patient the same information, not causing confusion.
This will go a long way in getting patients to participate in their own care and adhere to treatment.
Most diagnostic decisions come from the history-taking component of the interview. Therefore it is important to provide patients the opportunity or time to tell their story / history, with few interruptions, as incomplete stories /history will lead to incomplete data upon which clinical decisions are made.
Also, when interruptions occur, the patient may observe that what they are saying is not important and this leads to patients being unforthcoming with additional information. The end result is that when patients are interrupted, there is a limit to collection of essential information and this hinders the relationship.
This is the extent to which a patient’s behavior corresponds with agreed upon recommendations from a healthcare provider.
Here are some reasons why patients do not adhere to the HCP’s recommendations:
- Some disagree with what the clinician recommends
- Some are concerned about cost
- Some find the instructions too difficult to follow
- Some feel recommendations are against their personal beliefs
- Some do not understand what they are supposed to do
A study conducted at a teaching Hospital in New York showed that less than half of patients interviewed could identify their diagnoses or the names of their medication(s) at discharge
Here is what we have found out. Patients are satisfied when:
- They are provided an opportunity for the patient to tell their story.
- Members of the healthcare team take the problem seriously, explain information clearly, and try to understand the patient’s experience, and provided practical options.
- They are encouraged to express their ideas, concerns and expectations.
- The importance of their social and mental functioning as much as their physical functioning is acknowledged.
- The length of the healthcare visit increases.
- Their healthcare team initiates referrals relieving the patient of this responsibility.
- They receive continuing care from the same healthcare provider(s).
- They are treated with respect and are invited to partner in their healthcare decisions
The patient-centered care model underscores the essential features of healthcare communication which relies heavily on core communication skills, such as open-ended inquiry, reflective listening and empathy, as a way to respond to the unique needs, values and preference of individual patients
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Sources: Institute of Medicine Report on Health Professions and Training, Mayo Clinic Proceedings