Face-to-face with patients, practitioners are expected to do more and communicate better within the same or less time with the patient.
In addition to excellence in clinical care, and a positive outcome, effective and empathetic communications is the essential ingredient.
The typical practitioner-patient encounter is an agenda of important expectations, including:
- Achieving better outcomes
- Achieving greater patient compliance with a treatment plan
- Actively and respectfully listening
- Calming fears and answering concerns
- Creating a relationship and a care-team partnership
- Demonstrating cultural and ethnic sensitivity
- Informing the patient of treatment options
- Involving patients in their care decisions
- Positive patient experience and satisfaction
- Removing obstacles and objections
- Understanding the patient as an individual
When communications doesn’t work, there’s a part of healthcare that doesn’t work. Good communications skills can enhance outcomes, and impact how the patient evaluates their experience with the practitioner and the practice.
We need to re-tune our ears for conscious listening. We spend roughly 60 percent of our communication time listening, but we’re not very good at it. We retain just 25 percent of what we hear. Listening is our access to understanding.
For better listening, understanding and communications we need to:
- Pay attention to the patient
- Show acknowledgment, including small sounds like “OK” or “oh”
- Summarise for the patient, restate or confirm what you’ve heard
- Always ask questions after the patient has had their say
There are four powerful cornerstones of effective speaking and communications:
- Honesty – being true in what you say, straight and clear
- Authenticity – just being yourself
- Integrity – being somebody people can trust
- Caring – as in wishing people well, honesty tempered with compassion
Achievement in practitioner-patient communications is not always an issue of having “more time.” Patients find greater satisfaction when the practitioner is compassionate, listens, understands their issues, answers their questions and explains the treatment options.
Effective communications enhances satisfaction in the patient encounter, as well as in maintaining a positive patient-provider relationship.