Effective Communication is an Integral Part of Healing Process

Posted on January 31, 2013. Filed under: Communication, Patient Experience, Post By Christy Whipple |

ImageSuccessful medical encounters require effective communication between the patient and the physician. “Success” implies that the patient and physician have developed a partnership and the patient has been fully educated in the nature of his or her condition and the different methods to address the problem. This allows the patient to be actively involved in the decision-making process and establishes agreed upon expectations and goals.

Ineffective Communication Can Cause Adverse Drug Effects

According to a study done by Dr. Neda Ratanawongsa, an assistant professor in the department of medicine at University of California, San Francisco finds that ineffective communication is a major reason patients don’t properly take medication as prescribed. Communication matters. Thirty percent of people in the study were not necessarily taking their medications the way their doctors thought they were,” said Ratanawongsa in a university news release.

Patients Who Trust Their Doctors Take Better Care of Themselves

“Rates for non-adherence were 4 to 6 percent lower for patients who felt their doctors listened to them, involved them in decisions and gained their trust. By supporting doctors in developing meaningful relationships with their patients, we could help patients take better care of themselves,” she added. The study authors reached their conclusions after giving questionnaires to more than 9,000 patients who took drugs to lower their blood sugar, blood pressure or cholesterol. They completed items on how they communicated with their doctors, and the researchers checked their prescription records to see if they were properly taking their medications.

Andrew Karter, a senior research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente research division who assisted with the study, pointed out what was unique about the findings. “We found that medication adherence is better if the physician has established a trusting relationship with the patient and prioritizes the quality of communication, even if that communication is not specifically focused on medication adherence,” he said in the news release.

Quality of the Encounter is Most Important

Many models have been developed to assist healthcare providers in developing approaches to improve their ability to communicate with their patients. These models focus on improvement in the quality of the encounter and do not necessarily require any significant increased investment in the length of the encounter. These approaches have been demonstrated to improve patient satisfaction and also allow the provider to demonstrate empathy, concern and humanism.

Healthcare Providers Should Cultivate Communication Skills to Build Trust

Communication skills allow the healthcare provider to build trust, promote healing, and ultimately improve outcomes. Interestingly, not only do successful encounters improve patient outcomes they have also been shown to improve professional satisfaction. These skills lead to professional respect among the physician’s peers and result in patients seeking care from these providers. Finally, interviews with patients who have filed malpractice suits against their physicians often site poor communication and lack of empathy as a factor in pursuing legal action.

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