We all know that good communication lies at the core of quality patient care, but what does good communication look (or sound) like and are you really sure that you’re practicing it? Here’s 7 areas to think about when it comes to having good communication with your patients…
Use good manners
Good manners may sound like an obvious starting point but what does that mean when it comes to a patient interaction? Do you knock on the door to your patient’s room or do you just saunter in? Do you introduce yourself, what you do and how that relates to your patient’s treatment? Do you ask your patient if they’re comfortable enough to talk? Do you look at your patient when you’re talking to them or are you distracted by their charts, equipment in the room or your mobile device?
Don’t make assumptions
Judging someone instantly on their weight, race, age, religion or sexual orientation is obviously a big no-no but what about making an assumption on someone’s treatment purely on the initial injury or symptom that they walked in with? Dig deeper and don’t be afraid to get personal in your questioning to fully understand who your patient is and to learn more about their life. The answers may open up new avenues for investigation.
Listen and make time for silence
This follows on from the above. Ask open ended questions and then listen, without interruption. Don’t try and finish your patients sentences or talk over the top of them… and if you really want to get the most out of listening, unless you’re asked a question by your patient – try leaving a few seconds of silence when they finish talking. This will encourage your patient to open up further, become more conversational and provide you with more valuable information to help treat them.
You work in a hospital day in day out, week in week out. You went to medical college, you studied for years and you probably watched medical documentaries and dramas before that. Your life is highly tuned in to the medical world. That’s not the same for your patients so minimize the hospital jargon and speak in plain English. This is already a traumatic time for your patient and feeling stupid because they don’t understand something or worse, feeling scared because they don’t really know what’s going on is only going to make things worse.
Rush University Medical Centre has published a great article detailing how they improved patient communication and in turn improved their HCAHPS scores. In it they talk about the importance of white boards to help educate the patient on their condition or their upcoming procedure. Educating your patient reduces anxiety and increases “buy-in” to the next step in the patient’s journey.
It seems counter-intuitive, but to diagnose and treat more patients effectively you need to slow down. Rushing through a patient meeting means making assumptions, not listening, missing tell-tale signs, not allowing the patient to open up, incorrect diagnoses, lengthier stays and increased readmissions rates. So “make time for quality time” at the beginning and at every stage of the patient journey to ensure the very best patient experience.
Communication has an enormous role to play, not just in delivering a good patient experience, but also in improving the bottom line of your hospital. It’s easy to believe that as an individual, you have great communication skills or that your hospital as a whole, does not have a problem in this area. The reality though, is that your patients are the judge of whether you communicate well and that’s where we come in. Here at HCXP, we live and breathe the patient experience. Our unique tablet-based electronic surveys allow your patients to provide direct feedback about every aspect of your hospital including the effectiveness of communication throughout the patient journey.