How to effectively communicate with Patients

Effective communication is the key to having a meaningful conversation, be it a formal one or an informal one. In the case of the health industry, it is a mix of both. Because the patients there are ill, worried, might even be impatient and old. In these situations, the communication style needs to adapt according to the situation at hand.

A positive conversation would lead to better and informed treatment and helps in reinforcing the trust between a patient and health workers. This way, the patient feels involved in his/her treatment, and the feedback mechanism is also strengthened.

Nowadays, hospitals and clinics have surveys, which help in getting valuable feedback and pointers for the required changes. If health workers are following the positive communication style, the surveys will be rewarding and vice versa.

Firstly, according to CAHPS; the ideal health worker – patient interaction should have:

  1. A positive, kind, and compassionate patient experience, and
  2. The engagement should be informative and meaningful for the patient.

Assessment of the patient

It all starts from the front desk, where the patient is assessed. That assessment should include:

  1. Needs of the patient,
  2. Concerns of the patient,
  3. Learning ability (an idea of it) and the readiness,
  4. Preferences of the patient,
  5. Support of the patient, and
  6. Barriers or Limitations of the patient (such as physical, emotional, mental health and literacy, etc.).

If these six pointers are filled for each patient, anyone who accesses their records will know the patient and thus can perceive the questions and reactions of the patient. This will reduce the surprise factor for the health worker and will make the patient feel as if he/she is being given a personal attention/touch.

Now, we will discuss how the above-mentioned health worker – patient interaction can be achieved. We understand that the work schedule of a health worker is jam-packed and full of uncertainties.

1.    Developing a Personal Connection:

Patients want to feel that the person (who is treating them and taking care of them) is somehow an acquaintance and, if possible, a friend.

The health workers can’t spend the time needed for the same, but if they follow the below-mentioned points. They can achieve a rapport with their patients in no time.

 – Body Language: Always try to be at the eye level of the patient and talk facing towards them, so that they can feel that you are receptive to them.

– Easier Interactions: Short sentences and questions, staying on one topic at a time, and explaining difficult terms in laymen language helps keep the interactions easier and more productive.

– Proper Respect: Allow your patients choices instead of orders and try to indulge in their requests as much as possible and safe.

– Be Patient: Patients seldom are, but health care workers can be patient. Giving them time to understand and process, speaking slowly, and not rushing the communication are some of the ways to keep patience.

– Keep Yourself Level: Like speaking clearly and slowly, loudly but not yelling. Explaining difficult words and concepts but in simple terms.

– Write and Draw, if needed: Patients may not remember your instructions, prescriptions, or advice. Write it down and, if needed, draw it out. It will help you and them in the long run.

– Patients need time: They will need time to respond, but the right response is way better than hasty but incorrect response.

2.    Leveraging Technology:

Technology has become a healthcare workers’ best friend and a compatriot. If used properly, it can fill the void created by the absence of friends, family, and homely conditions.

– Connecting tool: A tablet, for instance, can be used to show the patient all the healthcare workers who will be interacting with him/her. This way, a patient will get to know them and something about them beforehand. Also, any unidentified person can be found out and reported to the authority.

– Patient Engagement Tools: Patients and healthcare professionals have benefitted immensely by making use of software services. Patient engagement software by Relatient is one such solution that allows healthcare professionals to connect to their patients seamlessly. It enables one to send reminders through different modes of communication making it easier for everyone to better manage their schedule and thereby increasing their productivity

– A monitoring tool: Instead of papers and files, a tablet can keep all the data related to the patient and help monitor his/her condition on a real-time basis.

– Entertainment tool: A tablet can be given to a patient with which they can browse the internet. This same tablet would have taught, connecting, and monitoring abilities provided by the hospital for the patient. This tablet can be further used to send voice messages and pictures to the healthcare staff, which will help them, assess the situation (in a more refined way) and thus prioritize healthcare on a real-time basis.

3.    Supporting Patient Education:

Educating patients is also key to the proper implementation of treatment. As medical care involves, procedure and instructions, which can be hard to remember and repeating them, would be a loss of valuable time.

– Patient Teach-back: Patients are asked to repeat in their own words whatever they understood of the procedures and instructions told to them in order to engage them in the communication and this way, patients will be able to imbibe these complex procedures, and it would not sound so alien to them. This will also help in understanding patient literacy and reasoning power. That will be used in the future while making further conversations.

– Training Healthcare Workers: Healthcare workers need to be trained to use certain phrases within their interactions such as “Just to be on the same page, can you repeat that for me” or “Can you tell me in your own words, whatever you understood” etc.

– Printed and Digital Material: Both patient and his family members should be provided with printed or digital education material, which will help them understand the complex terms, concepts, and procedures. This will help the healthcare workers because they can now refer to that material and save time (which can then be used to take further questions).

So, as we saw, patient-healthcare worker interaction starts from the reception and ends, and the reception/billing desk. In between, there are many ways this communication can be carried out healthily and for the betterment of all.