Doctors spend so much of their time on the go, moving from place to place caring for patients. They see twenty patients per day on average, spending most of their extra time doing paperwork. We’ve talked a lot about efficiency as it relates to using technology to reduce administrative burden and complexity, to make time for what really matters most — your patients. But how can you make sure that the time spent with patients is being used to its full advantage? This is where effective communication is essential.
Studies have shown that medical professionals often overestimate their abilities to convey information clearly. The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery surveyed orthopedic surgeons after they met with patients, and while 75% of them believed they had communicated satisfactorily, when their patients were asked how they’d done, only 21% reported that their doctors had communicated well with them. That’s quite a significant delta and shows that two people can very often leave a conversation with completely different impressions of how it went.
There are a few reasons this can happen. Aside from potentially being in a hurry, dealing with as many patients as they do, physician burnout can lead to an increased detachment, which may cause doctors to misinterpret cues. It can be easy to stop treating patients as individuals with different needs and styles of communication.
While for much of the 20th century it was a common belief that giving patients hope and keeping them happy was more important than honesty, the modern schools of thought disagree completely. Patients who trust their doctors are more likely to follow their instructions, as well as provide them with the information they need to make an accurate diagnosis or treatment plan. Likewise, it is now understood that having a sense of understanding and control of your circumstances is much more beneficial to a patient than simply being comforted.
Patients are more educated than ever before, and due to the ease and convenience of the Internet, they have resources at their disposal to form opinions and questions about their own health care. To get the most out of the time spent with patients, it’s imperative to treat the interaction as a mutually beneficial relationship.
Some proposed solutions include AIDET® Five Fundamentals of Patient Communication and The RESPECT Model. While slightly different approaches, they both have the same goal: ensuring that physicians are using the best communication skills they have at their disposal and fostering a sense of trust with their patients. It’s important to remember that each patient is an individual with their own set of needs that must be acknowledged and addressed.