Establishing Effective Patient-Provider Communication

By David Fetterolf, Stratus Video President

Patients who communicate well with their doctors tend to better recognize health issues, comprehend treatment options, follow healthcare plans and adhere to medication schedules. The verbal and nonverbal expressions of the provider can either positively or negatively impact overall care delivery. Time and time again, a lack of effective patient-provider communication has been related to adverse patient outcomes.

As research continues to mount surrounding the correlation between patient-provider communication and patient outcome, more emphasis is placed on the importance of listening, explaining, questioning, counseling, and motivating by way of the provider. In fact, over 65% of medical schools now teach communications as part of their core instructional programs.

In addition, patient-provider communication is now evaluated as a core competency requirement for several accreditations, including the United States Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination Performance Evaluation, Medical Licensing Examination, and the American Board of Medical Specialties' certification.

One review on patient-provider communication revealed an influence on patient outcome in 16 out of 21 studies. Influenced outcomes included emotional health, symptom resolution, function, pain control and physiologic measures, such as blood pressure and blood sugar level. Furthermore, patients who were encouraged to ask questions and partake in the decision-making process displayed lower levels of anxiety.

Effective communication skills were associated with the following positive patient outcomes:

  • adherence to therapy,
  • understanding of treatment risks &
  • reduced risk of medical error.

 

Patient-provider communication is further challenged by the presence of linguistic and cultural differences.

The Joint Commission has identified the “triple threat” to effective health communication as:

  1. low health literacy,
  2. cultural barriers &
  3. limited English proficiency.

 

Fortunately, effective communication can be achieved with Limited English Proficient (LEP) and Deaf/hard of hearing (HOH) patients through the assistance of a qualified medical interpreter. Qualified medical interpreters can be accessed via phone, video or in person. Hospital staff who interact directly with Deaf, HOH and non-English speaking patients must be trained on how to work effectively with communication aids, interpreters and the necessary technology to reach them. Watch our webinar “Informed Consent: Understanding What Makes Communication with Deaf/HoH and LEP Patients Effective” to learn more.

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