When a patient enters your practice with a health concern, your top priority should be establishing a solid foundation for communication between you, your colleagues, and the patient. Critical information can get lost and affect treatment outcomes when there’s a disconnect between any of these parties.
How you communicate with your patients and team members can significantly impact the efficiency and performance of your medical practice. As a health care provider, one of the most critical aspects of your job is communication, including explaining, listening, and empathizing in ways that help patients trust you to provide effective health care.
This article will discuss why communication is important in healthcare and provide effective strategies for improving communication when interacting with patients and colleagues to make your practice run as smoothly and as equitably as possible. Then check out Weave’s medical software, and how it can improve your patient communication and engagement today, (for a free demo, click here).
Importance of Effective Communication in Healthcare
Every healthcare worker should understand the importance of effective communication in a healthcare setting. From talking to patients to working with colleagues, good communication determines the quality of care your practice provides. Having high standards for communication in your clinic helps ensure the following:
- Accurate diagnosis and treatment
- Excellent patient experience and outcomes
- Trust between patients and healthcare providers
Further down in the article, we’ll share effective communication strategies in healthcare that you can use to elevate your clinic’s efficiency and ensure patient safety.
Ensuring Accurate Diagnosis and Treatment
According to healthcare research between 1995 and 2005, 66% of medical errors were due to ineffective communication between care team members. This evidence shows that communication within a healthcare organization (a.k.a. intrahospital communication) is essential to patient safety.
The following are several areas of communication that you should evaluate in your clinic:
- Transferring patient data
- Collaborating with other professionals and staff
- Communicating with leadership
- Using technology to communicate with team members and patients
Identifying the best communication methods for your practice improves patient safety and healthcare efficiency.
When transmitting patient information, such as allergies, dosages, etc., to another health or human service facility, accuracy is vital for the patient’s well-being. You can use digital communication software to help reduce the chance of medical error, preventing issues like transcription mistakes and printing mishaps.
Good communication between colleagues is also essential to accurate diagnoses and treatments. Doctors, nurses, assistants, administrators, and other staff need to be in constant contact about developments with patients, ensuring everyone is on the same page to reduce miscommunication and wasted time.
Improving Patient Satisfaction and Outcomes
Refining your practice’s healthcare communication strategies helps you improve patient satisfaction and treatment outcomes. The better health care your practice provides, the more likely patients are to stick with you as their provider and recommend your office to their friends and family.
The quality of your medical care not only affects patient satisfaction but also impacts the health of your business. A 2013 study found that improvements in nurse communication with patients significantly enhanced the overall patient experience, including factors like:
- Responsiveness to medical staff
- Pain management
- Communication about medication
Confusion about follow-up care, medication, and other healthcare instructions can lead to unnecessary readmissions and legal issues for your practice. On the other hand, prioritizing staff and patient communication helps you avoid mistakes and ensure the patient and their family understand the steps they need to take during treatment or recovery.
The patient’s experience begins at the front desk, meaning patient communication isn’t just an issue for the healthcare team. Every member of your clinic’s staff should have the training to interact with patients effectively, whether communicating billing details or explaining health care instructions.
Building Trust Between Patients and Health Care Providers
Trust between patients and providers is crucial for positive patient experiences and outcomes in health and social care. If a patient doesn’t trust the healthcare professional helping them, they might withhold information critical to their care. A distrustful patient is also less likely to give medical advice credit or follow instructions for treatment.
Many people feel anxious when going to a healthcare facility, but you have the opportunity to ease their anxieties with excellent verbal communication. For example, engaging in small talk with a patient for a few minutes before discussing medical issues can help them feel more comfortable.
You can also convey positive feelings through your behavior. When you enter the room, sitting down to speak with the patient can make the situation more relaxed, while standing could be intimidating. By establishing excellent communication with your patients, you can cultivate trust and gain access to information that could lead to better avenues of care.
Examples of Effective Communication
As a healthcare provider, you need good communication skills to guarantee the best patient care. Some individuals are stronger communicators than others, naturally building rapport with patients because of an outgoing personality. With time and practice, you can gain excellent interpersonal communication skills, even if you consider yourself an introvert.
One of the ways you can improve your interactions with patients and other health professionals is to utilize proven health communication strategies. Whether through schooling or advice from another healthcare provider, you can discover many ways to boost your communication skills.
Examples of Successful Communication Strategies
The following are effective strategies for improving communication, leading to better health outcomes:
- Ask open-ended questions.
- Use plain language.
- Ensure communications stay confidential.
Open-ended questions allow patients to voice concerns that didn’t arise in earlier conversations. If you don’t ask, patients might feel too uncomfortable to bring it up. A common open-ended question to ask patients during an appointment is: “Is there anything else you want to talk about today?”
A communication strategy like the “BATHE” technique can help you build trust with a patient and get more relevant information, improving overall health care. “BATHE” stands for Background, Affect, Trouble, Handling, and Empathy. The following are doctor-patient communication samples using the “BATHE” technique:
- Background: “How have you been?”
- Affect: “How do your symptoms affect your day?”
- Trouble: “What troubles you about this situation?”
- Handling: “How have you been handling it up to this point?”
- Empathy: “I understand. That would be very frustrating.”
Using medical jargon when speaking to patients leads to confusion and poor communication. Instead, talk in plain language to show the patient that you care about ensuring they understand and that you aren’t just going through the motions. If you have to use a medical term, define it so the patient can grasp its meaning and significance.
A patient’s file shouldn’t be open to anyone but that patient’s healthcare team. If any staff member can access a patient’s information, it could cause problems with patient confidentiality, and you could lose the patient’s trust.
Using Technology To Improve Communication
Medical software like Weave helps healthcare practices to better their patient communication every single day. For Greenview Veterinary Services, implementing Weave allowed them to reduce phone costs, significantly improve client and internal communications, and increase daily productivity. They had this to say after using Weave to book new appointments and handle greater client volume:
Weave has really been able to improve our communications not only between our clinic staff and clients, but also between our staff members.
– Greenview Veterinary Services
To read more about their experience, view our case study here.
Weave provides a medical practice’s most essential tools in one place, including phones, digital forms, scheduling, payments, and reviews. A streamlined communication system for the patients and healthcare team allows you to simultaneously provide better care and achieve meaningful business goals.
The administrative tasks that Weave automates, such as appointment and billing reminders, save your staff members time they can spend helping patients. With more leeway to build a foundation for good communication with patients, you can improve overall patient satisfaction at your clinic.
Altius Dental reduced their missed-calls by 50% when they switched to Weave
Weave helps practices to attract more patients, keep them engaged through more communication channels, and better retain them by providing a better patient experience.Schedule Demo
Challenges to Effective Communication in Healthcare
Despite how vital communication is in the healthcare industry, providers sometimes must overcome barriers to communicate effectively with patients. These challenges might originate with the patient or environment. Examples of common communication barriers include:
- Patient discomfort or distrust
- Language barriers
- A busy, hectic medical office
- Disorganized handling of patient information
Patient Discomfort or Distrust
The patient’s circumstances might affect their willingness to share information with you. Some patients might choose to withhold essential details if they dislike medical practices or struggle with psychological trauma.
To provide high-quality care, gaining a patient’s trust is critical. You can build trust with your patients by using communication strategies, such as comforting body language or showing empathy through verbal communication.
You more than likely don’t speak the native language of every patient you’ll see, which can lead to communication failures that affect the patient’s treatment and recovery. Healthcare organizations should have a plan, such as supplying an interpreter, to ensure the patient and the provider understand each other.
From disease control professionals to dentists, all healthcare providers should be mindful of language barriers, ensuring that all cultural communities have access to the same information and level of care.
Busy Healthcare Setting
Dedicating a few minutes to being friendly with the patient before jumping into a medical discussion can make them feel more comfortable communicating their needs and symptoms. This simple step streamlines the process for everyone involved, including the patient and other medical staff. Therefore, it’s crucial to take the appropriate amount of time to build rapport, even on extremely busy days at the office.
Disorganized Patient Information
The more doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals that handle a patient file, the higher the chance for miscommunication that leads to mistakes in patient care. To avoid issues with internal communication, you should ensure that only the necessary individuals have access to a patient’s information.
Mistakes can also happen when inputting patient data on medical forms. One of the best ways to prevent patient information errors is to incorporate digital forms into your medical practice, allowing patients to complete the forms online or with their mobile device and send them to you — no transcribing necessary.
Enhance Your Practice’s Communication With Weave
Now that you know why communication is important in healthcare, you can start improving how your practice communicates. Weave is an easy-to-use medical practice software that streamlines communication for patients and staff members. You save time with automatic appointment reminders, streamline the billing process with text-to-pay options, and simplify patient intake with digital forms.
Weave provides your practice with a sleek and efficient platform for phones, scheduling, patient data, team chat, reviews, and more. With built-in texting, you can communicate with patients through messages instead of playing phone tag.
Ready to upgrade your office’s communication with Weave? Watch a free demo today.