According to a recent survey by ASQ (American Society for Quality), more than 80% of healthcare quality experts say improving communication between patients and healthcare staff is the number one factor in improving patient experience. Medical staff communication is essential for providing quality care, reducing errors, increasing patient satisfaction, and establishing strong patient relationships. Clear, precise, and timely communication is critical to improving health outcomes, decreasing risk, and maximizing overall performance. The following are five best practices that can help improve medical staff communication with patients:
- Focus on the Patient
Effective communication requires focus and attention, which is impossible if a staff member is staring at a computer screen, texting on their cell phone, or thumbing through paperwork. Not only is it inconsiderate, it sends the wrong message that staff is not listening or not interested. Although it may seem like multi-tasking, a simple rule of thumb is to focus on the patient and put aside any other distractions.
- Think Like the Patient
Throughout each patient interaction consider the patient’s perspective. Perspective is often one-sided, so it is important to consider another viewpoint. When a patient is complaining about scheduling, additional paperwork, a lost blood test, or a long wait time, don’t diagnose them as another difficult patient. Consider their side, show empathy, use critical-thinking to access their complaint, then find a solution that works for them.
- Speak Like a Patient
In other words, lose the medical jargon. Often healthcare professionals forget patients are not fluent in the medical language. Technical terms and abbreviations such as “cath” or “PCI” should be explained in straightforward language that the patient fully comprehends. Failure to do so may cause confusion, frustration, and potentially non-adherence.
- Engage the Patient
Initiate two-way communication with patients. When asking questions, make sure they are open-ended and not questions with a simple yes and no answer. Whether it is the provider, nurse, or front desk staff, simply engaging the patient in discussion can create a personal connection, improve patient satisfaction, and potentially disclose helpful information that could assist in treatment.
- Embrace Real-Time Patient Feedback
Obtaining real-time patient feedback AND acting on that feedback is an invaluable tool that can help increase safety, decrease liability, and improve patient loyalty and retention. Don’t wait until patients are complaining to react. Be proactive and assess continuously by deploying a real-time patient feedback system that provides every patient, after every visit, with an open line of communication. Not only will it equip management with the information needed to make critical decisions it can also be transformative to a practice.