Patient care outcomes are heavily dependent on clear communication between health providers and patients. Accurate disease diagnosis depends on a clear and precise history taking, and treatment compliance is also strongly hinged on clear treatment instructions and follow-up details. Essentially, it is crucial to have a clear flow of information between health providers and clients; however, this may fall short of what’s expected and health providers may make certain mistakes in communication that could potentially affect healthcare outcomes.
1. Not responding on time
Timely response by a healthcare provider may be the difference between a good clinical outcome and a poor one. In extreme cases, it may be the factor that prevents complications and death in a patient.
Patients may be inquiring about seemly basic things that may appear to have no influence on the overall outcome but which, in fact, are integral to the clinical outcome. Simple queries about drug-drug interactions, potential drug reactions, wound care, and new-onset symptoms may be significant to a patient’s overall quality of life. Patients may dismiss these concerns if they do not receive a response on time and then make errors that would hurt their health.
Ensure you have a clear schedule or availability within which patients and clients can reach you and set up automated responses if there are any immediate changes to your availability. It is also important to signpost clients to helplines or emergency numbers if they have to speak to a healthcare provider if you are unavailable.
2. Not personalizing communication
Every patient has varying health concerns, and even in situations when patients have similar problems, there might be different contexts to their circumstances, therefore, requiring different approaches to solving them.
For instance, if patients explain to their doctor about persistently high blood pressure despite having their prescriptions, generic responses about ensuring prescriptions are taken as prescribed or cutting down stress might not apply to every patient. Some patients might be taking other medicines that could reduce the effectiveness of their blood pressure medicine or there might be other medical conditions that might be keeping their blood pressure trending upward.
Admittedly, health providers work long hours consulting and operating and generic responses to patient concerns may seem acceptable to address patient queries, but this ultimately limits patient outcomes. Health providers may need to schedule an appointment with a client to explore their circumstances and understand why a concern persists.
3. Using the wrong channel
Effective communication also depends on the channel used. Using the wrong communication channel may mean information gets lost and unused, slowing down the care process and leading to poor care outcomes.
For instance, elderly clients are often more receptive to information via traditional means, such as office visits and sometimes telephone consultations rather than email messages or mobile app notifications. Millennials find mobile-friendly channels more effective; therefore, a typical millennial patient would love to communicate with healthcare providers via virtual clinics or even on social media platforms rather than telephone consultations or face-to-face visits.
It may help to conduct a survey to help identify effective communication channels across several population groups to ensure healthcare teams deliver care using culturally relevant tools.
4. Too little or too much information
What lies between too little and too much information is what the patients actually need to know. Some healthcare providers may be guilty of providing clients with too much information, often laced with complex medical jargon. This not only makes it challenging for patients to follow through with plans, but it stalls the care process and may lead to unnecessary disruptions to care.
On the other hand, too little information also does the same thing. A patient may require an appropriate diet plan to support their anti-diabetic medications and a health provider responds with “take foods with low sugar index and consume more fiber.” While the statement is accurate in itself, it does little to help a patient identify which specific foods they need to aid optimal regulation of their blood sugar.
Diet preferences across various cultures and it may help to talk patients through these preferences and how they can modify these diet choices for optimal blood sugar control.
Where patients may benefit from more information to address their concerns, health providers may provide links to useful resources instead of putting all the information out in an email communication.
5. Using non-secure channels
As much as patients want their problems solved easily via simple communication with health providers, they are also concerned about the safety and integrity of their personal health information.
Health data is highly sensitive information and patients want this data protected by their health providers. If you use a communication tool that is accessible by unauthorized persons, it may deter clients from finding answers from you. If your email responses or social media chats with clients are sent by other unauthorized members of your team or any third party, it may break the trust that is an essential part of patient care communications.
Ensure patient queries and responses from health providers are encrypted and are only accessible by authorized persons. It also helps to let clients know about the security architecture of a communication tool before they engage. Let the patients know what their data will be used for, how it is stored, who can access them, and for how long it is stored for use.
Global Healthcare Accreditation
Much of patient care hinges on effective communication and if a healthcare provider misses this part, it may negatively impact the patient experience and even patient safety. It is important to put patient communication and education front and center and leverage it to drive maximal clinical outcomes and patient experience.
The new era of health is patient-centric and driven by patients’ needs; therefore, businesses and health systems need to remodel their services to drive better metrics. Global Healthcare Accreditation (GHA) helps healthcare providers shift the paradigm of care to meet global standards and patient expectations for medical travel services. Learn from health leaders and key stakeholders and get access to the right resources and tools to boost your patient communication strategies.