Right from obtaining patient history to conveying a treatment plan, effective communication is a must. The basic relation of a physician and a care seeker is entirely built on communication which includes both verbal and written. Although most of the communication is related to the diagnosis and the treatment provisions and options, sometimes the caregivers notice that the care seekers are searching for psychological healing, a safe place for the care seeker to express. The patient’s contact with his physician is often the first step toward reconnection. Hence, the caregiver needs to listen to patient concerns, provide comfort and healing, and foster the relationship in general. The aspect of the care seeker and caregiver relationship is hard to define and, yet, with little doubt, can be a therapeutic relationship. This aspect also forms the basis for quality health care delivery. In settings involving the delivery of bad news, a caregiver who can communicate bad news directly and compassionately will help the patient cope in addition to strengthening the quality of the relationship to endures and further extend the healing process. Specific communication skills that involve preparing in advance include validating emotions, dealing with family members and new demise have been described for this difficult setting. Undoubtedly, each physician must cultivate his or her style of communication. Many professional and academic organizations have defined key elements of communication skills needed by physicians.
How to improve communication with patients?
To help caregivers gain and strengthen effective and personal communication flair, a few methods have been assembled with a list of practical steps.
- Understand the level of patient education-
Before proving any information or educating a patient, understand what the patient knows about his condition. A few times, healthcare providers have initially communicated information to the patient which can confuse when new information is provided. In a few scenarios, the patients come to the doctor with some preconceived notions about a particular illness. Hence it is very necessary to understand what the patient knows.
- Understand what the patient wants to know-
Studies have acknowledged that not every patient wants to seek information in a detailed manner. Doctors/physicians, before giving any new information to the patient, should assess whether the patient desires, or will be able to comprehend, additional information. Educate the patient about the risks and benefits of the procedure and then allow the patient to choose how much additional information he or she wants.
As a healthcare provider, empathy is the basic skill every doctor carries.It should be developed to recognize the unexpressed thoughts and emotions of the care seeker. Once identified, these sentiments/ reactions need to be recognized and further explored during the patient-physician encounter.
An easy explanation works best. Caregivers should always remember to avoid long conversations about the illness while interacting with a care seeker. A simple and educative talk will inspire the patient to work with the physician on the treatment plan and avoid any distress.
It is important to be truthful. Moreover, physicians mustn’t minimize the impact of what they are saying. Educate the care seeker on what could be the possible options for any certain illness. Sometimes euphemisms may soften the delivery of bad news but it can be extremely misleading.
Most caregivers/ doctors quickly grow a sense of the various coping styles of patients, a range of human reactions that have been characterized in several specific clinical settings. In response to any of the patient reactions, it is important to be prepared. The basic first step would be to recognize the response, allowing sufficient time for a full display of emotions and reactions.