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Effective Communication in Health Care


Effective communication between patients and care providers is a very important element of good medical practice. It does not only revolve around the patient and physician, but extends to other persons included in the health care system such patient families, consultants, referring physicians, the establishment providing the care, and so on. Effective communication in healthcare is critical for numerous medical processes such as correct diagnosis, correct care and treatment, legal and ethical issues, and in checking the medical progress of patients (Singh. et al, 2008, Priebe et al, 2007). Excellence in listening and talking between healthcare professionals, patients and other stakeholders should be one of the top priorities that should be achieved in the provision of good and effective care to patients.

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The importance of communication in health care is often underestimated and as a result, the needs of the patients and other persons are not always met. This ultimately has an undesired impact on the reputation of the individual physician and the institution in general. When communication is ineffective in any health care setting, then there is bound to be poor medical care and medical mistakes. Studies over the recent years have identified ineffective communication as a serious cause for concern in the provision of health care (Schyve, 2007). With lives in the balance, effective communication is a very important component of good care provision.

Effective Communication in the Healthcare Procedure

Effective communication in healthcare is very important in diagnostic procedures since this procedure marks the beginning of the medical procedure in most patients. Any mistake occurring at this stage could have very significant effects on the outcome of the process. It is imperative that both the patient and healthcare provider are clear on all communication processes (Meyer et al., 2009). It the patient provides contradictory information regarding the symptoms and past experiences, the physician may make inaccurate diagnostic recommendations that can lead to mistreatment of the condition, creating new complications or worsening the patient’s condition (Singh. et al, 2008).

During the diagnostic procedure, physicians should allow the patient enough time to express themselves to improve the accuracy of this process. Studies show that clinicians only allow their patients 18 per cent to express themselves before interrupting. The same research found out that a mere 2 per cent of patients ever get the chance to express themselves in full (Schyve, 2007). By reducing the amount of information from the patient, the physician is frequently deprived of facts that are vital in making an accurate diagnosis. Various studies also suggest that communication between physician and patient is the most important indicator of patient observance of a treatment plan (Joan et al., 2009). If the physician possesses effective communication skills, the patient will become an active participant during diagnostic procedure, thus reducing the likelihood of making an inaccurate diagnosis.

During the diagnostic procedure, the patient must be clear in communicating his/her medical history to the physician. Conditions such as drug allergies, previous surgeries, and ailments are critical in choosing a treatment plan for the patient. Failure by patients to communicate their medical history effectively can place them at risk, for instance, failing to mention an allergy to penicillin may result into the patient having an anaphylactic shock.

Effectiveness in communication is also important in the treatment process. Physicians must know how to communicate medication instructions and home care to patients. Failure may result in overdose or general failure to adhere to the treatment option recommended by the physician, leading to a worsening of the patient’s condition or other serious complications and side effects (Haskard, 2009). Once a patient receives treatment, the physician has to make follow-ups to ascertain the medical progress. Effective information can assist the hospital to determine whether the patient is making progress, allergy to drugs, or side effects and decide whether to alter the treatment plan.

Patient Engagement

At any stage of the medical procedure, physicians must engage patients to improve the accuracy and efficacy of the process. Engagement can only be achieved if the physician possesses effective communication skills. Engagement is important as it creates a connection between the patient and physician and establishes a close partnership between the two parties (Epstein et al., 2008). Obstacles to engagement include physician failure to introduce oneself appropriately, cutting short the patient’s presentation, and using inquisition-type questions. Strategies for successful engagement comprise showing genuine interest in the patient, prioritizing the patient’s story, and discussing the program or topic for the next visit in advance and using language that is easily understood by patients (Pilnick, 2010). The results of a successful engagement include an improvement of qualitative and quantitative information available for diagnostic, treatment and follow up procedures that will significantly improve healthcare provision. Besides, the patient will have a feeling of partnership that may aid their adherence to the treatment regime (Haskard et al, 2009).

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Effective communication is important in all aspects of healthcare provision for both the patient and healthcare provider. At the diagnosis stage, effective communication helps in obtaining quality information from the patient that helps coming up with an accurate treatment regimen. During the treatment process, communication helps in communicating medication instructions and determining the progress of the patients. At each stage of the treatment process, health care providers must employ engagement strategies to improve the accuracy and efficacy of the whole process.

Annotated Bibliography

Epstein, D. et al. (2008). Relationship, Communication, and Efficiency in the Medical Encounter: Creating a Clinical Model from a Literature Review. Arch Intern Med. 168(13):1387-1395.

The main purpose of this article is to provide an understanding of how physicians can combine effective relationship development with the patient and effective communication skills with time management to provide the best care. Epstein et al (2008) investigate how the physician-patient relationship can be optimized to enhance efficiency in health care provision. The authors undertake a comparative literature review using articles obtained from PubMed, EMBASE, and PsychINFO databases, and from the study, propose a model for improving communications between patients and care providers. The paper is important to the topic under study as it shows the importance of quality and time management in ensuring effectiveness of patient-physician communication.

Joan, M. et al. (2009). Power of Communication in Health Care: Four Simple Ways to Adjust Your Mind-set and Avert Bad Outcomes. Joint Commission Perspectives on Patient Safety, 9(6), pp. 8-10.

This is a research paper that explores ineffective communication in healthcare delivery, identifying their causes, impacts, and prevention. Joan et al (2009) contend that poor communication can have serious effects in any health care setting. These include compromise of patient safety, staff protests, heavy lawsuits and permanent damage to the institution’s image. The authors present four simple steps that can be used to avert potential problems arising from miscommunication in any health care center. The paper is important in having an overview of communication processes in healthcare in aspects of healthcare delivery.

Meyer, E. C. et al. (2009). Difficult conversations: Improving communication skills and relational abilities in health care. Pediatric Critical Care Medicine, 10 (3): 352-359.

This research paper evaluates the effects of an interdisciplinary learning through experience paradigm aimed at improving communication and relational abilities of pediatric practitioners involved in critical care (Meyer et al, 2009). The authors assert that effective communication skills and relational abilities are very critical in improving health care delivery. However, related educational opportunities are gravely underrepresented and underrated. The authors employ a Prepost design using 160 clinicians in its evaluation procedure and reports that training has a great impact in improving communication skills of clinicians. The paper is critical to understanding the role of education processes imparting effective communication skills on staff.

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Pilnick, A. (2010).Communication in Healthcare Settings: Policy, Participation and New Technologies. West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell.

Communication in Healthcare Settings presents a wider picture of healthcare communication by studying how issues pertaining to policy, procedure and technology impact daily practices in healthcare. Pilnick (2010) examines a wide range of communicative processes from a number of medical settings across Europe and the Americas. The author uses original research from previously under-studied environments such as occupations related to medicine, telephone-assisted negotiations and secondary care. The book is vital in understanding how matters concerning policy, procedure or technology can be used to improve communicative processes in a healthcare setting.

Schyve, P. M. (2007). Language Differences as a Barrier to Quality and Safety in Health Care: The Joint Commission Perspective. Journal of General Internal Medicine, Volume 22, Supplement 2: 360-361.

The paper discusses the importance of effective communication in improving the quality of care provided to patients. Schyve (2007) describes barriers to effective communication between patients and physicians. These barriers include differences in language, cultural differences, and low health literacy and their effect in the effectiveness of provision of healthcare. The author proposes that evidence-based model that reduces these barriers should be incorporated into the all healthcare procedures. The article is important to the research topic as it identifies possible barriers to effective communication in healthcare and how to reduce or eliminate them.

Singh, H. et al. (2008). Reducing Diagnostic Errors through Effective Communication: Harnessing the Power of Information Technology. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 23 (4): 489-494.

In this article, Singh et al (2008) expound on the effects of diagnostic errors to healthcare provision. They mention that although there have been significant efforts to reduce diagnostic errors, it will take many years to fully refine the system. The focus of the paper is on communication breakdown which the authors say is increasingly becoming a major cause of medical mishaps. Singh et al present a comprehensive structure that incorporates possible sources of communication breakdown during the diagnostic process and identifies areas that are highly exposed to communication errors. The paper presents. The paper is very significant to understanding the importance of effective communication in healthcare as it presents IT-based strategies that may be effective in curbing diagnostic errors.

Priebe, S et al. (2007). Structured patient–clinician communication and 1-year outcome in community mental healthcare. The British Journal of Psychiatry 191: 420-426.

This paper focuses on the central role that effective communication plays in mental healthcare. The authors contend that regular meetings between the physician and doctor play a primary role in community mental healthcare as the parties communicate regarding the patient’s condition. During such meetings, effective communication is very important. Priebe et al (2007) design a computer-mediated intervention structuring patient–clinician dialogue (DIALOG) that focuses on improving healthcare quality through effective communication. They conclude that a streamlined patient-physician dialogue enhances quality of care treatment satisfaction thereby resulting into improvement of life quality. The paper is important in comprehending how new technologies can be used to support patient–clinician communication to improve care delivery.

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Haskard, K. B. et al. (2009). Physician Communication and Patient Adherence to Treatment: A Meta-analysis. Med. Care. 2009; 47(8): 826–834.

The research paper undertakes a meta-analysis to investigate the link between patient-physician communication and adherence to treatment regimen. Haskard et al (2009) undertake a literature search of articles published between 1949 to August 2008 to come up with 106 correlational studies and 21 experimental interventions, which are then analyzed. The authors conclude that physician communication is critical to ensuring patient adherence to the treatment regimen. The paper offers a deeper understanding of the correlation between effective communication and patient adherence.

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