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Effective communication between healthcare professionals, their patients, and colleagues is crucial to ensuring that your facility is well-managed and that you are providing best-practice care to all patients. This is one of the many reasons Ausmed has chosen to put so much time and effort into professional growth and communications learning resources, to help you and your colleagues grow as healthcare professionals and provide exceptional care every day.
What is communication in healthcare, and why is it important?
Within healthcare organisations, there are two key communication methods that must be used to ensure the safety and well-being of all patients in the hospital. These two methods are interhospital and intrahospital.
Interhospital communications refer to any important information that is being shared amongst multiple sites, such as communication between two hospitals that are considered separate entities. Effective interhospital communication is more critical surrounding the movement of patients between facilities or the transportation of equipment.
Inadequate communication can cause issues accessing patients’ previous diagnostic test information and result in unnecessary duplicate testing. This both wastes time, and results in a less than satisfactory experience for the patient.
Intrahospital, on the other hand, refers to communication within just one hospital. It includes scheduling, room changes and pre-planning appointments or tests. When information is not effectively shared between nurses, other staff and patients, efficiency and healthcare services can be affected.
Poor communication is a contributing factor to malpractice and patient dissatisfaction, and better communication will have demonstrable benefits for both patients and healthcare workers. It is essential for healthcare providers to save on costs, increase efficiency and, most importantly, protect their patients by communicating effectively and reducing the chances of medical errors.
Why are empathy and compassion important in healthcare?
Any patient in a hospital is likely already on edge, and a key element to providing them best practice care is listening, explaining and empathising with them during this difficult time. The more you can understand the patient’s perspective, emotions and thoughts, the more effective you will be in guiding them towards improving their health (Chichirez CM, Purcărea VL, 2018). Good communication practice will make patients more likely to provide key information and listen to instructions.
Empathy has a profound effect on patient satisfaction when staying in your facility. Taking the time to listen to what patients have to say and gain deeper insight into how they are feeling is a great way to exercise good empathy skills. Listening is the first step in good communication. It opens a clear dialogue with the patients, letting them feel heard and helping them to feel more comfortable answering questions from carers.
What are some ways to ensure effective communication in healthcare?
There are many ways that you can work to improve your communication skills with patients and colleagues, and frequently refreshing your knowledge guarantees that you are always providing the best care possible to your patients. Just some of the best ways to improve your communication include:
Avoid Complex Language:
The first step to effective communication is explaining complicated concepts in a way that is easy for patients to understand. Where possible, healthcare professionals should avoid using complex medical jargon and use plain, familiar terms to communicate with patients.
When using medical jargon, always confirm if the patient understands what that is, and provide an explanation in plain language if this is required. Speaking in a manner that patients can easily understand helps them feel like they are active participants in a conversation instead of just listening.
Asking Open-Ended Questions:
Sometimes patients may feel uncomfortable voicing concerns unprompted. To provide patients with all the care they need, it will often be important to ask open-ended questions, prompting patients to provide more information (Tulane University, 2021). Never assume that you already have all the details, and create a space where patients will feel comfortable answering your questions.
Offer Interpreters at every level:
All patients should feel safe in your hospital, and one of the ways to ensure this is to offer interpreters in all settings. It can be incredibly difficult for patients to explain complex issues or needs if they do not speak the language, and providing interpreters to help them will make them feel safe, welcome and heard. This will also allow for more effective communication between nurse and patient, which will, in turn, lay the framework for better provision of care.
Make Use of New Technologies:
There are many new ways to communicate with patients. After COVID-19, the use of Zoom and other video call applications has become widespread and can be a great way to keep in touch and perform consultations where there may be no need for an in-person appointment.
Making use of all these communication tools will help you create a better relationship with your patients, offer better care, and communicate better with your colleagues. All organisations need competent communication to run effectively, but this is of the utmost importance in a healthcare setting.
If you want to spend some more time refreshing your communication and empathy skills to improve your care, look through some of Ausmed’s content on the topic and see how you can become a communication master: