What are the benefits of effective communication in healthcare?

Communication is critically important in the healthcare industry. A few years ago, the Joint Commission determined that poor communication was a leading factor in medical errors. The study, released in 2016, estimated that communication failures in U.S. hospitals and medical practices were responsible at least in part for 30 percent of all malpractice claims, resulting in 1,744 deaths and $1.7 billion in malpractice costs over five years. Research has identified several ways that communication can lead to better health outcomes, such as reducing medication errors, reducing hospital readmissions, and increasing patient satisfaction with their provider visits.

Patient information gets shared several ways: a clinic sending patient data with another facility, or from doctors, nurses, specialists, and other staff at a hospital discussing how to treat their patients, the need for accurate and effective communication is critically important in healthcare. Patient-centered communication is paramount to the mutually beneficial interaction between patient and provider. Learn more about the benefits of effective communication in healthcare.

Improved Patient-Provider Interactions

Improved health communication skills between patients and healthcare providers lead to better health outcomes for patients. Improved interactions between patients and health care providers is a skill that must be developed and learned over time. One basic communication skill for health care providers is knowing how to ask questions that foster discussion. Both patients and providers generally have not been trained on how to ask questions to meet their informational goals. While it varies from patient to patient, there are times when patients are intimidated to ask further questions from providers, even if there is something of concern. Providers often ask closed-ended questions, which lead to simple yes or no answers rather than descriptive, information-rich responses. 

Improved Patient Satisfaction

The personal connection that a patient feels with his or her provider can indirectly improve their health through active participation in their care, following treatment recommendations, and overall patient self-management. Patients’ perceptions of the quality of the health care they received are highly dependent on the quality of their interactions with their health care provider, communication being a key interaction point throughout their experience from the waiting room to the doctor’s office. Studies have shown that most malpractice claims were initiated as a result of a physician-patient relationship problem; litigious patients perceived their health care provider as uncaring. A health care provider’s ability to explain, listen, and empathize with its patients can have a positive effect on the health outcomes as well as patient satisfaction and overall experience of care.

Decrease Patient Complaints & Readmissions

Patients and providers benefit from increased access to medical histories, which significantly reduces the chances of medical errors. Patients, lab technicians, doctors, and health care staff all need to be in constant communication to create a system that operates as smoothly as possible. Establishing strong communication systems and protocols can prevent early patient discharges, misdiagnosis, and other errors that can lead to readmissions. Reports of poor communication causing adverse events, including wrong-site surgery, delay in treatment, falls, and medication errors are all too common complaints within health facilities.

Improve Internal Teamwork & Collaboration

Healthcare is often delivered by teams of professionals who represent different disciplines and domains of training. They usually are not trained on how to work together in teams, yet are expected to do so in highly effective ways. Developing inter-professional team communication and teamwork skills can improve team-based healthcare delivery for patients. Communication among internal health care team members influences the quality of working relationships, job satisfaction, and has a significant impact on patient safety.

There are practical ways for healthcare professionals to take action on improving their overall health communication. Active listening, responding appropriately to the patient’s needs and concerns, accurately assessing body language, and possessing a non-judgmental attitude are all necessary skills that health care professionals must possess. The importance of communication in the healthcare industry can help prevent further injuries, increase trust between the patient and provider, and strengthen relationships with internal staff members.

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