Communication with Physicians
By Chris Price, MD, Chief of Staff
It is our goal on the Banner Gateway Campus to ensure that our patients receive the best care possible while having the best experience during their stay. As physicians, effective communication with our patients can play a huge part in helping to achieve that goal. It can also improve patient outcomes and reduce the number of medical errors.
We can gauge our success on this initiative through three questions patients answer on the HCAHPS survey they receive after their visit. These questions focus solely on communication between doctors and patients.
- During this hospital stay, how often did doctors treat you with courtesy and respect?
- During this hospital stay, how often did doctors listen carefully to you?
- During this hospital stay, how often did doctors explain things in a way you could understand?
Our scores are currently in the 30th percentile and we have to work together to improve them. There are many actions you can take to increase the effectiveness of your communication with your patients, but there are three specific areas that I would like to focus on.
Effectively manage first impressions
First impressions are made in the initial seconds of interaction and can last forever. In order to ensure that your first interaction with your patient and their loved ones is a positive one, you should knock before entering a room, make eye contact and smile, acknowledge the patient by name and wear professional attire including a name badge.
When talking to your patients, please sit down with them as this improves the efficiency of communication and increases the perceived length and quality of the interaction. By sitting with your patients you are bringing yourself down to their level which improves their overall perception of you and the care they are receiving.
Engage patients in two-way conversation
Two-way conversation is essential when it comes to successful communication with your patients. If patients feel engaged they will be more satisfied with their experience. Some ways you can initiate two-way conversations include:
- Start and finish with open ended questions. Begin sentences with “What/How” rather than “Do/Did.”
- Utilize teach-back methodology. This helps you to ensure that patients understand what you are saying about their care and increases reciprocity.
- Listen actively without interrupting. Silence can be engaging and doesn’t generally harm the experience.
- Draw family members into the conversation. Family engagement will simultaneously improve quality of post-discharge compliance and overall satisfaction.
- Tie everything back into the plan of care. Use paper or the whiteboards in the room as well as treatment goals to keep patients engaged in the bigger picture of their care.
Foster an environment of team collaboration
Work collaboratively with the nursing staff and others on your care team as they are there to help! Simple ways to improve collaboration include notifying the nursing staff when you arrive on the unit, letting nurses ask you questions and "managing up" other members of the care team whenever possible.
Communication is the one component that really allows us to connect with our patients and families to ensure we are providing the best care possible. I hope these three tips will help you to further improve your communication with your patients. I know we can all work together to ensure we are communicating in an effective, caring and compassionate way. By doing that, our initiative scores and out patients’ experiences will continue to improve.