Impact of Communication and Patient Engagement in Healthcare

January 17, 2023

Effective communication is a core element in every healthcare process. Virtually every aspect of the healthcare system relies on effective communication to efficiently carry out its duties, particularly when it comes to patient-provider interactions. 

We learn communication from birth by copying our family, peers, and teachers. Nevertheless, we have only recently advanced in our knowledge on how to engage patients through communication in healthcare positively. 

Achieving good patient outcomes goes beyond skill or practicing excellent medicine. It also requires adequate, efficient, and effective patient communication. A recent CHIME survey shows that about 52% of health systems have prioritized supporting Patient engagement

When there are barriers in patient-provider communication, the patient's health deteriorates and suffers. To build trust and bridge potential communication gaps, your providers need to find common ground where they can meet your patient.

What is Patient Engagement?

As the name implies, Patient engagement means actively involving patients in gathering information and making a treatment decision based on their symptoms, diagnosis, and illnesses. 

In a broader sense, It is the vibrant partnership between patients, their families, and providers. 

Therefore Patient engagement can be defined as the partnership between patients and their medical practitioners (Nurses, doctors, etc.) with whom they interact. The practitioners communicate with their patients, and the patients share in making decisions concerning their care. 

Communication is the bedrock of Patient engagement. For Patient engagement to be effective, the patient and their providers must commit to regular and effective communication. 

It is hard enough for patients just to bring questions to their doctors. Your providers should also provide adequate education and stimulate Patient engagement

The Impact of Communication and Patient engagement in Healthcare

A study shows that poor communication has been instrumental in about 1,744 patient deaths costing about $1.7 billion nationally between 2009 and 2013; in addition, about 37% of high impact injury cases were as a result of communication failures. 

The above shows that implementing better communication practices within your organization can save more lives and save more resources. 

With efficient patient-provider communication, patients benefit more from increased access to their medical information, reducing the likelihood of medical errors

We cannot extensively talk about the impacts of communication in healthcare without emphasizing patient safety. Patient short-term and long-term safety is the benchmark of every successful medical practice. 

It is natural to downplay the role of Patient engagement in their treatment process. For instance, one might think that all patients need to follow their provider's advice and nothing more.

However, research has shown that when patients have played a role in the decision-making process, they have a more substantial commitment and greater understanding of their health maintenance and healing process.

In a study published by Health Affairs, 60,185 patients were split into two groups. One group received regular support from the health coaches, while the other received enhanced support. 

The study showed Patient engagement outcomes over specific metrics, and it was discovered that for patients that received enhanced support :

  • Inpatient admissions were 12.5 percent lower than patients who received usual support. 
  • Surgeries were 9.9 percent lower than patients who received usual support.
  • ER visits were 2.6 percent lower than patients who received usual support. 
  • Heart surgeries were 10.9% lower than patients who received usual support and,
  • Total medical costs were lower than patients who received usual support. 

Therefore, it is clear that healthcare providers and patients can positively influence the treatment’s outcome via patient engagement during healthcare provision. 

Barriers To Communication In Healthcare 

If you want to optimize communication within your practice, the first step is to identify gaps that might impede the communication effectiveness between your patients and their providers. 

Since communication is a 2-way process (in this case, the provider and patient ), communication barriers can only be traced to either side. Some obstacles on the patient side include; 

  • Withholding sensitive information regarding medical problems, symptoms, or even personal problems affecting their treatment. 
  • Reluctance to ask for more time needed to make critical medical decisions.
  • Pretending to understand what has been said without asking for clarification. 
  • Not asking questions for fear of being embarrassed. 
  • A wrong attitude towards the healthcare provider
  • Being deliberately passive during the whole process. 

The barriers from the provider’s side may stem from ;

  • Improper communication tone towards the patient
  • Using complex medical terms without being explicit enough to the patient.
  • Talking down to the patient.
  • Pressuring patients into making hasty decisions without giving them time to think it through.
  • Communicating with patients in a way that shows they are busy. 

Tips For Overcoming Communication Barriers 

Let Patients Repeat all the information Back to you.

Having your patients repeat your explanations can ensure they understand the information you are trying to pass across. You can also detect any vital information they have missed or misinterpreted so you can re-explain to them again.

Use Simple Language

More often than not, your patient will not have the necessary scientific background to understand medical terms as much as the providers. Ensure you use simple language while relating with your patients that will allow them to know what you are communicating to them easily. 

Listen to Understand 

Communication involves speaking and listening. Learning to listen to understand is a huge step forward in having effective communication between providers and patients. But it is common for many only to speak and hear. 

Give the patient 110% of your attention. Giving them attention will make them comfortable enough to speak freely and express their concerns without the risk of being brought down. 

Also, listening carefully to your patient is a crucial aspect of delivering accurate diagnosis and treatment plans. 

Be Visual 

People tend to retain information by using visual prompts. You might be amazed that 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. Using visual prompts more frequently during appointments will help patients retain information long-term. 

Final Thoughts

Effective communication is essential in the healthcare setting. Communication barriers can impact patient care and lead to adverse outcomes. Healthcare providers need to be aware of these barriers and work to overcome them. 

Patient engagement is also crucial in ensuring positive outcomes. Patients should be encouraged to ask questions and participate in their care. 

By working together, healthcare providers and patients can ensure that communication is clear and compelling, improving patient care.

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