As healthcare continues to evolve and improve, patient needs are also growing and expectations of their providers are expanding. Strong relationships between providers and patients begin with effective communication. Throughout the past couple of years, many studies have been conducted to test the efficiency of communication among patients and providers.
Veta Health is the agent of change at the forefront of understanding how patient and provider communication can be improved using technology and is focused on producing better health outcomes.
“The patient will never care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
– Terry Canale
As healthcare continues to evolve into a consumer-driven environment, patients needs have transformed. Patients have switched from going to their doctor to simply solve their health issue, to going to their doctor looking for a positive patient-provider relationship. The many burdens associated with the gap between patients and providers consist of the patient’s anxiety and fears as well as the doctor’s burden and stress of work. Finding the bridges between these gaps and barriers can be beneficial in improving healthcare overall.
Patients who understand their doctors are more likely to engage in healthier behaviors, understand their treatment options and follow their medication or check-up schedules. In fact, research has proven that effective patient-provider communication can improve a patient’s health as much as many drugs can. Communication techniques are centralized in delivering any form of medical advice including medications. 65% of medical schools are now embedding communication skills in their education plans. However, the research also states that after taking such courses, students and providers will most likely lose the skills because of their extensive focus and studying the sciences.
Another randomized controlled trial study on patient-provider communications reported that the quality of communication in both the history-taking and management-discussing portions of interactions resulted in patient outcomes that were influenced. The outcomes most impacted were emotional health, symptom resolution, and pain control. Most of the study resulted in a positive correlation between effective communication and improved patient health outcomes. Using studies and data can help us further understand where the gaps in communication need to be filled.
Providers can improve their communication through a variety of efforts:
Understanding the Patient’s Needs Attentively listening or carefully studying the facial expression and body language can help in understanding a patient’s needs. Dr. Gurpreet Dhaliwal, an associate professor of clinical medicine at UCSF suggests asking patients, three simple questions (I.C.E.):
Idea – What is your idea or understanding of what is happening?
Concerns – What are you most worried about?
Expectations – What are you (the patient) expecting of me (the provider) to do to help?
Understanding the responses given by the patient to I.C.E. creates a stronger bond between the provider and patient. When the provider asks such questions, they are showing the patient that they care about how they are feeling and that they want to help them out. The patient then feels more open to speak what is on their mind.
Assessing What the Patient Already Knows Not all patients want the same amount of information or level of details when they are being explained a medical situation. The amount of knowledge that a patient can have, falls under all spectrums of education. For a provider, assessing what the patient already knows when meeting them for the first time will need to be taken care of during the first conversations. The provider should assess if the patient wishes to know specific amounts of information or if their understanding levels. If questions asked to reflect confusion, then the information may need to be addressed in a different way than if the patient reflects comprehension.
Improving Accessibility Information Technology can play a significant role in improving communication and accessibility for patients to communicate with their providers. Patients are not able to be with their providers, often in time of need. In this case, using an app with a messaging feature can help solve the accessibility issue that is often seen in communication barriers.
At Veta Health we’re excited about using technology to fill the gaps in the healthcare system. As a disease management platform focused on moving the needle towards increased provider transparency and patient self-management, we are seeing first hand the benefits of a digitally connected healthcare ecosystem, where communication is key.