Direct Mail

Healthcare Communication

By 23 March 2022July 6th, 2022No Comments
automation in healthcare operations

How to Improve Communication in Healthcare and Increase Patient Satisfaction?

Several institutions underestimate and neglect communication in healthcare while treating their patients. But, effective communication is a must for patient well-being and operational productivity!

disruptive technology in healthcare and disruptors

Healthcare teams make hundreds and thousands of medical errors due to communication issues. However, they can turn things around by employing strategic patient communication methods, like:

  • Reflective listening
  • Showing empathy and sensitivity
  • Open-ended queries, and more

Effective healthcare communication prioritizes such aspects to help patients feel more confident about sharing their details and get better treatment.

Healthcare providers can also benefit by reducing malpractice costs, increasing brand reputation, and retaining more patients.

But, in reality, effective communication in healthcare is only a term. Patients forget nearly 40-80% of medical information that their practitioner imparts. It is common for patients to forget their diagnosis or medication details during the treatment process. These things are a great indication of meaningless and insignificant communication between patients and healthcare providers.

Furthermore, research says that doctors listen to their patients for only 11 seconds. Surprising, right?

Only medical care providers can change that by employing the best practices in healthcare communication for everyone’s betterment. And in today’s blog, we will talk about exactly that!

Why is Communication Important In Healthcare?

Clinicians conduct about 150,000 patient interviews throughout their careers. Naturally, patient interviews are the first step of diagnosis and treatment. Yet, there is no communication training for doctors and hospital or clinic staff.

Below, we have mentioned why communication matters in the healthcare industry:

Diagnostic Difficulty

Physicians depend on the patients’ medical histories to diagnose their current conditions. Thus, they need to employ the right healthcare communication system to let patients open up and discuss their past medical diagnoses.

However, as said earlier, patients don’t get much time to talk about these things and explain their stories in depth. In addition, they are often interrupted—for example, a staff member walks in, or the doctor stops them for a phone call. These interruptions may seem very casual, but they can hinder patient-physician relationships.

Thus, patients feel reluctant to speak out without effective communication in healthcare. It can lead to doctors collecting inaccurate information and making wrong diagnostic decisions.

Prescription Adherence

For patients, adherence is the level at which they follow their doctor’s recommendations and prescriptions. Most patients tend to skip their physician’s advice and continue doing things their own way—leading to further health issues. 

Healthcare communication, hence, focuses on improving the physician’s capability to make their patients understand the importance of prescription adherence. 

Generally, 20-30% of the doctor’s prescriptions for chronic health problems are never filled. It could be due to several reasons, like:

  • Patients may be concerned about healthcare expenditures
  • They may disagree with the clinician’s recommended treatment
  • They may find the instructions or steps too hard to follow
  • They may feel that the clinician’s advice was against their beliefs
  • They may not understand what the clinician wanted them to do

Two-sided communication in healthcare can help solve these problems and assist doctors in offering better healthcare delivery. 

Patient Satisfaction

Some people might still ask – what is the importance of communication in healthcare? Well, the most crucial benefit of effective communication is patient satisfaction. 

Before we get into patient satisfaction, here’s a shocking fact for you. There are about 15,000 to 19,000 malpractice lawsuits filed against physicians every year. And non-satisfactory healthcare communication is one of the top factors that result in such scenarios.

There are several factors that you can work on to deliver quality services to patients:

  • Opportunity to speak: Patients need to be heard; they should be allowed to say everything they want to say about themselves
  • Understanding problems: Patient satisfaction increases when doctors take their issues seriously, explain their diagnosis in detail, and offer different treatment options
  • Decision making: Letting patients express their concerns, ideas, and expectations also helps in rising patient satisfaction. They should feel that they are a part of the decision-making process
  • Time: Another significant aspect of effective communication in healthcare is time. The time that doctors spend with their patients is directly proportional to the level of satisfaction they experience
  • Respect: Patient satisfaction is also dependent on whether they are treated well and respected by their physician
  • Staff: Aside from the physician, patients also consider the staff members’ behavior while forming opinions about a practice. Thus, all staff members should also conduct skillful healthcare communication so that they can add value to your patient’s experience with you

Patient Safety

A survey showed that ineffective team communication in healthcare resulted in 66% of all clinical errors. This figure proves that a lack of proper communication can put your patients’ lives at stake. 

It also means that there are more chances of incorrect diagnosis, acute medical conditions, malpractice claims, etc. So, the next time someone asks what are the benefits of effective communication in healthcare, you can say:

  • Low costs
  • Patient safety
  • Reduced medical errors
  • No severe consequences, etc.

Also, effective communication helps healthcare providers safeguard patient data and remain HIPAA-compliant. Medical data is accessed by several people like nurses, administrators, and healthcare professionals. It can lead to miscommunication and data breaches. But, effective communication in healthcare can help you avoid such potential issues and put patient safety first.

Staff Satisfaction

Along with patients, you should also think about staff satisfaction as it can impact your operations directly. A robust healthcare communication model among team members results in greater job satisfaction, higher productivity, prioritized patient safety, and better working environments. 

It also reduces nurse turnover and improves the quality of a provider’s patient care services. The more your staff members are satisfied, the more they will treat your patients better. Thus, it is a loop wherein communication in healthcare benefits all related parties and leads to increased efficiency. 

Barriers or Restrictions to Communication in Healthcare

Despite its significance, healthcare communication is not easy to implement. There are several barriers that hold a physician back from delivering top-notch quality services to patients.

To solve these problems, you need to know their root cause. By doing so, you can figure out why a specific issue comes up and how you can deal with it. 

Patient Discomfort

Several patients think that they can get their diagnosis and treatment done without telling their physician everything. Though that may not sound like the worst thing, it can affect their healthcare tremendously. Depending on their medical condition, it can do a lot of damage to their treatment plans in the long run. 

Effective health communication helps physicians make their patients trust them enough, to tell the truth, and share intimate details related to their health. But, most of the time, patients hide sensitive information like sexual dysfunction or substance abuse. There are several more reasons why patients feel discomfort in sharing the details of their medical condition, such as:

  • They feel a little intimidated
  • They think the doctor won’t listen to them
  • They believe that the doctor cannot help them
  • They feel ashamed or disrespected
  • They do not trust the doctor
  • They struggle with psychological or physical trauma

These reasons can hinder healthcare communication majorly and risk patient safety. 

Language Problems

Patients that don’t speak the same language as their provider may have difficulty explaining their symptoms and medical needs. In such situations, medical communications become impossible without a legible interpreter. 

Not surprisingly, many institutions still don’t offer culturally competent healthcare to bridge such communication gaps. Thus, they aren’t able to deliver adequate support to these patients. 

Short Sessions

Effective communication in healthcare allows physicians to build positive rapport with their patients, get all the information they need, and offer the correct treatment. However, it may not be possible for doctors to do that on a packed day with a hundred patients scheduled to visit them. 

In this situation, they tend to rush from one patient to another, compromising the cruciality of healthcare communication. Patients may think that the doctor is distracted or disinterested in their treatment and lose trust. Eventually, you may start seeing a drop in your retention and acquisition rates. 

However, there are many strategies that you can deploy to avoid these things from happening, like spending two to four extra minutes with every patient. Also, avoid taking in too many patients on the same day to plan your day well and pay enough attention to everyone.

Strategies for Effective Communication in Healthcare

The next thing that we will be discussing is how to improve communication skills in healthcare despite the above barriers. Luckily, there are several things you can do to accomplish this motive! The best part? These ways are simple, and most often, you don’t need to spend anything extra on them.

Be Humble and Polite

Being seated while conversing with your patients makes a huge difference in patient satisfaction. If you move around while discussing your patient’s problems, they may perceive you as aloof and not tell you everything. 

The key to skillful healthcare communication is being polite. You can start by greeting the patient and asking them about their day. It can lead to a healthy beginning and repel patient anxiety. 

Ask Questions

Many patients cannot speak in-depth about their personal or medical issues even after several minutes of health communication. In such cases, asking questions can be an ice-breaker and give patients the chance to reflect on what they want to say. 

You can ask questions, like:

  • Is there anything more you would like to share?
  • Is there anything you want to discuss?
  • Is there anything left out in our conversation that could be helpful for the diagnosis?

Asking such questions improves communication in healthcare between doctors and patients. They get more time to connect and voice any concerns. 

As a provider, you can use the BATHE method to ask questions that let you solicit additional details and establish personal bonds. It consists of:

  • Background: Try knowing about your patient’s backstory by asking questions like ‘what is going on with you currently?’
  • Affect: Ask patients how their medical condition is affecting their life. An appropriate question for smooth healthcare communication can be ‘how are you holding up’ or ‘how does it affect your daily life.’
  • Trouble: Try asking- ‘what worries you the most about this situation.’
  • Handling: You may ask patients how they are dealing with a specific situation to get to know them more and improve your medical communications
  • Empathy: Tell patients that you support them and show them that you listen. Be sensitive about their feelings and reflect on them. You can say things like ‘that sounds difficult’ or ‘keep up with the progress.’

Avoid Jargon

Avoid using complicated medical terms and phrases that can confuse your patients. Speaking a simple, understandable language is one of the best practices in healthcare communication

If there is no simpler term to explain something to a patient, make sure to summarize everything. Try giving examples to make them understand properly and clearly. 

Also, remember to have two-way healthcare communication instead of telling patients a monologue. 

Keep Healthcare Communication Confidential

After knowing what is good communication in healthcare, you must also learn another crucial thing about it- confidentiality!

Your entire hospital staff may check a patient’s file if needed. But, it is advisable to strictly share access with only a few members of the patient’s direct healthcare team. By limiting access, you can ensure that your healthcare communication system is in place and is HIPAA-compliant. 

Furthermore, avoid discussing your patients casually with people outside their care team. 

Hire Interpreters at Every Level

Effective communication in healthcare is not just about how people talk to each other. It includes several more things that help a hospital or practice create a sound working environment. 

Healthcare institutions should ensure that their workplace condemns xenophobia, racism, transphobia, homophobia, classism, sexism, etc. They should provide a safe place for every patient that needs treatment. One way to do that is hiring interpreters; it can help improve healthcare communication and lead to a positive atmosphere. 

Hold Regular Meetings and Coordinate Well

Hospital managers, doctors, lab technicians, administrative staff members, etc., must regularly have meetings to discuss communication in healthcare. They should develop new ideas or ways to treat patients better and increase overall efficiency. 

There should always be adequate intrahospital discussions regarding entering details in databases, sharing medical data among different departments, etc. These tasks are not just mere data-entry jobs but can affect patient safety significantly. 

Use Telemedicine

Telemedicine is a groundbreaking healthcare communication strategy for those times when it is hard to see patients personally. 

Several healthcare professionals have started using telemedicine, involving internet-based technologies to treat patients remotely. After the Covid-19 outbreak, this approach to meeting patients has gained a lot of appreciation and popularity. 

Now, healthcare institutions use intranets or internal online networks to develop an efficient health communication process. It makes cross-departmental correspondence and patient data sharing speedy and effective. 

Moreover, telemedicine benefits patients greatly as they can visit a doctor and start their treatments at the comfort of their own house. A state-of-the-art healthcare communication tool enables providers and patients to discuss medical conditions over video chat. This way, they can reduce costs and create a seamless communication environment. 

Invest in Training Your Staff

Effective communication in healthcare is a skill that needs brushing up from time to time. It also needs to be updated frequently to suit the ever-changing needs of your patients. 

Thus, consider investing in professional healthcare communication training for all your staff members. It will help them become more accountable for their actions and take a sensitive approach while greeting patients.

Interhospital Vs. Intrahospital Healthcare Communication

There are two types of communication in healthcare- interhospital and intrahospital. Both are crucial, and you must create solid strategies to handle them ideally.

Interhospital

The need for interhospital healthcare communication rises when there is a need to transfer patients from one facility to another or transmit medical records. Healthcare providers may need to share medical data among multiple institutions and sites. It could include transmitting information among facilities of the same provider or completely different entities.

Some other examples of interhospital communication in healthcare are:

  • Sending vital medical equipment to a different hospital
  • Coordinating new or uncommon medical conditions and their treatments, etc.

However, there are often clashes between institutions about such things that lead to ineffective communication. They must understand why is communication important in healthcare and how to resolve any differences. This way, they can serve their patients better and improve their brand image. 

You can also use PostGrid’s direct mail services to send medical documents to other patients and third parties. They help you draft such mail items and get them printed in just two days.

Interhospital

Effective communication in healthcare also needs you to develop your interhospital correspondence. Here are some examples of interhospital communication:

  • Coordinating patient room changes
  • Setting up appointments
  • Assigning tests
  • Scheduling surgeries, etc.

These tasks need all your staff members, from lab managers to physicians to coordinate well. It allows you to provide high-quality healthcare services to patients and save administrative costs.

How PostGrid Helps Institutions and Practices Facilitate Healthcare Communication

PostGrid’s direct mail API allows you to create, print, and mail documents in one go with just a few clicks. You can send different types of medical documents with PostGrid, like:

  • Billing statements
  • Laboratory reports and invoice
  • Discharge summaries
  • Mental health records
  • Explanation of Coverage (EOC)
  • Explanation of Benefits (EOB)
  • Patient notices
  • Consent forms
  • Prescriptions, etc.

Thus, PostGrid allows you to create robust and effective communication in healthcare; wherein you can print and mail these documents effortlessly. 

Below are some other mail items that you can send to your patients to increase acquisitions and retentions:

  • Welcome or onboarding letters: You can send a welcome letter to everyone after their first visit to boost patient communication in the healthcare
  • Appointment reminders: Sending appointment reminders to patients is an excellent way of telling patients that you care for them. Plus, it persuades patients to keep up with their treatments and visit you more often
  • Hospital activity notices: You can use PostGrid’s automated print and mail API to send healthcare communication notices to patients regarding the shift of address, change of contact number, etc.
  • Mailer inserts and newsletters: Physicians can add marketing mailers to their reports or other medical documents for advertising purposes. Or, they can send weekly and monthly newsletters to patients informing them of the latest industry news

It doesn’t matter what type of document you want to send and to whom; PostGrid has got you covered. Some of our best features include:

  • Per-piece tracking
  • Data management
  • Address verification
  • API integration
  • HTML design templates for letters, postcards, and invoices
  • Competitive pricing, etc.

Wrapping Up

Communication in healthcare is crucial and yet often overlooked. We hope this blog helps you improve your health communication strategies and increase patient satisfaction.

PostGrid can further help you conduct offline mailing activities speedily and effectively. Thus, you can connect with your patients personally, establish emotional bonds, and increase retention.

Sign up now to know more about how PostGrid can help you level up your healthcare communication plans!

Ready to Get Started?

Start transforming and automating your offline communications with PostGrid

SIGN UPREQUEST A DEMO