Why Communication Skills Matter In Healthcare

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Until a few years ago communication skills formed just a small part of the medical school curriculum. Today’s medical students however are likely to find that training in communication skills has become an increasingly prominent part of undergraduate and postgraduate medical training.  So why does good communication matter so much in healthcare, what exactly defines good communication and what can you do to improve your skills in this area? This article addresses all three of these aspects of good communication.

Understanding The Importance Of Good Communication Skills

Clinical studies conducted during the past three decades have shown without any doubt that there is a strong relationship between a physician’s communication skills and their patients’ health outcomes as well as patient satisfaction and experience of care.

All studies have shown that a healthcare professional’s ability to listen, explain and empathise can have a profound effect on their patient’s capacity to follow through with their advice, self-manage their medical condition and adopt recommended preventive health behaviours.

Quite simply what this means is good communication skills measurably improves healthcare delivery leading to better outcomes for patients.

Consider the physician-patient relationship – A physician may conduct as many as 150,000 patient interviews during the span of their career. This patient interview is in fact a basic healthcare procedure and forms the basis of all further procedures and diagnoses. Lack of proper listening and communication skills could result in the physician missing out on subtle clues that the patient may provide during this investigative interview. Patients too are more reluctant to part with intimate information if they are not comfortable with or do not fully trust their healthcare provider. This trust and confidence can only be built with proper communication.

Consider the physician-peer relationship – Because so many conditions are interrelated, healthcare providers very rarely work in isolation. Being able to work in a team is a critical aspect of working in this field and what is particularly important is being able to pass on crucial patient information to the other members of the team so that patient care is carried out seamlessly.

What Is Effective Communication All About?

Learning to communicate effectively is not all that complex or unattainable. At its core, effective communication means making the most of every opportunity to interact with others. It means being considerate, understanding and empathetic with your patients, being helpful, encouraging and appreciative of your team and being able to deal with demands and difficult emotions patiently and objectively. It means taking the time to listen when you need to and taking the time to explain in detail when you need to. 

Different people communicate differently. Understanding what type of communicator you are and what you can do to improve can help you maximise your personal effectiveness various situations, giving you the advantage in all aspects, from interviews and assessments to everyday communication in the workplace.

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