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Communication in the healthcare field is important for ensuring that each patients needs are fully met. Communication within healthcare involves communication between physician and patient, medical assistant and patient, medical assistant and physician, and much more. When communication between caregivers and patients is lacking, misdiagnosis of medical conditions and other serious events can occur. Improving communication between caregiver and patient will improve the likelihood of early detection of illnesses so that they can be treated in a timely manner. Good communication can come in many forms, such as, verbal, nonverbal, and environmental. Verbal communication involves using words to communicate with others. Nonverbal communication involves using hands, eyes, and other tools to communicate with others. Environmental communication involves the use of objects and colors to produce inviting feelings toward others. Scenario
In this scenario, Vivian was suffering from severe abdominal pain and since her insurance was now effective, she chose to make a doctor appointment to find out the reason for her pain. Upon arrival at the doctor’s office, she noticed the waiting area was not very inviting and seemed rather gloomy. The environmental setting of any healthcare setting can damper or enlighten a patient from the start. As Vivian was signing in at the front desk she really wanted to speak to someone about the urgency of her problem, however, the office assistant was very abrupt and uncaring about what Vivian had to say. The assistance behaviors were a combination of verbal and nonverbal communication that was not very inviting to Vivian. Instead of giving Vivian the opportunity to voice her concerns, she interrupts her and abruptly sends her to her seat. Vivian could have encouraged the assistant to be more courteous; however, she choice to sit in discomfort until it was her time to visit the physician.
Once Vivian was called back to a room and the physician entered the room, the physician was in such a hurry that he did not make any form of eye contact with Vivian and was very short with questioning. Dr. Walls performed common checks and asked a minimal number of questions that Vivian answered briefly before he began writing more notes. Once he was done with his notes, Dr. Walls made a quick diagnosis and treatment option. Once the Dr. Walls was done, he asked Vivian if she had any question, however, Vivian chose not to ask any question although she had many concerns. If Dr. Walls had shown more concern and nonverbal communication, Vivian may have been more open to communicate her feelings and concerns. Key Perspectives
One of the key perspectives in this scenario is the patient. Vivian struggles with communicating stemmed from the discouraging behavior and environment of the physician office décor, office assistance lack of care, and the hurried behavior of the physician. The feeling of being rushed to complete the visit discouraged Vivian from communicating her true feelings about her ailments and to provide detailed information that may have been important to the diagnosing of her condition. Another key perspective of this scenario was the medical assistant. The lack of courteous behavior from the office assistant that hindered the start of the visit at the physician office. The stress and workload may be the cause of the behaviors of the office assistant. Stress and burnout can make people short tempered and move between tasks too quickly.
Medical assistants have a stressful job and those stresses should remain under control when patient’s needs are at stake. Taking control of the situation and making all patients feel comfortable when visiting the office is one of the most important factors in their job. The next perspective involved in this scenario is the caregiver. The physician lacked the one-on-one involvement with the patient. He made the Vivian feel uncomfortable because he immediately began rushing through the visit. Caregivers are one the most important factors of healthcare communication. Dr. Walls lack of nonverbal communication made Vivian feel uncomfortable from the very start. If Dr. Walls was to take the time to gather information from Vivian to get a complete understanding of her situation, he would have good communication skills. A patient expectation from caregivers is extremely high, and for her to be rushed through the office without any concern of her feelings was disrespect to her. Communication Implications
Biomedical and biopsychosocial perspectives are two types of communication implications that have a huge impact on healthcare communication. Biomedical perspective is the belief that all medical conditions have an explanation, treatment, and can be identified through testing. The biomedical perspective is usually scientifically based and is directly focused on treatments instead of the feelings of patients. “Biomedical model of care is where the physician is seen merely as the technician who delivers interventions and performs procedures. In short, it is fair to say that any of these alternative conceptions of patient-physician interactive styles are not patient-centered (Beach 2006).” Biopsychosocial perspective leans more towards patient-centered behaviors. The biopsychosocial approach takes into perspective the beliefs and thoughts of the patients as the approach to care. Caregiver’s taking this approach are usually more concerned with how the patients is feeling, what their beliefs are, and have more nonverbal communication skills with patients. They approach patients with smiles, touches, making them feel at ease, and that makes the patient more willing to indulge information.
Patient and caregiver roles should have equal value in healthcare communication. “Providers and clients should view healthcare as a partnership in which each party contributes to maximize end results. Mutual respect and trust and joint decision-making will result in greater likelihood of a positive outcome (Negri, Brown, Hernandez, Rosenbaum, and Roter).” The caregiver’s main role is to encourage patients to interact with them and provide as much information about their thoughts and feelings so that he can properly diagnose and treat their medical ailments. Patients also must play their part in ensuring that the caregiver understands their feelings about how they feel. Although as patients want to feel that the caregiver is concerned about their needs and feelings, they must consider how they are interacting with their caregiver. Working together to improve communication will increase the likelihood that proper treatment is received.
Cultural differences drive many aspects of communication troubles in healthcare. Some cultures believe in natural healing, some believe that medicine is the only cure for their ailments, and some believe in faith healing. Many patients and caregivers believe in faith based healing; however, they do consider medical treatments necessary for cure of many medical ailments. Other cultural differences are based on race, gender, and language. Racial challenges among caregivers are still a factor that greatly influences communication in healthcare. Many caregivers work to overcome these communication challenges by studying other languages and cultures to help them better understand difference beliefs and languages. “Experiences such as these remind us of the value of acceptance and diversity in understanding ourselves and others (DuPre 2004).”
Job parameter boundaries are definitely another problem that hinders effective communication between patient and caregiver. Patients requesting information from a medical assistant that is typically handled by the physician may not indulge the information that the patient is requesting so that they eliminate any mishaps or misdiagnosis to patients. Some patients would rather communicate more openly with medical assistants; however, many problems can go wrong with the information is not communicated to the right person. Understanding the roles of each person in a medical situation will help the patient ask the right person the questions they are wanting answered. Communication Resolution
Developing good communication skills is a task that takes time and work. Becoming a good communicator in healthcare involves learning to teach others, explain thoughts, and express concerns and feelings about different situations. Developing active listening skills will help improve communication between a caregiver and patient. Using body language and eyes to let the patients know you are listening to every word they say will help improve communication between patient and caregiver. Remaining professional and always thinking before reacting will help reduce negative communication.
Health communication technologies are helpful in getting medical information to a large number of people at one time. However, in some cases, such as the older adults, this can be both problematic and helpful. In today’s society, technology is an important factor in medical records, patient care, and communication. Technology allows caregivers to communicate the care of a patient from one office to another with the touch of a button. This type of open communication allows caregivers to treat patients with the right care and prevents mistakes. Technology also allows patients to make appointments with physicians, track medication through the pharmacy, and much more. Technology is one of the most effective ways of communicating between caregivers and between caregivers and patients.
Medical reform to improve caregiver communication is currently one of the highlights of medical school. Studying social and psychological conditions and learning how to cope with different medical communication situations will help increase how patients and caregivers communicate.
Teamwork is another way to improve communication between caregivers and patients. Working together to diagnose and treat illnesses and other medical conditions only increases the chances of improvement. Teamwork allows caregivers and patients to work together and share thoughts and ideas to solve medical problems. Teamwork between caregivers is also an important part of quality care. Working as a team to solve medical conditions improves the chance for survival and healing among their patients.
Social support is one of the main factors that influence healing and communication for patients. Friends and family surrounding a patient struggling with a serious medical condition can help lift their spirits and provide a more positive attitude to the situation. Socializing between caregivers also allows the caregivers to reduce stress that may hinder open communication with the patient.
Environmental restricting helps patients feel more invited in a caregivers office. The more inviting a room is the more a patient will feel at ease to open lines or communication. Soothing tones and smiling faces help make patients feel at ease and comfortable in their environment. Conclusion
Keeping all lines of communication open and inviting is key to the proper treatment and healing of patients. Excellent listening skills, educating patients of conditions and proper use of body language are ways that help improve communication between patients and caregivers. Good communication is a team effort between caregivers, patients, and other people involved in the situation. Good communication involves verbal, nonverbal, and the surrounding environment.
Negri, Berengere de; Brown, Lori; Hernandez, Orlando; Rosenbaum, Julia; Roter, Debra. Improving Interpersonal Communication Between Health Care Providers and Clients. Retrieved from www.globalhealthcommunication.org.
American Medical Association. 2006. Improving Communication – Improving Care. Retrieved from www.ama-assn.org.
Warth MD, Gregory. 2009. The Art of Patient Care. Retrieved from www.art-of-patient-care.com.
DuPre. Communicating About Health: Current Issues and Perspectives. 2004.