Communicate on the Same Wavelength



Why does a doctor need good communication?

What are communication skills?


In addition to exchanging information, a key role of communication is to influence and build relationships with others (Dolna 2010). In order for it to be feasible – appropriate communication competencies are necessary. They allow to convey of understandable messages, considering the individual and cultural features of the recipient.


These include:

– The ability to use appropriate words depending on the situational context: a person with high communication skills knows how to speak to support and motivate others. He also knows what phrases to avoid during difficult confrontations (Nęcki 1996).

– Active listening with the use of verbal techniques like asking questions, paraphrasing or summarizing the co- interviewer’s statements.

– Sensitivity to the elements of nonverbal communication.


Why are communication skills important in a doctor’s work?


The quality of treatment depends on the success of the doctor-patient communication process. Patients who understand the message about their condition can not only make better decisions about initiating certain treatments or lifestyle changes but also share with the doctor information relevant to the diagnostic and treatment procedure (Brédart, Bouleuc, Dolbeault 2005).


It is also not insignificant that an understandable message from the doctor increases the patient’s ability to tolerate pain and shortens his recovery time (Greenfield, Kaplan, Ware 1985). The effect of a skillfully conducted consultation also results in the patient’s motivation and attentiveness to the given medical recommendations  (Hall, Roter, Rand 1981).

Patients often expect psychological support and empathy from their doctors (Baile, Buckman, Lenzi, Glober, Beale, Kudelka 2000), and effective communication with a specialist helps regulate the patient’s emotions (Brédart, Bouleuc, Dolbeault). Statistics also show that patients who rate their communication with a doctor as satisfactory report fewer complaints and abuse (Hall, Roter, Rand). This promotes medics’ sense of professional satisfaction and psychological well-being, and feeling less job-related stress prevents their professional burnout (Brédart, Bouleuc, Dolbeault).

Communication barriers in a doctor’s work


Although up to 75% of the surveyed specialists (orthopedic surgeons) reported that they communicate with their patients successfully, the same feelings were expressed by only 21% of patients (Tongue, Epps, Forese).


This is because it turns out that doctors’ communication skills decrease as they acquire medical expertise. The source of these difficulties is attributed to the healthcare training system. It lacks practical exercises in effective communication, and empathy is not promoted alongside the learning of medical procedures and techniques (DiMatteo 1998).


An additional factor that can hinder patient-doctor communication is the medics’ concerns. They report the problem of patients’ unrealistic expectations and their own fear of lawsuits, and physical or psychological violence.


Some professionals do not engage in discussions with patients about their emotional and social problems at all. This happens because of inadequate time or the belief that they won’t know how to do it properly (Maguire, Key Pitceathly 2002). An evasive strategy like this can lead to negative emotions among professionals and patients.


How can doctors improve their communication skills?


More complaints about doctors are the result of a mishandled communication process than the result of a lack of clinical knowledge (Tongue, Epps, Forese 2005). This shows that specialists can’t just be good diagnosticians – they must also learn how to talk to patients.


Doctors can change their communication style by participating in interpersonal skills training. However, in order to avoid returning to previous automated communication behaviors, these trainings should take place regularly. This, in turn, imposes a heavy time burden on doctors. Therefore, a great support for them can be an empatyzer, who will suggest how to properly talk to a particular patient.


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e-mail: em@empatyzer.com
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The first professional system to teach good communication in teams and entire organizations when and where they need it