Effective Interpersonal Communication Practices in Health Care Settings:
Health care providers and patients share responsibility for communicating with one another. One of the most important elements for improving client satisfaction, compliance and health outcomes is to promote effective interpersonal communications between the health care provider and the client. A patient who believes the health care provider has his best interest at heart and cares about his progress can be more likely to comply with treatment methods and reveal essential information about his health problems so providers can make more accurate diagnoses.
Interaction between client and provider should be a two‐way street where both speak and listen without interruption, ask questions, express opinions, exchange information and fully understand what the other is saying. To achieve positive outcomes, the client and the provider should show mutual respect and make important decisions jointly. The provider should establish rapport with the patient and summarize the information the patient provides throughout the conversation to elicit his perspective.
Patients need to believe that their provider is committed to their welfare. The provider should make the patient feel secure by being attentive, making eye contact and showing empathy. Patients feel cared for when the provider spends adequate time with them. Today's physicians order diagnostic tests to determine the cause of ailments; most patients appreciate the emotional connection of providers actually putting their hands on them more than the care provided by an unemotional machine.
The health care providers should choose words the client comprehends rather than medical jargon that may be confusing to patients. Clients also need to take into account any dialects or accents they may have that make it difficult for the provider to understand. Health care providers should inform their patients in a way they understand about treatments, courses of disease, preventions, expected outcomes and possible complications. When they do, patients generally do better and are more satisfied with the care provided them.
Tone, attitude and gestures convey as much as words. Smiling, listening thoughtfully and sitting at the same eye level as the patient enhances communication. Cultural customs account for much of the non‐verbal communication difficulties. In some cultures, for example, direct eye contact is a positive sign while in other cultures, it may seem aggressive or improper. Simple gestures that do not require great effort, such as a warm greeting or a thoughtful question, can have significant results and are less likely to be misinterpreted.
Another aspect of effective communication in health care is social interactions. Almost everyone involved in the health care process will have interaction with the patient at one moment or another. Having the ability to discern what is appropriate or inappropriate in various situations is essential for effective communication. Health care professionals need to build a relationship with patients at a distance. Health care professionals should connect with patients on certain levels, and refrain from engaging too emotionally and socially with the patients.
Health care professionals carry the responsibility of educating and listening at the same time. An effective health care communicator needs to be able to ask the appropriate questions to gather needed information while listening to the responses in detail. The level at which a health care professional is able to effectively listen and respond with accuracy, compassion and understanding, dictates the level of satisfaction the patient will experience.
When effective communication is used in health care, the outcome is almost always satisfaction. The ability to communicate effectively and properly understand a patient's needs, concerns and desires will not only provide satisfaction to the patient but also for the health care professional. If a health care professional is able to communicate appropriately, he or she will have a deeper level of accomplishment which will lead to greater motivation in his or her job, resulting in an improved health care system.