The power of communication
One of the most fascinating findings in health studies was the strong association between clinician–patient communication and patient health outcomes. Communication positively impacts physical health if it helps identifying the correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan, following through with treatment or self-care, and/or affects patients’ health beliefs. Good physician patient communication has also a positive impact on clinicians reaching higher satisfaction of their jobs, better time management specially and lower burnout level. A particular example is the interaction between surgeons and patients prior to undergoing operations, especially in surgical oncology. Surgeons must process huge amount of complex data and deliver the right and simple information to patients who already experienced devastating diagnosis of cancer.
But how can communication improve health ?
Research have shown that communication ensures many functions as information exchange, responding to patient emotions, managing uncertainty, fostering clinician-patient relationships, helping making and choosing decisions and enabling self management. All these functions have a direct effect on health outcomes such as survival, cure or recurrence, pain control, emotional well being, and functional ability.
However in some cases communication affects health through an indirect pathway, by affecting proximal outcomes of the interaction (e.g., satisfaction with care, motivation to adhere to the treatment, trust in clinicians and health care system, self-efficacy in self-care and self management, clinician–patient agreement, and shared understanding) that could affect the intermediate outcomes (e.g., adherence, self-management skills, social support) that lead to improved health outcomes.
Is it always easy to reach the perfect communication clinician-patient?
It is reasonable to believe that physicians have strong motivation to deliver high quality health care and share efficient information with patients. however they will be able to communicate competently only if each is motivated; has sufficient knowledge, understanding, and self-awareness; and has suitable perceptual and linguistic skills to produce effective communication behaviors and adapt them appropriately. Research suggests communication skills do not reliably improve with experience but may be taught successfully. Therefore, Several training concepts have been presented in order to facilitate the transfer into the clinical practice integrating coaching, supervision and booster sessions. These programs show clear strengths, however they may fail to reach their elements systematically.
We expect that in the era of digital revolution, technology will have a profound impact on how physicians will interact with patients, their family and the community at-large. Digital tools as electronic devices will help to enhance face-to-face patient/doctor relationship by improving skills of communication and enriching the quality of delivered content toward a “perfect” communication clinician- patient.
Written By Jiraha team
- Epstein R, Street RL: Patient-centered Communication in Cancer Car: Promoting Healing and Reducing Suffering. NIH Publication No. 07-6225. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2007.
- How does communication heal? Pathways linking clinician-patient communication to health outcomes. Street RL Jr1, Makoul G, Arora NK, Epstein RM. Patient Educ Couns. 2009 Mar;74(3):295-301. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2008.11.015. Epub 2009 Jan 15.
- Doctor-patient communication in the e-health era. Weiner JP. Isr J Health Policy Res. 2012 Aug 28;1(1):33. doi: 10.1186/2045-4015-1-33.