During the training, my colleagues and I each encountered three different standardized patients in key scenarios: one at daily rounds, one upset over a missed diagnosis, and one at discharge, when the potential for errors and miscommunication is greatest. We were videotaped during the encounters for our personal review, and we received direct feedback afterward from the patient.
We discovered that we as physicians have become great at taking care of patients, but we also discovered that we don’t have enough opportunities to investigate which elements of our day-to-day communication need adjustment – or what good behaviors need reinforcing.
It was extremely helpful to be able to watch the videos and ask ourselves, “Do I use medical jargon that’s hard for the patient to understand? Do I say things that aren’t warm and welcoming to the patient?” Then, by adding in patient feedback, we learned how we performed across core domains, such as treating patients with courtesy and respect, using listening skills, and explaining complex topics in an understandable way.
Strengthening these individual communication skills is paramount to improving patient comprehension, which in turn can improve patient follow-though on discharge instructions and reduce risk of readmission. And as educators, our takeaways from the training can empower others in the health care system at large to better communicate with their patients.