Doctor – patient communication is key to successful treatment while the lack of relationship is often doomed to result in therapeutic failure. A good relationship is essential for quality healthcare and requires good interpersonal skills. These include the ability to show concern and empathy to patients, maintain a caring relationship, give instructions, counsel, discuss treatment options, and gather information for diagnostic purposes.
A problem that some patients report is that they feel like doctors are not listening. In fact, studies have confirmed that patients feel better just for the fact that they are talking and being listened to. Part of the explanation for the poor communication between patients and doctors is that healthcare professionals are often pressed for time and work under pressure. Patients, on the other hand, are often unwilling to disclose personal information out of fear that it can be embarrassing. This makes it more difficult to gather information and diagnose and treat patients accurately.
Legal Ramifications and Risks
Poor communication between doctors and patients may result in inappropriate treatment and malpractice claims. In fact, even if doctors prescribe appropriate treatment, patients may feel that they have not been treated with the right amount of care. Such patients often sue nurses, physicians, and even hospitals.
Technology can improve communication between doctors and patients in many ways. For healthcare professionals, technology helps reduce hospital readmission and improves outcomes for patients. An automated system can be used to record patient consent. Patients are asked to repeat in their own words what doctors said about the procedure, treatment, outcome, and other details. This can help avoid misunderstanding and malpractice claims. Notes are also sent and stored in the electronic health record of the patient for future use. Consent documentation can help reduce the risk of medical errors and cancelation on the part of patients. There are other ways to improve the quality of patient – doctor communication such as the use of electronic portals and e-visits. Patient portals, for example, offer patients free access to medication lists, results from diagnostic tests, lab results, and other information. They can use the portal to request refills as well. Electronic portals also offer the chance to communicate with healthcare professionals by email. Telehealth is an alternative that can improve communication. It allows for long-distance care through discussion, monitoring, timely intervention, patient education, reminders, counseling, and advice. Telehealth can be used in other ways as well, for example, for presentations, supervision, discussions, and long-distance learning for healthcare practitioners. Technology is used for remote access surgeries, video conferences, the use of monitoring instruments for therapeutic purposes, and so on. Such innovative approaches can help make healthcare more patient-oriented, thus contributing to improved outcomes and longer life expectancy.
Today, there is a shortage of specific healthcare practitioners, and technology can be the solution to this, especially for long-distance communication and intervention. At the same time, there are problems and challenges to overcome with the advance of new technologies. One is that some healthcare professionals are unwilling to use electronic portals worrying that email communication is encroaching on their leisure time. Contact between patients and doctors is also more impersonal which can result in lack of trust. What is more, healthcare practitioners have to learn how to use new technologies and teach patients how to use them to their benefit. A recent survey reveals that only half of all patients are aware that their healthcare practitioner offers an electronic portal. Those who know, however, are eager and enthusiastic about it.