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How to Effectively Communicate with Your Healthcare Team

Effective Communication with you Healthcare Team Helps Relieve Patient Stress


Mar 2015


Assembling the most effective healthcare team can be a function of location, especially if regional clinics and hospitals are particularly adept at handling specific chronic situations. However, patients will often find that the ideal care team can consist of physicians at one institution and a variety of specialists who may be in private practice. This likelihood can complicate communications, and it is vital that personal healthcare teams are all operating in concert in order to establish the best patient outcomes.

Teams that Communicate Well

One of the first concerns that patients will have is that all of their healthcare providers are aware of any changes in condition or medication that may arise. When the team is comprised of a number of specialists who are in separate practices, this can become a challenge. However, patients can take action to ensure the likelihood that all members are in dialogue.

  • Raise health provider awareness – this can include ensuring that all the pertinent information for other physicians is well documented for health records. From an administrative standpoint, it can facilitate inter-practice communications and can also alert physicians to therapies that have been used.
  • Verify information – this can consist of repeating diagnoses or advice that one physician recommended to another attending doctor so that everyone is aware of the course of treatment. This can also consist of alerting other professionals to the actions of another member of the team.
  • Release forms – making sure that appropriate release forms are given for the sharing of information that will support continuity of care is also an important aspect of inter-team communications. Patients may need to make it known that other doctors are a part of the healthcare team, and that the person is open to having multiple physicians looking over tests and records.
  • Act as a mediator – patients can also take some responsibility in relaying information, even if it is just that one doctor would like lab reports forwarded to the clinic. The more involved the patient is, the more likely that the care team will also stay focused on communications with other providers.

These points should definitely be followed if members of the healthcare team are operating out of different facilities, but it can also be necessary within the same facility. Interdepartmental issues, manner of administration, and different schedules for rounds can all impede open communication, so it may be necessary for patients to stay pro-active on this point. Assumptions should never be made that doctors and staff are conversing, so patients may need to monitor how well team members are passing information to one another.

Learning to Communicate in Unfamiliar Territory

One of the main reasons that patients do not communicate effectively with their healthcare team is because they feel disempowered regarding the situation. Many individuals will defer to a doctor’s expertise, even if the patient does have significant feelings about the course of treatment. This actually makes one of the first steps in effective communication become trusting in self. By validating personal opinions and beliefs, a patient is able to regain some control over the situation but is also able to gain better empowerment through taking responsibility in wellness outcomes.

There are several factors that should also be considered with this type of approach, and it may be necessary for patients to remind themselves that:

  • Doctors may have experience with the treatment, but the patient knows their own body best.
  • All patients have the choice of what form of treatment will fit them best.
  • A person does not need to be a professional in order to have ideas and make observations about the course of an illness.
  • Relaying what makes the patient feel best can be a viable course of action, even if it is unorthodox.
  • All patients have a right to be treated as they choose.
  • These reminders can help patients achieve the confidence to speak up and ask questions when it comes to treatment protocols and quality of care.

Taking Action for Better Communication

Beyond the issue of confidence in communicating with the healthcare team, patients can also benefit from having a plan of action for each appointment. This may vary depending upon the personality of the physician or the dynamics of the nursing team. However, when the patient maintains focus, they are also better able to facilitate dialogue on all levels, and this can boost wellness outcomes.

Doing individual research can be beneficial for communication. When patients are educated about different treatments, prognoses, and drug regimens, they are also able to contribute more to meetings with the healthcare team. Taking the initiative to find out information can also be a good step in gaining confidence about the situation.

It is also important to recognize that asking questions will not only clarify the instructions or determinations that a physician is offering, but it also lets the doctor know that the patient is engaged in their own care. Asking questions can open up channels for better dialogue since it allows the healthcare team to know where there may be confusion and it also alerts them to specific patient concerns. If information is unclear, then it is best to make this known, especially as the conversation can lead to deeper considerations on the part of the care provider.

Another ideal technique can be to keep a list of questions, observations, or suggestions to discuss with the healthcare team. Since these issues can come up in between clinical visits, it may be wise for patients to keep a running log or journal of the ideas and questions. This allows the patient to revisit concerns when they are finally with their healthcare team, and it can also keep the dialogue on point during the visit. As a result, the patient will be able to address all the points that are of concern, even if the concept did not arise at the time of the meeting.

Overall, any action that encourages communication can raise the effectiveness of the conversations. Clarification and education are good action points, while the confidence to press the communication can be an overall step towards well-being.

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