Something that isn’t exactly breaking news to residents of El Cajon and elsewhere and is that doctors and other health care providers don’t always communicate all that well with their patients. It is easy enough to find reasons to justify why: today’s providers are busy, busy, busy, and they may see dozens of patients a day other than you, so it’s not hard to occasionally forget details or get some info wrong.
But where good communication must be absolutely essential is in the area of palliative care, when a provider might want to consider diverting from standard treatment protocols to focus more on a patient’s quality of life. In these situations, it isn’t just the primary provider’s call to members of the medical community involved in his or her treatment plan.
The team at Accredited Home Care is eager to help clients receiving palliative care at any point in their treatment plans, even if it’s as simple as relaying info from a provider’s office or double-checking plans with nurses, office staff or caregivers to make sure the client is receiving proper care.
In some cases, the option to introduce palliative care can take place early into the treatment, and continue until they recover or pass away. It can even include a transition to hospice care, which is also part of palliative care, due to its focus on easing a client’s pain.
So discussions with a provider throughout this process are vital – and also ties in with Essential Communications Week, a national celebration of better ways of speaking to each other.
Although some people think it’s just their provider who doesn’t always communicate well, it’s a much larger concern that often works both ways.
For instance, a good provider-patient relationship has both parties focusing on helping the patient. But if the provider and the patient disagree on different approaches, the relationship may shift.
It can also shift if a patient doesn’t tell everything relevant about their medical history, misses appointments or doesn’t always follow his or her recommendations.
As UExpress says, doctors are dedicated to helping people, but they’re also human so sometimes they may get defensive at criticism or questions and not be happy with a particular patient to the point of not wanting to see them anymore. Seeking a second opinion from a competitor, which is a patient’s legal right, also may rub a doctor the wrong way.
In some cases, specialists may even be more opinionated than family physicians simply because they are better able to choose who they see and work with.
The result of poor communication often causes patients to want to seek out other doctors. But in some cases, it can be a factor in accusations of malpractice, which is theorized in an article in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research. Some patients become so frustrated with poor care from a provider that they decide to hold them accountable in court.
These feelings are often aggravated by a lack of response, or worse, what the patient believes is incorrect or difficult to understand feedback.
The journal article by Drs. Piyush Ranjan, Archana Kumari, and Avanish Cakarwarty found that poor communication can lead to malpractice cases when something negative happens. It also found that the opposite is true: providers who go out of their way to be honest at all times and make sure a patient understands everything happening to them are less likely to sue. They may still be angry, scared or hurt, but not to the extent that they want to hire a lawyer to punish their provider in court.
How to help
Developing a trusting mutual relationship with effective communication is critical, but this has to start small and then grow, since many providers may simply feel too busy to want to connect well.
Worse, some in the industry have received training telling them that the medical profession requires a certain degree of detachment and professional demeanor. Other providers like to focus on growing their ‘bedside manner’ by showing caring and compassion.
As one study showed, it’s sometimes difficult by nature for providers to communicate well with patients because they don’t communicate well with anyone, including other providers.
They may have professional colleagues they like to spend time with or fellow members of shared practices, but in general, physicians don’t always do a good job of providing adequate information to other physicians especially when discussing referrals or consultations.
But, as the journal article by Drs. Ranjan, Kumari, and Chakrawarty points out, the best relationships start with both parties listening to each other and providers need to show that they’re actively attentive. They shouldn’t try to have discussions with the patient while walking down the hall or looking at their computers or tablets. They should also make sure the patient understands and allow time for patients to process the information and ask more questions if needed.
Overall, being honest and straightforward with patients yet professional can go a long way in preventing negative feelings and making patients feel ignored especially as they continue with their palliative care.