The relationship between the provider and patient is one that hinges on honesty, frequency, and quality. When the communication standards between provider and patient are elevated, and the processes standardized, both parties experience a more successful and rewarding relationship.
But this is always easier said than done. Providers are under immense pressure to see numerous patients each day, make high-cost healthcare decisions, and handle all necessary paperwork. On the flip side, patients commonly feel overlooked, confused, and neglected throughout their communication with the healthcare system as a whole.
Since it isn’t possible to create more hours in the day, a better solution needs to be established so that providers can handle their workloads more efficiently, and patients can receive the quality time and explanations they wish for. When effective and satisfying patient communication is achieved, better healthcare outcomes are achievable. This can come in the form of:
- Improved patient treatment plan adherence
- Better care and management of chronic diseases
- Higher patient satisfaction
- Lower readmission rates
- Efficient use of institution resources
Barriers to Positive Patient Communication
The importance of positive patient communication can’t be overstated as an estimated 27 percent of medical malpractice is the result of communication failures. Everyday real-world pitfalls exist that trip up both providers and patients from having two-way communication that is both effective and enjoyable.
The elimination of these barriers is essential to entering a new era of patient communication where both parties can continue to build on a deepening, transparent relationship. Common obstacles to successful communication consist of:
- Language barriers
- Overworked providers
- A hectic work environment
- Patient anxiety/hesitancy/pain
- Family interferences
- Under-trained communication skills
1. Leverage Digital Tools to Increase Patient Access to Care
One of the simplest ways to make a dramatic jump in patient communication is to implement digital tools that can support a widescale telehealth infrastructure. The ability for patients and providers to communicate face-to-face, without needing to be in the same room, increases the opportunity for more touchpoints, fewer appointment cancellations, and more dialogue between physicians and their patients.
In today’s times, nearly every aspect of life is being digitized to allow for remote access and solutions. As healthcare is one of the most important areas of an individual’s life, and an area that is easy to neglect, it is a smart investment for healthcare institutions to develop their telehealth solutions. Through these remote check-ups and appointments, patient communication can be streamlined and more frequent — enabling improved patient communication to take hold.
2. Implement Multiple Channels of Communication
“Traditional” medical care has relied on in-person visitations where patients travel to see their physician or specialist. This model places a lot of responsibility on the patient to show up, and limits the power providers have in regards to getting the necessary contact with their patient populations.
By allowing for more communication channels to come on board, patient communication can increase its odds of being effective with more avenues for connecting. From Virtual Visits to email to text messaging and phone calls, with more options patients and providers have the opportunity to improve healthcare outcomes.
3. Improve After Hours Communication
Not everyone’s timelines match up. Providers often hold firm 9 to 5 working hours, and that doesn’t always give patients the ability to see their physician or connect regarding a concern. Life is busy and gets in the way, but it shouldn’t be a preventative to patient communication. A healthcare institution can improve after hours communication to give patients the chance to have some of their questions or worries addressed at times that accommodate their lives.
Options include staggering on-staff provider hours, having administrative staff answer and advise after hour patient calls, or leveraging symptom checker technology that helps patients narrow down their symptoms, severity, and potential necessary next steps.
4. Break Down Language Barriers
As noted through studies, language barriers exist within the healthcare industry. Patients and providers may not always align when it comes to their primary spoken language, or be able to understand the written word either. At times, a patient’s family or friends can help act as an in-between or translator for the provider and patient. However, this isn’t always the case.
By eliminating the struggle to understand one another, patient communication can feel more genuine, respectful, and positive. Through the use of translating technology and platforms that accommodate multi-lingual populations, patients and providers can more successfully get on the same page, and experience a more accurate and free-flowing system of communication.
5. Make More Time for Patients by Simplifying Repetitive Manual Tasks
By implementing a communication infrastructure that automates time-consuming tasks and processes that can very well be handled by artificial intelligence, this adds time back into the day for providers to dedicate to their patients. Simplifying repetitive tasks such as scheduling and visit follow-up paperwork, time is saved helping increase time spent with the patient and improving the overall experience.
6. Personalize Communication Based on Patient Preferences
One of the best ways to better patient communication is by tailoring communication to fit their style and likes. It is easy to ruin a relationship with ineffective communication or an overbearing presence. Every individual is different and receives personalized care — shouldn’t that extend to how providers communicate with their patients? By hitting the frequency, communication methods, and follow-up options that match each patient’s preferences, healthcare institutions can witness better responses and actions from these individuals.
7. Automating Patient Reminders
Sometimes a gentle reminder is appreciated. Automated reminders sent via text, email, phone, etc. can be appreciated by patients to help them remember upcoming appointments, medication dosing, and more. These simple, low-maintenance automated reminders lead to better healthcare outcomes.
8. Leverage User-Friendly Platforms
Patient communication needs to be both hassle-free and quick to pick up. Communication is only as effective as the willingness for patients and providers to put in the effort to actively share and listen to one another. Implementing a user-friendly communication platform like QliqSOFT, gives both patients and providers the communication tools to easily connect with each other. With an interface that is simple to learn, and seamless to navigate, every type of user is capable of communicating effectively through the platform — even those who would describe themselves as less “tech-savvy.” QliqSOFT being a platform that is app-less enables patients and providers to use a variety of devices from smartphones to tablets to computers to connect with one another.
9. Providing Educational Materials Directly to Patients Mobile Device
Healthcare treatment often carries with it a truckload of information that patients need to be aware of as they follow their treatment plans, recovery from surgery, optimize their lifestyle, etc. Having a provider deliver all this information at once to a patient can quickly become overwhelming and become lost in translation. That’s why delivering follow-up instructions, additional information about recent a diagnosis, and other relevant info via a patient’s mobile device is critical to the success of care provided by physicians. This rather straightforward communication standard helps individuals digest and act on all pertinent information regarding their health status.
A Final Word on Improving Patient Communication
The investment in patient communication isn’t one to kick down the road. Ultimately, all bottom-line health outcomes and financial success stem from the quality of the patient-provider relationship. When the communication pathways, behaviors, and infrastructure are examined, updated, and improved, both healthcare institutions and their patient populations are simultaneously uplifted.
One example of this involves the Hispanic Health Coalition of Georgia which has elected to implement QliqSOFT to “empower patients to communicate directly and confidentially with healthcare providers through the use of multilingual, interactive chatbots and virtual visits to find the right help, navigating available healthcare services and resources including patient education.”
Contact us today to set up a demo, and see how the various patient communication solutions that QliqSOFT offers can make a night and day difference in the quality of care and satisfaction between your physicians and patients.
A lifelong communicator, this Tennessee native got his start in broadcast news before branching out into public media, corporate, communications, digital advertising, and integrated marketing. Prior to joining QliqSOFT as the company's first marketing team member, Ben shared his talents with organizations that include the University of Alabama, iHeartMedia, and The Kroger Company.
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