Promoting shared decision-making
Active communication in healthcare is part and parcel of shared decision-making. It involves listening actively to patients, understanding their message, and clarifying questions without judgment. It acknowledges that patients are well aware of their own experiences and preferences, while healthcare professionals bring medical expertise to the table.
The provider’s communication with patients helps evaluate the patient’s views on the available options. Based on interactions, providers can tailor their messages in ways that promote productive discussion during the decision-making process.
Instead of providers alone making decisions on behalf of patients, shared decision-making encourages patients and providers to collaborate and make unified decisions. Especially in situations where the treatment options rely on incorporating the patient’s preferences and values, shared decision-making is the most appropriate choice.
This process involves a two-way dialogue where providers communicate medical information to patients, providing patients with evidence and statistics of success about the available treatment options and expected outcomes. Equipped with knowledge, patients are able to make informed decisions aligned with their needs and preferences.
Honoring patient preferences and values
Providers’ attentive listening to patients’ experiences makes them feel heard, understood, and respected. A patient-centered approach emphasizes understanding and respecting the patient’s personal needs, preferences, and goals. It shifts the focus from solely relying on the provider’s expertise to the patient’s experience, empowering patients to actively participate in the shared decision-making process.
Focus on the patient’s perspective
Focusing on a patient’s perspective can reveal a wealth of information for providing effective and personalized healthcare. Misunderstandings in comprehending a provider’s message often act as a roadblock to making informed decisions. By actively listening to the patient’s response to treatment plans, providers can uncover adverse effects and make adjustments accordingly.
Establish a respectful environment
A respectful environment in patient-centered communications fosters trust, collaboration, and positive healthcare outcomes. When providers provide a supportive space for patients to share their values, they feel heard and empowered to participate in decision-making. It involves conducting a conversation in a private setting to respect the patient’s privacy and confidentiality. Assuring the patients that their personal information is safe and can’t be disclosed to anyone without their consent works like icing on the cake.
The role of technology: benefits and challenges of incorporating technology in healthcare communication
Clear and effective communication is of paramount importance in healthcare. With technology finding unavoidable grounds in healthcare, providers can leverage digital tools and platforms to facilitate collaborative decision-making in the healthcare setting.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an accelerated shift in remote consulting and the use of telehealth technology for virtual collaboration and online sharing of information. Breaking down geographical barriers, telemedicine services, and remote patient monitoring have led to increased patient engagement, timely interventions, and improved management of chronic conditions.
While technology offers tons of benefits, its integration into healthcare communication poses challenges with human connection and empathy, data literacy, and access disparities, as well as the potential for misinterpretation and bias.
Human connection and empathy
The role of technology should be to complement human interaction, not replace it. If a balance is not maintained between technology-driven communication and in-person interaction, it can impact personalized support and empathy, ultimately affecting shared decision-making and informed consent.
Data literacy and access disparities
Effectively navigating healthcare technology requires digital literacy. Not all patients are tech-friendly, especially generation X. The digital divide can exacerbate existing disparities in healthcare access and outcomes. Their inability to access and use patient portals and telehealth services can delay diagnosis, leading to poor health outcomes.
Potential for misinterpretation
Digital communication often lacks the nuances of nonverbal cues and emotional context, which are intrinsic to the accurate interpretation of messages. Their absence complicates the assessment of patient comprehension and the reckoning of potential misunderstandings. If patients and providers are of diverse linguistic backgrounds, machine translation may introduce misinterpretations when dealing with complex medical terminology or nuanced cultural expressions.