The Ultimate Guide to Clinical Communication Between Staff and Patients

Good clinical communication not only encourages patient ownership over their recovery but also fosters a stronger patient-doctor relationship. With patient-focused care, your patients can feel confident in the decisions they are making. Ultimately, this increases the likelihood that they will achieve their health goals. Studies have found that interventions to improve communication resulted in a 43% increase in achieving patient-reported goals of care.

Let’s look at how the RESPECT model can help you remember the key components of clinical communication and effectively engage your patients in this vital relationship.

Key Takeaways

  • Effective clinical information is a two-way street between the healthcare provider and the patient.
  • Strong patient-provider communication improves health outcomes.
  • The RESPECT model is an easy way to remember the key components of good clinical communication: rapport, empathy, support, partnership, explanations, cultural competence, and trust.

What is Clinical Communication?

Clinical communication is the exchange of information and ideas between healthcare providers and their patients. It is a two-way process in which the patient expresses their needs, wants, and concerns and the provider explains the relevant medical care or procedure and answers any questions the patient may have. 

Here are some of the most common clinical communication methods and topics today:

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our methods of communication significantly, making effective communication more important than ever
Source: https://www.targetedonc.com/view/survey-finds-changes-to-physician-patient-communication-during-covid-19

The goal of clinical communication is to ensure that the patient is aware of their care, to provide comfort during times of discomfort or pain, and to motivate the patient to continue with their health care plan. This not only promotes a sense of partnership and communication between the two parties but also increases the likelihood of patient compliance with care instructions. 

The relationship between a patient and their healthcare provider can have a profound and positive impact on a patient’s physical, mental, and emotional health. So, providers must build and maintain these relationships with patients.

The RESPECT Model of Clinical Communication

When you’re talking with a patient or family member, several techniques can help you better communicate with them. The RESPECT model of clinical communication (R-E-S-P-E-C-T) is an easy way to remember the key elements of effective patient communication in practice:

R for Rapport

As a healthcare provider, it’s important to build a rapport with your patients so that they feel comfortable discussing their experiences with you, their medical procedures, and the healing process. Good rapport makes clear and open communication possible.

Building rapport can be done through a variety of means, including:

  • Taking the time to introduce yourself
  • Remembering and using your patient’s name and other personal details (such as the name of their pet)
  • Finding common ground, such as a shared experience or trait
  • Using attentive body language, such as making comfortable eye contact and keeping your posture open
  • Asking follow-up questions
  • Reserving judgment

Doing these things will help you build a deeper connection with your patients.

You should also avoid behaviors that impede rapport, which include:

  • Talking too much
  • Using closed body language (crossed arms, looking away, frequently checking the time)
  • Making assumptions
  • Rushing the conversation

E for Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s thoughts, feelings, and perspectives, and is a crucial part of patient-centered care. It’s your ability to put yourself in the shoes of your patients and understand where they are coming from.

A great way to demonstrate empathy is by verbally acknowledging and legitimizing your patient’s feelings. If you can show that you really understand how your patient feels, you’ll be able to communicate more effectively with them and provide them with the best care possible.

S for Support

The second step in the RESPECT model of patient communication is to talk about providing the patient with the support they need. This can include identifying and helping to overcome any barriers to their care, providing your contact information for any future questions they have, and even involving their support network of family and friends.

For example, if your patient is recovering from bariatric surgery, you can provide them with physical and emotional support to help them feel confident in their recovery by:

  • Discussing how you can help them track their progress
  • Providing them with written instructions for home care
  • Answering any questions that they may have about their procedures

This shows your patients that you’re committed to providing them with the best care possible on an ongoing basis.

P for Partnership

To provide your patients with the best care possible, make them partners in their own health care. By involving them in the decision-making process and thoroughly discussing their healthcare plan, you can demonstrate to them that their input matters. This activates and enables your patients, which has been linked to better health outcomes.

E for Explanations

When communicating with patients, provide clear explanations that are free of medical jargon. Avoid using words or phrases that are unfamiliar to them. Instead, use words that are more understandable to a general audience, such as “before and after pictures” rather than “postoperative pictures.”

It’s also important to check with your patients to make sure that they understand what you’re explaining to them. You can do this by asking them follow-up questions. Doing this will help you determine whether your patients have any questions or concerns, which will enable you to provide them with any additional information they need.

C for Cultural Competence

As a healthcare provider, you have a unique opportunity to help patients from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. Recognizing and demonstrating respect for their culture and beliefs will help every patient feel comfortable discussing their experiences with you.

As part of this, take the time to identify your own cultural biases and to understand your own limitations when addressing medical issues across cultures. When we fail to identify our own cultural biases, it can lead to us making assumptions based on our own experiences that may not accurately reflect the experiences of our patients.

T for Trust

Earn your patients’ trust. By demonstrating your commitment to their care, you can help your patients feel confident in the decisions they are making, which will increase the likelihood that they will achieve their health care goals. 

98% of physicians say their patients trust them, and 83% of the public says their doctor trusts what they say
Source: https://www.norc.org/PDFs/ABIM%20Foundation/20210520_NORC_ABIM_Foundation_Trust%20in%20Healthcare_Part%201.pdf

Enhance Your Clinical Communication with Wellbe

Wellbe offers a range of services to help facilitate clearer communication between patients and healthcare providers through personalized care automation. 

Talk to a solutions specialist to find out how Wellbe can help improve your clinical communication today.

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