Welcome to the Patient's Voice

Discussing the good, bad and ugly experiences patients face in healthcare today.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Communication - Communication - Communication

What do patients want from their healthcare providers?  They assume that we are competent to provide the service they are seeking.  However, most will tell you, that first and foremost, they want to be treated as a person and not a diagnosis, number or an inconvenience.  They want us to not only listen to them, but "hear" them.  Treat them with respect and courtesy; answer their questions in a way that they will understand; explain what we are doing and why; explain why we are giving a medication and what side effects they need to be aware of.  All of these topics and more come down to communication.

It's not just direct patient care givers who need to communicate effectively and appropriately with patients and their families, but everyone within the organization.  The scheduler who is rude and uncaring about the patient's urgency for an appointment; A receptionist that says "we're out of wheelchairs, you'll have to walk" when it's clear that the person isn't able.  Both are examples of a culture that isn't tuned into "caring" and sets the tone for the whole encounter. 

Unfortunately, Karyn and Chelsea have experienced this recently.  You have an abnormal test result for which you are waiting for an appointment.  Two weeks pass, three weeks and no appointment date.  Karyn calls to enquire when she can expect an appointment and is told "I don't do scheduling, you'll just have to wait like everyone else."  Imagine the frustration, anger and anxiety this type of response caused.  You are waiting to find out if your cancer is back and you're told to wait.  While it may be true that this individual doesn't do the scheduling, wouldn't it have been better to say:  "I'm sorry that you haven't been contacted yet.  I don't do the scheduling, but let me check with them to see what the delay is.  Can I put you on hold, or would you prefer I call you back?"  The outcome may not be any different (she's STILL WAITING), but at least she wouldn't feel like nobody cares and that she is inconveniencing them.

Unless you or a loved one has gone through a major illness, you might not understand how every contact shapes the patient's experience and perception.  We have an obligation in healthcare to do the right things, the right way for the right reason.  Patients are not an interruption to our work, they are the reason for our work!

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