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Physicians’ Crying Need for Communications Training in Doctor Marketing

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

cans on a string communications trainingThere’s yet another survey out recently that suggests how some surgeons could use the help of communications professionals and training when it comes to doctor-patient communications. Last month’s findings—published in the August issue of the Archives of Surgery—points to the fact that surgeons lack formal training in how to deliver bad news to patients.

Effective physician-patient communications is an important ingredient in doctor marketing and in the patient experience in particular. Patients have almost no technical training or background to evaluate the clinical aspects of their healthcare. But they can, and do, judge the clinician’s ability to communicate.

As the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality observes, “Even though a clinician explains a diagnosis, test result, or treatment option to a patient, if the person walks away and does not understand the explanation, it has not been an effective communication. [Furthermore] poor communication can have a serious impact on health outcomes.”

If you are a medical communications professional this may be an opportunity to help healthcare providers improve their communications skills, particularly when they talk with patients facing cancer. This study observed that in general, “U.S. surgical residents have no formal training in patient education and are expected to learn these skills in practice. But without communication skills, even the best surgical training would be rendered ineffective," the authors concluded.

The study included 44 general surgery residents who were first assessed on their ability to talk to a person playing the role of a patient about a breast or rectal cancer diagnosis, including delivering the bad news and helping the patient understand what was ahead. The surgery residents then took part in an interactive program about doctor-patient communication. The residents were then re-assessed and showed significant improvement in their case-specific performance, HealthDay reported.

Some doctors and surgeons would welcome training that helps improve their communications skills. Often, doctors are open to training by other, more experienced, doctors who have the skills (and the time) to train their colleagues. When that option isn’t available, the CAHPS Improvement Guide offers practical strategies for improving the patient care experience. They point to two organizations that offer training resources for doctors to improve physician-patient communications.

Click through to this page on the Health & Human Services website for details about The Institute for Healthcare Communications and The American Academy on Communication in Healthcare. And let us know what you think. Is this a problem for you?

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