Connecting with patients is what many clinicians value most about their work. Meaningful connection involves effectively explaining your actions to the patient. Unfortunately, almost two-thirds of Americans feel they don’t fully understand their health information or doctor’s recommendations after a visit. As part of a patient’s care team, you have the chance to empower patients by making sure they are fully informed and understand each step of their care through the way you explain the what, how, and why of what you’re doing as a caregiver.
The Benefits Of Care Teams Effectively Explaining Their Actions
Effectively explaining your actions establishes a stronger connection between you and your patient, which will improve their overall experience.
You’ll alleviate fears the patient may have, and almost every patient experiences some anxiety during a visit—it can even prevent them from seeking care in the first place. You can relieve those concerns with clear, helpful explanations of how you will care for them.
By explaining what you’re doing, you can completely transform the patient experience from one that can be lonely and intimidating to one full of compassion, clarity, and empowerment.
Explaining Actions Is A Critical Skill For Care Team Members
It’s the responsibility of the care team to ensure that patients understand each step of their care process. Going through these details improves their care and health literacy. This not only lowers expenses, but also lowers the danger patients could be in when they don’t understand their diagnosis, treatment, or medication.
A study on how physicians conduct medication reviews found that less than 28% of patients could list their medications, 37% knew the purpose of their medication, and only 14% could list common side effects of their medications. The same study revealed that less than 42% of patients could state their diagnosis.
These numbers prove why it’s so important for clinicians and other members of the care team to be trained and developed in this area of communication. Lower health literacy correlates with increased hospital stays, emergency room visits, and higher death rates.
Your patients will come from diverse backgrounds and have varying needs, so you must learn to explain things in a way that they can understand. What may be obvious to you isn’t always obvious to them. Avoid using medical jargon, simplify your language, and use visual aides to properly explain your actions to patients. Implement the tips in the next section to learn, practice, and improve how you explain your actions.
How To Effectively Explain Actions To Patients
Here are steps you can take to explain actions effectively in a patient encounter:
- Introduce yourself. Share your name, your position, and how you’ll be caring for them in order to create a human connection and help the patient feel at ease.
- Talk through what you’re doing as you do it. Explain why you’re performing each action. This goes for things that seem obvious or minor, like taking out your tablet to pull up information. This helps patients feel included and engaged.
- Acknowledge any fears they may have. Be empathetic and encouraging in order to keep them hopeful and informed.
- Keep explanations simple and concise, but complete.
- Be ready to ask and answer questions, and let the patient know you are ready and eager to do so.
- Discuss what the next steps are for you and the patient, such as follow-up appointments or medication.
- Use teach-back to confirm their understanding. Once you’ve explained everything, ask the patient to tell you in their own words about their diagnosis, treatment, and next steps. This is a great way to check how well you’ve explained things to them, and how well informed they are.
Practicing these methods with your patients regularly will improve your relationships with them, enhance their experience, and help you become a better listener and more empathetic caregiver.
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Atembe is a writer and international educator in Atlanta, GA. Her love of words and education led her to her current position as a Content Specialist with Practicing Excellence. She has written for digital publications, ad agencies, nonprofits, brands, social media, and education systems. She has also coordinated learning programs and taught students of all ages in three different countries. Atembe enjoys learning more about the human side of healthcare each day, and spreading that knowledge to others.