Good Doctor-Patient Communication Improves Health Outcomes

Although some Continuing Medical Education (CME) is aimed at helping doctors improve communication skills, more doctors should get involved.

That was the conclusion of some panelists at a recent Institute of Medicine workshop on patient engagement who agreed on the need to change current physician culture and convince doctors to talk more with their patients. 

Jonathan Welch, MD, instructor in medicine at the Harvard Medical School and an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said providers need to find better ways to listen to patients and their families. He said the healthcare sector, unlike other service industries, doesn’t listen well to feedback from its consumers.

One way to engage patients is to let them see their doctors’ notes. A survey published in the October 2 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine found that of the more than 5,000 patients who were able to view their doctors’ notes, their medication adherence increased from 60 percent to 78 percent.

Other advice offered to healthcare providers during the IOM workshop included: 

  • Teach patients how to obtain and use their personal health information
  • Teach consumers how to navigate the health system effectively 
  • Present patients with options and listen to their concerns and feedback
  • Establish a connection and relationship with patients and their caregivers
  • Don’t use jargon when presenting information to patients and caregivers
  • Find new ways to listen to patients and their families


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