Effective communication improves health care experience

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Communication seems to be the new trendy word when it comes to outcome failures in all walks of life. We did not communicate the purpose. We did not communicate the “why” something needed to be done. We had a “communication failure.”

As fully demonstrated daily by our commander-in-chief, there are many different methods of communication. Same is true in the health care setting. Communication today takes place in the medical record, by text, phone, fax, email and in person.

Unfortunately, technology has become so much a part of the health care industry that person-to-person communication may not occur as often as needed. I find this especially true in our younger generation. I know my kids prefer to communicate by text, Facebook and other electronic means versus actually talking via phone.

Clear and concise communication is still absolutely essential for the best care of any patient in any setting. That communication process must include the patient and family. When you are in a health care setting, please be sure you are comfortable communicating your needs, desires and concerns with all members of the health care team. If you are uncomfortable or have difficulty doing so, be sure to have someone with you who can speak on your behalf. To make this easier, there are some things you can do in preparation of your visit with your health care provider or when you are in the hospital.

1. Prepare a list of questions/requests prior to seeing your health care provider. This way you can organize your thoughts so that you help ensure that any question/request is addressed.

2. Politely and respectfully talk to the provider about questions you may have. Be honest about your concerns.

3. Ensure that you have all of your questions and concerns addressed before the provider leaves.

The majority of poor outcomes in health care can be traced back, at least to some degree, to failed communication between the involved parties. Our communication boards, bedside shift report and patient rounding all have a common goal to help better communication.

Clear and honest communication, feeling comfortable in asking questions and respectfully requesting clarification of concerns will help ensure the best possible outcome. Please speak up and ask questions.

Ronald Stahl, M.D., is the chief medical officer at Wilson Medical Center.