Healthcare News & Insights

Boost patient engagement through communication, shared decision making

Engaging patients in their own health outcomes has become important for hospitals. That means it’s essential to communicate information about their conditions throughout their hospital stays. To do this effectively, your clinicians must be on board with delivering information to patients in language they can easily understand. 

178488437Many doctors may not be used to the idea of talking about diagnoses and treatments using language that’s free of medical jargon. But giving patients clear explanations of health-related information makes them more active partners in their care and recovery, allowing them to make informed decisions about their health.

Making patients partners

Clinicians may have to change their approach for talking with patients and their families to accomplish the goal of making them informed decision makers.

On the healthcare blog Mind the Gap Academy, Steve Wilkins outlines several key elements of boosting patient engagement by promoting shared decision making between providers and patients:

  • Let patients and their families know there are multiple options for treatment or health maintenance, then list each one and encourage a discussion about which option is best.
  • Describe all options to patients and their families in detail – not just the ones the patient may prefer.
  • Give the patient clear, objective information about the benefits and risks of each option.
  • Help patients select an option based on their individual goals and health values.
  • Be on the lookout for signs that may indicate a patient is unsure about which decision to make, then ask if the person needs more information or time to decide.
  • Once a decision’s been made, and the patient’s comfortable with it, discuss what the next steps should be.

In the shared decision-making process, it’s also key to consider the level of health literacy patients and their families have. Explanations may need to be simplified or altered based on the person’s level of understanding about health-related topics. In some cases, foreign language translators may be necessary.

Listen & react

Above all, as Wilkins writes in another blog post on patient engagement, providers should make the effort to listen to patients and their preferences. Rather than telling patients what they “should” do after they’re discharged from the hospital, asking them what they’d “want” to do is a better strategy.

That way, they don’t feel as though the doctor is “talking down” to them or ignoring their needs, and the conversation feels more like a discussion instead of a lecture.

While doctors may see some elements of a patient’s post-discharge plan as necessary, patients may feel providers are being condescending when explaining the required steps. Doctors must be mindful of the potential for this to happen and adjust their approach to communication, if necessary.

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