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CMO Article - The Value of Communication and Collaboration in the Patient Experience

By Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman, MD, Vice President, Chief Medical Officer, Atrium Medical Center

Hoffman HSThe Value of Communication and Collaboration in the Patient Experience

Every patient we see faces a complex interplay of physicians, nurses, insurers, pharmacists, and other health care providers. While each provider plays a vital role in the patient’s care, physicians are in a unique position to positively influence the patient experience because of the trust patients place in us.

Premier Health recognizes the value of doctor-patient trust, and has endorsed several evidence-based practices that help physicians improve patient care. Educational tools such as AIDET (Acknowledge, Introduce yourself, Duration of the visit, Explain, and Thank) and teach-back , having the patient explain what you told them in their language as though explaining to their family member, help promote a culture of caring.

So how are we doing? While in 2013 we improved overall (from 2012) in the doctor questions (how often did doctors treat you with courtesy and respect, how often did doctors listen carefully to you, how often did doctors explain in a way you could understand), we still ended the year at all sites below the 50th percentile. We have an opportunity to continue to improve our scores, as well as patient outcomes in 2014. Recent research demonstrates that higher scores are linked to decreased readmissions and increased adherence to recommended therapy.

Our Voice of the Patient Council, with representation from patients across Premier Health, provides critical feedback and insights into our low scores: “You treat us like we are visiting you. Really, you are visitors in our lives.” “You have a difficult time sharing bad news. We have the right to know what is going on with us or our family.” “It doesn’t seem that the physicians communicate with each other. A physician will tell you the plan and then another will share a different plan with you.” “Is it unreasonable to ask that the physician would talk to the patient and family daily about the plan of care?”

The quality of the physician-patient relationship has the greatest effect on patient engagement, and our individual approach can make or break the relationship. Our patients value medical visits in which we allow them to talk about their specific condition, provide a thorough examination, and educate them about their treatment. If they feel that we are approachable, they are more likely to ask questions, research their condition, and follow our care instructions.

With every patient interaction, we should be prepared to address the following questions: “What's wrong with me?” “What are you going to do to find out what's wrong with me?” “What is my prognosis/outcome?” “What is the likelihood of a positive outcome?” and “What are my treatment options?”

A successful doctor-patient relationship is made up of shared perceptions and feelings regarding the nature of the problem, goals of treatment, and psychosocial support, but the relationship goes beyond just that of the individual physician and his/her patient. A successful experience involves every health care provider who interacts with the patient – you can be the role model.

Your patients trust you. What will you do to improve the patient experience?

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