Earlier this year, the Wall Steet Journal published an article regarding doctor/patient communcation that was spot on. In our line of work, many of our clients injuries resulted from a lack of communication between them and a physician. Our clients tell us that doctors are rude; they don’t listen; they have no time and that they don’t explain things in terms patients can understand.
According to the article, the medical community is taking notice of these frustrations and they are trying to rectify the problem. Why? Because a lack of communication can hurt the quality of care, drive up costs and increase the risk of lawsuits. And under new Medicare rules, providers won’t get as much money if they rack up poor patient-satisfaction scores or too many preventable readmissions. So, medical schools, health systems, malpractice insurers and hospitals are trying to help doctors improve their bedside manner. They’re setting up education programs for everyone from medical students to seasoned pros who have spent years talking to patients. The efforts take a variety of innovative approaches, such as putting doctors through role-play sessions with actors to teach basics like always facing the patient, letting them speak uninterrupted for two minutes and using key words to show compassion and empathy. (“I am so sorry you are in pain.”)
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The artice made some great points. When doctors don’t listen to patients, they miss important health cues and misdiagnose illness. Meanwhile, patients who don’t understand what their doctors say fail to follow their regimens, leading to preventable hospitalizations, complications and poor outcomes. And a breakdown in physician-patient communication is cited in 40% or more of malpractice suits. Good communication helps patients stick to recommended treatments and manage chronic diseases. It also improves outcomes in the management of diabetes, hypertension and cancer.
The increase in lawsuits is not the only reason why physicians need to improve in in their communication skills. Medicare withholds certain payments as part of an effort to get hospitals to improve the quality of care and trim costs. One way to make up the cuts and earn additional payments is to perform well on patient-satisfaction surveys known as HCAHPS, for Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems. The surveys ask patients to rate how well doctors communicate, how responsive the hospital staff is and how clearly discharge information is explained, among other things.
Hospitals also face Medicare penalties if patients are readmitted within 30 days after discharge for conditions such as heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia.
Not all miscommunication between doctors and patients constitute medical negligence or medical malpractice. Sometimes, however, a doctor’s mistakes or omissions clearly violate the medical profession’s “rules of the road” for ensuring patient safety. If you or a loved one suffered injuries as a result of a doctor’s miscommunication, we can help. To read the entire article – click here!