Poor communication ups risk of malpractice suits, patient nonadherence

With patient satisfaction increasingly being tied to reimbursement and physician compensation, the days of considering communication a "soft skill" for doctors are long gone. As a result, organizations such as the Cleveland Clinic have begun enrolling their doctors in specialized communications courses, while medical schools are targeting the issue even earlier, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Satisfaction scores aside, the article cited additional compelling reasons to prioritize communication improvement:

  • Breakdowns in physician-patient communication are cited in at least 40 percent of malpractice suits.
  • There is a 19 percent higher risk of nonadherence among patients whose doctors communicate poorly than among those whose doctors communicate well, according to a 2009 review published in the journal Medical Care.

However, research shows that even a brief training course using a model known as the Four Habits--creating rapport with patients, eliciting their views, demonstrating empathy and assessing patients' ability to follow recommendations--can improve patient-doctor interactions as reported by patients, the WSJ reported.

According to a related post from Hospital Impact, physician practice leaders should take the following steps to improve physician communication and patient-centered care:

  • Conduct dedicated communication surveys, focus groups and communication audits of individual physicians to get the real scoop when it comes to the quality of doctor-patient communications.
  • Teach patients how to do a better job of communicating with physicians.
  • Provide continuing education training and tips aimed at improvingphysicians' patient-centered communication skills.

To learn more:
- read the article from the Wall Street Journal