Blah, Blah, Blah?
As I mentioned in my last post, there are three physician-specific questions on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey:
- During this hospital stay, how often did doctors treat you with courtesy and respect?
- During this hospital stay, how often did doctors listen carefully to you?
- During this hospital stay, how often did doctors explain things in a way you could understand?
This post will deal with tips to improve your scores on the explanation question. By now, I’m sure you would make Emily Post proud of how polite you are. (For those much younger than I, she was the queen of etiquette.) I also expect you have made some brilliant diagnoses as a result of your improved listening skills. Now it is time to focus on how you explain things to patients and increase those scores at the same time. Your patient shouldn’t feel like Charlie Brown talking to his parents and just hear “blah, blah, blah,” when you are explaining important health related issues.
Patients (those are the horizontal people in hospitals) are often not at their intellectual peak while hospitalized. Remember this is our workplace—not theirs—so we need to be a little more diligent when explaining complex, emotionally charged issues. Here are a few pointers that will help you with your ability to explain what’s going on in a way that the patient may understand:
- Provide more information than you believe is necessary
- Provide the option of having another person in the room to hear the information, take notes, and ask questions
- Encourage patients to write down their questions in between visits. This allows them the opportunity to think about the previous interactions and formulate questions that specifically address their fears and concerns
- Ask patients if they need any more information
Remember that we often get caught up in our jargon and patients “appear” to understand as they don’t want to disappoint their physician or appear not so bright. Ask follow-up questions that probe their understanding. You may be surprised by how much your patient did not understand once you start asking them these questions.
So go forth and improve the satisfaction of those we serve, while simultaneously improving quality, publicly reported measures and making your job easier. I couldn’t resist. This will make your job easier. Read next week’s post to see how.
Editor’s note: William Mills, MD, MD, MMM, CPE, FACPE, CMSL, FAAFP, is a featured speaker at the 15th annual Credentialing Resource Center Symposium, May 10-11. He will be speaking on using patient satisfaction scores to drive improvement as well as how to privilege low- and no-volume practitioners. For more information, click here.