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Can the Inpatient Communication Gap Be Bridged?

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, August 12, 2010
  • Most physicians (77%) believed patients knew their diagnoses; however, only 57% of patients said they did.
  • While 81% of physicians stated that they described adverse effects of medications at least some of the time, only 10% of patients receiving new medications reported being told of any adverse effects.
  • Although almost all of the physicians stated that they at least sometimes told patients when new medicines are prescribed, only 75% recalled ever being told of these new medications.
  • Almost all of the physicians stated that they at least sometimes discussed their patients' fears and anxieties, but 54% of patients said they never did this.

So what this means is that "despite the increase attentiveness to involving patients in their care and teaching patients about why they are in the hospital—and they're still not getting the take home message and how it applies to them," Olson says.

This may call for rethinking how to communicate better with patients, he notes. For instance, when patients are admitted to the hospital, they may be told by physicians about the diagnosis, but they usually do not receive written information about that diagnosis, which could help.

Then on discharge, "we give them a lot of instructions that are written, but maybe don't go over things in a very systematic and comprehensive way verbally," he says. "Sort of marrying these two methods of patient communication—the written and verbal—from the moment they hit the door, would be one way of improving patient comprehension."

Also, with increasing use of computer and electronic medical records while the patient was in his or her room, this could help patients learn more about their diagnoses as well, he says.

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