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30 Mar

Enhancing the Patient Experience Through Empathy

Enhancing the Patient Experience Through Empathy

We all are familiar with the saying “it’s not what you say, but how you say it”.  How a patient hears news about their prognosis is vital to making sure they have a clear understanding of their treatment plan and helps to promote trust.  Hospitals cannot improve their HCAHPS scores if they cannot improve communication skills between patients and their providers.

One new method to help boost HCAHPS scores is to improve physician’s communication skills so patients can rank their experiences more positively. Another way to communicate to patients is to be sure they can clearly identify the roles of the various caregivers who are often coming in and out of their rooms. It is reassuring for patients to know that the person bringing them their food is easily distinguishable by their uniform color from the RN who is going to administer their medications.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is taking strides to teach physicians to use more empathy when communicating life-altering news.  “Empathy is part of all of the individual modules,” says Philip Bialer, MD, interim director of the Communication Skills Training at MSKCC.  “As a cancer center, this is an emotionally charged situation. Patients and families can react very emotionally. If they ignore the prognosis or don’t understand it, the patient won’t hear the next thing their doctor is saying.”

While there is no doubt clinical outcomes for patients remains the highest priority, there is a major shift to encourage providers to become more patient-centered. In addition to providing the best care for patients, healthcare professionals are encouraged to develop a stronger rapport with patients and to inform them about their health with compassion and caring.

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