Effective patient-centered communication is the foundation of high-quality healthcare. Nearly all healthcare interactions — from making appointments and registering to discussing medical symptoms, treatments and care options — rely on effective communication. Technology, in particular, electronic health records (EHRs), holds the power to improve our communication with our fellow healthcare providers and our communication with patients and their loved ones or denigrate it.
While electronic health records can create the opportunity for real-time documentation and information sharing, we must leverage this tool to enhance our interactions with patients. At HealthStream Engagement Institute, we recommend three important tools to support the intersection of EHRs and patient-centered communication:
1. Use “words that work,” ban “words that don’t work” and take advantage of your investments in leading technology to provide the best patient care possible.
Words that work are designed to create a positive impression of your organization; however, words that don’t work are likely embedded in your organization as well (especially when it comes to EHR technology). By working with and engaging your teams, you can identify the words that don’t work, create crosswalks to words that do work and have fun in the process.
2. Narrate your care and process: Explain every step. Whether you are entering demographic information at admission, conducting bedside shift reports or validating medications, we cannot assume patients understand the intricacies of care delivery.
3. Use RELATE, our patient-centered communication model, to engage patients while documenting their care electronically.
Reassure: Discuss the importance of bedside documentation to assure the highest quality care. Verbalize your commitment to quality. Acknowledge any fear or anxiety a patient or their loved ones may be feeling.
Explain: Explain the process for documentation and how the information will be used.
Listen: Listen for any questions the patient may have about charting, care delivery.
Answer: Answer their questions in easy to understand terms. If possible, use techniques like “teach back” to validate the patient’s understanding of your explanations.
Take action: Narrate your care and process every step of the way.
Express appreciation: Thank the patient for the opportunity to participate in their care.
Katie Owens is Vice President at HealthStream Engagement Institute. She works with senior teams to front line staff to establish alignment and engagement and coaches how measurement and data influence behaviors and drive outcomes for patients and their families.
Published in EHR Intelligence, 2014