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From Deborah K. Riley, M.D., Patient Safety Officer

Effective communication is essential to delivering safe, high-quality care and a positive patient experience. Communicating clearly and compassionately helps us build stronger relationships with our patients and each other.

Despite our best efforts to excel at every patient interaction, we are human, and sometimes we fall short. LG Health’s system-wide Press Ganey survey results indicate that “communication with doctors” remains an area of opportunity for us.

Enhancing our provider-patient communication will continue to be a major area of focus for Medical & Dental Staff leadership.

This list of communication “don’ts” comes from actual complaints heard by LG Health’s Patient Representatives, as well as articles in national medical publications. In the spirit of transparency, I admit that I’ve occasionally been guilty of a few of these myself.

10 things providers should never say or do

  1. “I don’t know why your doctor ordered that test.” Don’t use demeaning comments about other clinicians or teams. Making negative remarks about each other doesn’t help anyone. Instead, we should do our part to set up our colleagues for success.
  2. Medical jargon, or “doctor speak.” In order to provide the best possible care with the most successful outcomes, we have to use language our patients can easily understand.
  3. “I don’t know why this patient is here” (while standing outside the patient’s room). While ideally we shouldn’t make these types of comments at all, we should be especially cautious when our words can be easily overheard.
  4. Not making eye contact with the patient. This is a surprisingly common complaint. Whether the news is good or bad, address the patient, not just his or her family.
  5. “I didn’t get a chance to review your records.” We all get busy, but admitting that we haven’t completed this essential task shows a lack of respect for your patient’s time.
  6. “This will be covered by your insurance” (without knowing for sure). Making a guarantee like this can lead to a very unhappy patient when the bill arrives.
  7. “This will fix it/this won’t hurt at all/you’ll be out of here in no time.” None of these statements can be guaranteed. Your patient will most likely experience some kind of pain. It’s best to set realistic expectations.
  8. Calling patients names. Everyone gets frustrated, and long days sometimes take a toll. Just don’t go there.
  9. “I’ll be back…” then not actually coming back. Don’t say this unless you will definitely return – within a reasonable amount of time.
  10. Hold conversations with colleagues where patients may overhear. We all need to decompress, but discussing your patient, another patient or your weekend plans within earshot of any patient isn’t professional.