Most healthcare professionals know that the best way to improve patient outcomes is through good, open & trusted communication. Achieving those outcomes goes beyond understanding simply what ails a person, and extends to the bond formed between patient and care provider. Little Known Fact: In a recent study with IBM Watson, people were more open in describing their situation to an AI (Artificial Intelligence) than they were to the person in the room. There is an intrinsic fear of judgement that exists in human contact. Have you ever left information out that could have been relevant to your doctor, but you may have been too embarrassed to bring it up?
It can also be a method of risk management, with good communication adding to the bottom line of a hospital through reputational benefits and lower litigation rates.
Despite all these advantages, effective communication in a hospital setting is anything but simple. Stressed patients mix with time-stressed healthcare professionals to create a perfect storm where important information is misunderstood or poorly communicated. Add to this situation a growing number of patients with limited English proficiency and it’s no surprise that the emphasis can shift from providing high quality healthcare to simply reaching the most accurate diagnosis possible.
Effective interpretation plays an important role in moving the focus back to patient satisfaction and positive patient outcomes. By empowering both doctors and patients to openly communicate, the information needed for a proper diagnosis, the anxiety reduced in the encounter and the trust and understanding developed upon discharge all contribute to humanizing healthcare by bringing the needs of the individual to the fore. Patients who struggle to communicate often feel like a burden on doctors, while the doctors themselves are anxious that they may not be able to give an accurate diagnosis. In the absence of easy verbal communication, patients rely on non-verbal cues from doctors. As the video below comically demonstrates, this isn’t generally the preferred method of communicating potentially life saving information:
That look on the provider’s face, which may reflect their anxiety about providing effective care to their patient, can often be misinterpreted as annoyance by already stressed patients. Despite best intentions, I’ve seen patients faced with this situation decide that the provider’s annoyance is caused by the patient wasting their time, and downplay the severity of their problem or leave the hospital – exactly the opposite of building an environment of open and trusted communication.
Many hospitals have now realized that they require access to multiple solutions so they may provide timely access to interpreters in the highest quality way possible.
Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) services such as Martti™ have helped over 500 hospitals nationwide streamline access to interpreters over 60,000 times per month and greatly simplify communication between doctor and patient. At the touch of a finger patients can access culturally competent certified medical interpreters, dedicated to ensuring that patient and provider understand each other during the times it most matters.
More than simply identifying and diagnosing the patient’s condition, a fast and effective interpretation system reintroduces understanding to the patient/doctor interaction – the key to compassionate care. While hospital administrators may look at these situations from a risk standpoint – the potential for malpractice is very real – those on the frontlines see the benefits in smoother patient flows, clearer diagnoses, and ultimately more satisfied patients and providers.