The importance of effective, family-centered communication 

The importance of effective, family-centered communication 

Hospital or clinic visits can inspire anxiety, fear, or dread in many people. A clinical environment can provide an unsettling atmosphere as many do not have extensive knowledge or experience with medical situations. In fact, many people suffer from white-coat syndrome wherein individuals experience a temporary rise in blood pressure in clinical settings. Often, patients and family caregivers are overwhelmed by the stress of the situation, which can make understanding and processing massive amounts of complex medical information extremely difficult. Thus, clear communication between the clinical team, patient, and family caregivers is at the core of the ideal patient experience and outcome. 

It is critical that medical communication is family-centered. Family members of patients often wish for up-to date information and details regarding their potential roles in care plans during and after hospital visits.1,2 To avoid misunderstandings concerning treatment, follow-up instructions or the severity of a patient’s condition, clinical teams must prioritize effective communication strategies that educate the entire family.3 Counseling patients and families on current care and postcare plans cultivates open communication and transparency, which can be fundamental to a full recovery.4  Involving family members also allows the counseling to be more reflective of a patient’s current life situation. This approach differs from the traditional form of patient counseling, which involves just the patients and primary caregiver.2 By implementing family-centered discussions regarding patient care plans, counseling efforts are deepened. 

It has been shown that poor communication can lead to many adverse outcomes for patients, including compromised safety, dissatisfaction, inefficient use of resources and disruption of care. A poll of patients in the United Kingdom found that 21.7% of participants were most concerned with communication due to a lack of clarity regarding treatment.5 Indeed, poor communication has led to $1.7 billion in malpractice costs from 2011 to 2016.6 By directly involving patients in their treatment choices, a collaborative problem-solving environment emerges. In turn, transparent and collaborative communication about medications, lifestyle changes, and health-monitoring devices can result in a higher adoption of suggested changes, lower readmission rates and reduced risk of complications.7 

Without question, patient satisfaction and overall care improve through an open and honest exchange of information between patients and the clinical team. Findings show a robust relationship between patient dissatisfaction and a lack of thorough communication from health care providers. Directly involving patients and their families in communication creates a sense of transparency and partnership that empowers those involved to work through treatment plans and diagnoses as a unified force.  A key aspect of productive communication is ensuring that patients and their family members feel heard when expressing concern or describing their condition. This also creates an opportunity for the clinician to be an active listener so that they can be clear and thorough when answering questions or when describing the patient’s current status. 

To facilitate the transparency of care, clinical teams must be able to simplify and summarize medical information that is otherwise unfamiliar to individuals. Using visual tools or dashboard summaries can often be helpful when explaining complex results or care instructions. In addition, the patient experience can greatly benefit from using advanced technology to facilitate timely communication and increase access to information. Studies have shown that patients benefit from increased access to their health records and are typically more engaged in handling their health.8 The Institute of Medicine reported that implementing digital health technologies in hospital systems can improve health care quality and boost effective and timely communication.9 Thus, more patients are seeing their raw data, and the need for context and simplified explanations is growing. As technology enables more access, the need for effective communication between care providers and patients is critical to patient safety, avoiding medical errors, reducing unnecessary costs, and increasing operational efficiency.10,11

DECISIO is a Texas-based company that has developed InsightIQ, an FDA-cleared, web-native software that uses continuous, smart bedside monitoring that empowers clinical teams to efficiently identify at-risk patients remotely while complying with established clinical guidelines. The InsightIQ software can meet the needs of a wide range of hospital systems and departments to help your team provide quick intervention, experience and increase the overall quality of care. 

  1. Lee LYK, Lau YL. Immediate needs of adult family members of adult intensive care patients in Hong Kong. J Clin Nurs. 2003;12(4):490–500. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2702.2003.00743.x.
  2. Paavilainen E, Mikkola R, Salminen-Tuomaala M, Leikkola P. Counseling patients and family members in out-of-hospital emergency situations: a survey for emergency staff. BMC Nursing. 2017;16: Article 11. doi.org/10.1186/s12912-017-0205-7
  3. Alder S (editor). Effects of Poor Communication in Healthcare. The HIPAA Journal [Website]. 2022. Available at: https://www.hipaajournal.com/effects-of-poor-communication-in-healthcare/
  4. Salminen-Tuomaala M, Leikkola P, Paavilainen E. Patient and staff safety incidents and near misses in out-of-hospital emergency care. Emerg Med: Open Access. 2014; 4:6. doi: 10.4172/2165-7548.1000219.
  5. O’Hara JK, C Reynolds C, Moore D, et al. What can patients tell us about the quality and safety of hospital care? Findings from a UK multicentre survey study. BMJ Quality and Safety. 2018;27(9):673-682. doi.org/10.1136/bmjqs-2017-006974
  6. Budryk, Z. Healthcare miscommunications contribute to a quarter of Readmissions. Fierce Healthcare [Website]. 2016. Available at: https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/healthcare/healthcare-miscommunications-contribute-to-a-quarter-readmissions 
  7. Unitek College. Step-by-step master’s guide to lifting patients. Unitek College [Website]. 2021. Available from: https://www.unitekcollege.edu/blog/a-step-by-step-guide-to-lifting-patients/
  8. Colledge A, Car J, Donnelly A, Majeed A. Health information for patients: time to look beyond patient information leaflets. J Royal Soc Med. 2008;101(9):447-453.
  9. TigerText. Groundbreaking research reveals hidden costs of pager usage in US hospitals. CISION PR Newswire [Website]. 2016. Available from:  https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/groundbreaking-research-reveals-hidden-costs-of-pager-usage-in-us-hospitals-300226203.html
  10. Yu M, Kang JK. Effectiveness of a role-play simulation program involving the sbar technique: a quasi-experimental study. Nurse Educ Today. 2017;53:41-47. doi: 10.1016/j.nedt.2017.04.002
  11. Regis College. What is the importance of communication in health care. Regis College [Website]. 2021. Available from: https://online.regiscollege.edu/blog/importance-communication-health-care/