Giving Patients Medical Information: Tips to Make it Stick!
By Edward Leigh, MA
You have a very detailed treatment plan to discuss with a patient. You go over all the details. After the discussion, you ask the patient if they understood everything you said. The patient says, “Yes.” You then ask, “Do you have any questions?” The patient says, “No.” You think everything is fine and you send the patient home. Later in the day, you get a call from the patient’s daughter telling you her mother isn’t sure how to follow the treatment plan.
What happened? Everything seemed to be going well, but obviously the patient did not understand what was being said. There are ways to prevent this scenario from happening.
Utilize the “Chunk & Check” strategy. Break down your information into manageable “chunks.” After each chunk is delivered discuss with the patient their understanding.
Apply the “Repeat Back” technique with patients to be sure of understanding. First of all, you do not want to abruptly state, “OK, repeat back what I just said.” Rather, for example, say to the patient, “I have given you a lot of information. Just to be sure you feel comfortable, I would like to know your thoughts on what we just discussed.”
You do not need to employ the repeat back technique with every patient encounter. If you tell a patient to rest for two days you do not need to immediately ask them to repeat what you just said. Rather, the repeat back technique is useful for lengthy complicated matters where there would be a high likelihood of significant confusion.
Summarize the discussion at the end of the patient meeting. There is a famous saying among speakers and trainers that applies here, “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.” If it important, say it a few times.
Concerned about how much time this process may take? If the patient does not understand the instructions, think about how much time it will take you to call them back or have another visit. Plus, there is a danger to the patient’s safety if they are confused by their medical plan.
A little planning creates big rewards – safe satisfied patients.
Clinical communication skills – explanation Skills