We need to rev­o­lu­tion­ize con­ver­sa­tions be­tween doc­tors and pa­tients

Modern Healthcare - - COMMENT -

Re­gard­ing the ar­ti­cle “Med­i­cal schools aim to make cur­ric­ula mir­ror the real world” (July 24, p. 20), I want to praise the Na­tional Trans­for­ma­tion Net­work, which is fo­cus­ing on char­ac­ter and car­ing as well as com­pe­tence in med­i­cal school cur­ricu­lum. Each year, at Henry Ford Health Sys­tem, we train more than 1,800 fu­ture physi­cians. At Henry Ford Hospi­tal alone we train more than 900 med­i­cal stu­dents and more than 675 res­i­dents and fel­lows in 50 ac­cred­ited pro­grams ev­ery year. We have found that there is a big gap in clear and com­pas­sion­ate com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween trainees and pa­tients and their fam­i­lies.

The gap, how­ever, is not ex­clu­sive to trainees. Through our pa­tient en­gage­ment data, we know that many of our physi­cians strug­gle with clear, com­pas­sion­ate com­mu­ni­ca­tion. As a re­sult, we have started a Cen­ter for Physi­cian Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and Peer Sup­port. Our goal isn’t to “tweak” how doc­tors com­mu­ni­cate. We want to rev­o­lu­tion­ize the con­ver­sa­tions that oc­cur in health­care set­tings, mak­ing them em­i­nently more pa­tient-fo­cused with a foun­da­tion that is guided by em­pa­thy and com­pas­sion.

Our med­i­cal di­rec­tor of care ex­pe­ri­ence, Dr. Rana Awdish, is the physi­cian leader and pas­sion­ate ad­vo­cate around this trans­for­ma­tion. Her cred­i­bil­ity for this work comes from her ex­pe­ri­ence as a pa­tient dur­ing a long and trau­matic ill­ness when she suf­fered emo­tional harm from lack of em­pa­thy by both at­tend­ing physi­cians and res­i­dents at her own hospi­tal. Awdish writes about her journey and in­spi­ra­tion to be­come im­mersed in this work in the book In

Shock, which will be pub­lished this fall. She pro­vides a vivid de­scrip­tion of how it feels to be on the re­ceiv­ing end of com­ments such as: “She’s cir­cling the drain” or “She’s try­ing to die on us.”

We lis­tened to Awdish’s “pa­tient voice” and have ac­ti­vated a com­pre­hen­sive plan rooted in ef­fec­tive, em­pa­thetic com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Good com­mu­ni­ca­tion re­duces pa­tients’ psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tress, lessens phys­i­cal symp­toms, in­creases ad­her­ence to treat­ments and re­sults in higher sat­is­fac­tion with care. Ad­di­tion­ally, bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills are as­so­ci­ated with re­duced clin­i­cian burnout and fewer mal­prac­tice claims.

Hav­ing med­i­cal school stu­dents gain a deeper un­der­stand­ing of the need to com­mu­ni­cate with clar­ity and com­pas­sion is crit­i­cal not only to their suc­cess but, ul­ti­mately, the phys­i­cal, psy­cho­log­i­cal and emo­tional heal­ing of our pa­tients.

Dr. Wil­liam A. Con­way CEO Henry Ford Med­i­cal Group Detroit

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