Patient Communication: Understanding the Patient’s Perspective

October 2022

Communication is a key ingredient in enabling patient - centered care. It is as critical for the physician to understand the patient’s experience of the ailment, as it is for the patient to understand the treatment.

Communication and education are important components of health care delivery and essential for patients to make informed health decisions regarding the choice of therapies and compliance to medical advice.

From the moment the patient and/or caregivers first set foot inside a medical facility, there is an opportunity to communicate appropriate messages that demystify the processes to come and aid their decision making. For instance, installing engaging Information, Communication, and Educational (IECs) and Behavior Change Communication (BCC) materials across the premises, especially the waiting area, can facilitate the patients’ understanding of the diseases and enable the discussions with the healthcare professionals.

Any ailment not only affects the physical being of the patient, but can also disrupt their mental, social, and economic well-being. It can affect their family and hamper their life in the long haul. Often, lack of awareness on eye conditions and possible treatments prevents patients from making informed decisions about their conditions. Therefore, it becomes imperative to familiarize the patient with what the treatment would entail. Patient counseling helps patients understand the treatment, length of stay, cost, prognosis, and plan for their rehabilitation.

However, many challenges weaken the way patient counselling is imparted across the country. Lack of professional training opportunities for counselling, difficulty in standardizing protocols, lack of resources and infrastructure, etc. often knock counselling as a practice down to the bottom of the priority list of many healthcare facilities. There is also a need to expand the scope of counselling beyond the financial aspects of the treatment to address any other apprehensions the patients may have.

In a first of its kind intervention in India, Orbis, supported by Foundation for Health and Mind Development, has rolled out its initiative on developing Regional Training Centers on Patient Communication. Towards this, Orbis aims to strengthen systems and processes at the two partner hospitals for improved patient communication and offer courses and regular training programs on patient counseling and education for other hospitals in the region.

Some of the key features of this intervention include:

  • Providing a conducive environment facilitate discussions: The patient needs a comfortable and safe environment to share their concerns and have them addressed, while maintaining the much-needed privacy. Since counseling plays a crucial role in giving information and making the patient understand and accept surgical or medical treatment in the hospital, there could be a separate room for this purpose with relevant supporting aids, IECs, etc. A quiet and peaceful counselling room would help facilitate the exchange of information in a calm, engaging, and confidential conversation.

  • Enabling Management Buy-in: Educating the hospital management would help institutionalize patient-counselling practices that would percolate through and strengthen the system, reducing the patient dropouts and improving hospital revenue. This would also go a long way in sustaining such efforts and embedding a culture of patient-centered care.

  • Capacity Building and Developing a Cadre of Trainers: Developing and standardizing structured training curricula and emphasizing on teaching clinical communication skills to healthcare professionals would help eliminate miscommunication and misinformation between the eye health providers and the patient. It would also help sensitize practicing doctors, nurses, and para-medical staff towards the importance of essential clinical communication skills required to improve patient care quality, ensure patient safety, and create patient satisfaction. Developing a cadre of trainers would ensure the sustainability of the intervention and create a ripple effect towards amplifying the impact effective patient counselling.

In the recent past, Orbis has organized a series of virtual trainings and webinars on Patient Counselling, in collaboration with partner hospitals, facilitated by Kenneth Youngstein, CEO, Biocom Ltd. & Founder, Foundation for Health and Mind Development, and various subject matter experts. The Eye Book - a visual aid to enable counselors in helping patients understand the eye conditions through illustrations and day-to-day examples - is also being leveraged by the healthcare professionals trained.

Kenneth Youngstein

CEO, Biocom Ltd. & Founder, Foundation for Health and Mind Development

Assist­ing the patients to make informed deci­sions about their treat­ment is at the cor­ner­stone of enabling patient-cen­tered care. The dia­logue between the patient and physi­cian facil­i­tates seam­less trans­la­tion of treat­ment to impact. An informed patient, who under­stands the ail­ments and treat­ments, also acts as an agent of change encour­ag­ing the uptake of med­ical ser­vices in the community.

The initiative is being piloted at two partner hospitals – Vivekananda Mission Asram Netra Niramay Niketan, Haldia, West Bengal and PBMA’s HV Desai Eye Hospital, Pune, Maharashtra.

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