Communication is the foundation of an effective doctor-patient relationship. It works both ways i.e. it has advantages for both the patient as well as the doctor. Good communication is the key to building trust, patient compliance to the prescribed treatment, patient satisfaction including better clinical outcomes. A good communicator is also a great motivator.
Poor communication has been attributed as a major contributor to litigations against doctors. Hence, good communication skills are therefore very important for the doctor.
There are certain principles of communication that should be followed for effective outcomes.
· Know your target audience. Your audience is made up of diverse group of people, with different cultural backgrounds and health literacy levels. Assess their level of awareness of your audience and tailor your message accordingly. If the level of awareness is low, talk to them at their level and gradually build up the level of your message. Do this even if this is the case with even one member of the audience so that all get the benefit of your message and nobody feels left out. Remember, “One size fits all” messages don’t work always.
· Decide your agenda. You must know what message you want to give. The health information should be field tested and should not create any panic or fear in the society. Communication should be concise and focused.
· Use multiple channels of communication. Decide how you want to deliver the message. There are several channels of communication. Print – newspapers, posters, press releases etc. Audiovideo – radio/TV interviews, press conferences etc. or internet – email, social media, SMS.
· Message should be evidence-based. Your message should be fact-based or evidence-based and not based on opinions or myths. Higher the level of evidence, lesser the chances of your message being contradicted or refuted. While giving a health statement, quote a credible source of information such as meta-analysis, randomized-controlled studies and reviews published in credible journals.
· Strike while the iron is still hot. Timing is of great importance in effective communication for desired outcomes.
· Follow the cycle of Teach, Reason, Summarize and Revise. Pre and post evaluation of the audience is important. Always revise at the end to find out what is understood.
· Word of mouth communication. Involve “community leaders” or “celebrities” people who count in the community, who are considered reliable by the people, who people look up to as role models.