The old saying, ‘no news is good news’ doesn’t apply in healthcare. I cannot think of another industry where communication is as important as it is in healthcare. Yet there are so many missed opportunities. One that represents the proverbial low hanging fruit is the communication during closure of calls or appointments. It takes just seconds to do a simple recap to reinforce next steps, and yet so often, that doesn’t happen.
I teach a method called GREAT communication. It’s an acronym for Greet (and introduce), Recap (something you know about the patient), Explain (your role and what you are about to do), Ask (what questions they have), Tell/thank (tell them what they can expect next).
I’m a huge advocate of recapping at the end of encounters with patients. Why? Because it reinforces key points which is advantageous for both the patient and the caregiver.
One of the biggest culprits is closing a clinical encounter where lab results were drawn and will not be ready immediately. At the close of the encounter, it’s vital that there be a game plan for how the patient will receive the results. Will someone call the patient? When will they call? What should the patient do if he doesn’t get a call? Is it available through a patient portal like MyChart? If so, when should I expect it to be posted?
About 5 years ago I had a biopsy done and when I didn’t get the results, I trusted that it meant good news. I know better than that and yet, being busy, I trusted that the clinicians would follow up. But unfortunately I learned that no news is just that. No news. The results were buried under a pile of papers on the doctor’s desk, delaying treatment by weeks.
Tell the patient what will be happening next, whether it’s to reinforce an upcoming appointment or to remind them when results will be ready. That short conversation can work wonders in creating a more positive patient experience.