Clear and concise communication is the key to deliver news. As dentists or healthcare professionals, it is important that we maintain a healthy and ethical relationship with our patients or clients. This is achieved by maintaining a good, neat and clear conversation where we understand and address issues and problems of the patients in a way that satisfies them. The art of effective conversation is not only necessary to establish a rapport with our patients but also helps a lot during delivering a news which may not be as per patient`s expectations. A clear communication not only avoids misunderstanding but also allows a patient to politely receive information involving potential risk and threats to his/her life.
In the field of dentistry there are many instances where bad news has to be delivered. In maxillofacial surgeries the risk involved is enormous and thus before any such procedure, it is important that the information is conveyed clearly and without any doubt about the potential risks and after-effect.
Elements of Good Communication
The basics of any consultation lie in certain key points which help in conveying information. The presentation of such news matters a lot. The whole concept is divided into 3 vital categories –
- The doctor-patient relationship
- the physical evaluation and
- the medium of communication.
The doctor-patient relationship
- The doctor-patient relationship is a very crucial relation built upon trust and confidence. In a big setup comprising of many doctors or in any single setup, it is important that the policy of one patient one doctor is followed. The attendance of the professional to multiple patients at the same time is not recommended while delivering a crucial news.
- The doctor-patient relationship should be confidential, and the revelation of any ailment or unanticipated issues should only be addressed to the relatives only with the permission of the patient.
- Choosing a wise representative from the family to build your professional relationship matters. The age factor of the co-receiver plays a big role in the conveyance of the bad news. The information should be passed to onto only one member who appears to be mature decision maker. Relatives who are too old or too young are generally not preferred as there is always a delay in decision making, acceptance and understanding the problem.
- In case the diagnosis, treatment planning & observation includes multiple sittings, please ensure that your patients remain faithful to you and shifting your appointments to other professionals is not at all recommended.
- Incase of male doctor and female patient, it is wiser to have a female assistant for more comfort of the patient.
- Professionalism and punctuality are two key factors which strengthen the bond between a doctor and a patient increasing the probability of word to word reference.
The physical evaluation
- The communication should be dialectic and one to one with the patient first, in case the patient is in a compromised position and does not fit the criteria to convey the message, it should take place with the relatives.
- The conversation should always take place in an open well aerated space with proper professional gestures.
- The body language of the doctor should be more confident and fumbling while conveyance should be avoided.
- The tone should be medium, firm and strong enough to convey the news.
- The news should be conveyed in such a manner that the receiver understands and accepts it without any doubt.
- A well proper explanation has to be given citing all the risks and risk factors of the procedure without concealing any possible factor.
- The news should be phrased in such a manner that the patient receives it with care and gently.
- The tone and body of the news should be gentle and subtle.
- While conveyance a doctor or dentist must ensure that the patient is comfortable with the language, phrases and manner of deliverance.
- Use of polite words such as 'please', 'thank you', 'request' is always appreciated.
The medium of communication
- While conveying news such as an unexpected life-threatening diagnosis, connecting to the patient emotionally is very important. It is recommended to harvest sympathy but not advised to harvest empathy with the patient’s condition.
- Never work under the pressure of guilt or fear. Guilt and fear are two factors which weaken the confidence factor while communicating. The communication becomes a chaotic and yields confusion to the patient and his family members.
- Whenever you are conveying news please ensure to be factually correct with proper investigatory proof at hand.
- It is always advised to prepare the receiver emotionally and end the message with a phrase of hope so that the patient and his/her relatives maintain their absolute level of confidence in you.
- Never convey any bad news or any news under stress, the tone of any counsellor under stress is always demotivating.
Communication and Counselling
The important aspect for a dentist is in understanding the need for a counselling. With a variety of patients, no definite conversation prototype can be followed and every patient deserves a unique approach which upholds the uniqueness of the doctor and maintains his convincing attitude. As a dentist it is very important that we motivate every patient to contribute in the social healthcare. Social healthcare is a method to reach those limits which are beyond our approach.
As a healthcare professional, communication remains a very important aspect in managing your patients. The emphasis might be on issues of conveying bad news but overall an effective communication not only helps a practitioner to grow in terms of his/her practice but also aids in establishment of an identity in the profession. At the end, the reference given through word of mouth matters a lot for getting established as a good dentist and remain differentiated among the professional brethren. The elements of communication are based on the doctor-patient relationship, medium of communication and the physical part of communication. It then remains that the unconditional way to convey a news is through clear and concise communication.