Need an Incentive to Improve Your Communications Skills with Patients?

Experts at the recent National Accountable Care Organizations Summit said that physicians learning how to improve their communication with patients will, in turn, help accountable care organizations (ACOs) better engage with patients.

It’s also well known that better patient-physician communication also makes it more likely that patients will comply with physician recommendations and treatment plans.

But, how many physicians are willing to acknowledge that they could improve their communications skills with patients, and then are willing to take the time to do it?

“Suggesting that some physicians don’t communicate well isn’t news. What is news is that incentives now exist for wanting to improve communication with patients, colleagues, and business people,” said Gus Geraci, MD, PAMED’s chief consulting medical officer.

“In a fee-for-service world, less than ideal communication was an accepted part of business until it interfered with more business for that physician. Engagement — of physicians by hospitals and patients by physicians — is more important than ever for the smooth and most efficient care of patients, and to ensure patients come back to the physician(s),” said Dr. Geraci.

According to Dr. Geraci, the first step is acknowledging that we all have to learn in the new reimbursement world. However, he points out that while growing numbers of employed physicians are aware of the need to improve their communications, it also leads to a whole new conundrum: “Can physicians be trained to better engage patients? Can administrators be taught to better engage physicians?”

“[These are the] devilish details—and not necessarily unintended consequences—of the new reimbursement models that value quality and not just productivity,” he notes.

Tools You Can Use: PAMED has a variety of online CME activities on the topic of communicating with patients, as well as CME leadership webinars on topics such as physician engagement in integrated health systems, physician communication skills, and navigating difficult conversations.