Health

Seven Areas in Which Communication With Patients and Family Members is Key

Summary

  There is increasing evidence that communication with family and patients is an integral part of mental health care. This includes research aimed at understanding the role of families, especially mothers and fathers, in early and chronic childhood development, which […]

 

There is increasing evidence that communication with family and patients is an integral part of mental health care. This includes research aimed at understanding the role of families, especially mothers and fathers, in early and chronic childhood development, which may affect how the child learns to self-manage emotions and experiences. Many of these same studies have applied rigorous psychological methods, including questionnaires, interviews, and questionnaires asking family members about their own emotions, attitudes, and experiences. The resulting literature has mainly been inconsistent in its interpretation, but some common themes emerge that deserve further attention.

Perhaps one of the most consistent findings is that mothers and fathers, but not other caregivers, report high levels of communication problems with their children. This includes verbal abuse and teasing, as well as physical and sexual abuse. Such exchanges may reflect family dysfunction or represent the natural developmental process in which children learn to interact with others.

A second area for which communication appears to be an essential issue is the domain of self-injurious behavior. This refers to the abnormal development of egocentric or possessive thoughts and the reluctance to communicate with peers and adults. Health care workers are required to develop positive relationships with patients to build trust and help patients accept their limitations. There may be few resources to support or promote family engagement in some settings, and practitioners lack the time and training to create a communication culture. It is also possible that health care workers cannot take the actions needed to build positive relationships. This research indicates that this lack of communication can lead to adverse events, such as the inability to provide emotionally supportive supervision.

The third domain in which communication skills appear to be lacking is that of emotional engagement. One of the most common complaints of families who leave a child in a hospital or mental health care center is that the parent or care provider was not providing consistent emotional support. Emotional engagement is critical to maintaining and fostering family unity. One of the most apparent benefits of good communication with a family member or care provider is that emotional support can help children express their feelings and aspirations. Unfortunately, many families who leave their children in care centers fail to recognize that the care provider is not always the best speaker. The results of this communication gap can be disastrous.

A fourth area in which communication skills appear to be an issue is in the realm of physician visits. The primary objective of a physician visit is to improve the health of the patient. However, in some research, the failure to engage the patient during a physician visit has been linked to increased adverse events, such as stress and depression, or decreased quality of life. While it is difficult to measure, patients enjoy their time with their doctors during a visit when the family is engaged.

The fifth domain in which communication seems to be lacking is that of adverse event reporting. Although adverse event reports make up a relatively small segment of medical records, they can profoundly impact patient and physician views of the health care worker. An adverse event is an event that exposes the health care worker to direct risk, either because of an improper procedure or for some other reason, and an adverse event is likely to lead to significant problems for the provider if the incident is not handled correctly.

The sixth area in which communication skills seem to be lacking is in the domain of end-of-life care. In general, end-of-life care rules are not being followed, leading to conflicts between family members who want to be near the surviving patient and others who do not. Often the family wants to be near the person but does not want to disturb the patient or interfere with their dying process. Other family members, who do not want to let go of the person, may not be willing to adhere to the patient’s wishes and try to participate in end-of-life care. Communication with patients relatives leads to situations in which people do not get the support they need and feel misunderstood by the medical team and family members trying to help them.

Doctor-Patient Communication: How Well do Physicians Listen to Patients?

The seventh area in which communication seems to be deficient in that of trust. Perhaps even more than in other countries does not feel that they can talk to their doctor about anything. The result is that health care team members have a complicated time building trust with each other. Suppose the patient and their family members do not feel that they can discuss important matters with the physician and other health care team members. In that case, the patient often feels that their concerns are not taken seriously and are not being treated with the care and respect they deserve. If these issues are not discussed and resolved respectfully, it can lead to mistrust, leading to further alienation from the patient and their family members.