What’s so important about your communication skills?

Over the last 3 months I have considered in-depth consent, handling complaints and communication on the blog, lives and webinars. Repeatedly as I have looked at these subjects it has been re-emphasised to me that communication is a key to success in practice. In fact, this thought was being echoed in a live this week by Greg Todd a coach for Physical Therapists.

The best osteopaths are going to be the ones who are the best communicators. What do I mean by best? Those whose patients are most satisfied with their treatment in terms of the patient-practitioner relationship, quality of care and treatment outcomes. Those who really communicate their message through every aspect of their practice. I find this thought challenging, I wonder if you do too.

You could be the most amazingly skilled osteopath with your hands but if you are not able to communicate well with your patients I would suggest that your impact may be limited. Practitioners who perhaps do not have the best manual skills but have fantastic communication skills are likely to have better clinical outcomes.

Good communication enables you to:

  • Establish good consent procedures with patients
  • Really listen to and understand patients
  • Identify underlying issues, contributing factors to pain
  • Respond to dissatisfaction or concerns leaving patients satisfied and avoiding escalation
  • Have excellent patient-practitioner relationships, yet maintaining professional boundaries
  • Answer your patient’s needs – understanding what is wrong, what can help and what they can do to help themselves
  • Communicate your values through your assessment and even your touch
  • Have conversations with patients that support and motivate them in identifying and making changes for health and wellbeing improvement
  • Communicate your own message well – expressing your values and communicating your message clearly in every aspect of your practice – appearance, leaflets, website, administration, examination, treatment, your touch, your techniques.

I believe communication is something that we can constantly be working on and improving. This is evidenced in the fact that it is a compulsory part of the new CPD scheme.

What can you do to improve your communication skills?

  • Know your values and the message that you want to convey to patients – achieve this consistently
  • Learn to listen well  – really listen
  • Increase awareness of non-verbal communication
  • Understanding the power of words for placebo and nocebo and maximise your use of placebo communication
  • Be really effective at explaining your reasoning in a patient empowering manner

These are just a few items that you could work on improving. There are many more aspects of communication that may be important for you to develop. The good thing about communication is that it is a life skill that you can continuously practice and enhance in every aspect of your life. Different people respond to different types of communication and everyone communicates in a different way. The more you practice the greater your skill set will become.

What are your top tips for improving communication? Can you share some particularly good clinical experiences?

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