When we communicate with people– whether through verbal or written means– we have a tendency to say more than what is necessary to get our point across. In many instances, a brief, concise statement will do just as well as a lengthy, context-filled monologue. The audience arrives at the same destination regardless of which path is taken. So how do we concisely and effectively communicate with a patient, especially when technology is the medium?
When providing information, asking a question, or making a point using a messaging app or SMS (text messaging), limit yourself to what a person could reasonably read in a few seconds. Remember, your patients are busy just like you are. Think about how you would respond to receiving the message. Studies have shown the average human’s attention span is 8.25 seconds, less than that of a goldfish, so give the patient the information he or she needs with the minimal context required to get the message across. For example:
“John, remember to eat healthily. This includes 60 grams of protein, lots of green leafy vegetables, and low fat and sodium intake. Not maintaining a healthy diet will result in negative effects on your health long-term. Foods like candy, potato chips, and fried food are especially bad for your health, you should avoid these foods whenever possible.”
“John, to improve your health, be sure to eat a healthy diet of leafy green vegetables, high-protein, low-fat, and low-sodium foods.”
The average reading level of American adults is at the 8th to 9th-grade-level. As many as 40% of some groups (including those 65 and over) read at a 5th-grade-level or below.
Use Simple Language
Typical clinical pamphlets and handouts are written well above the average person’s comprehension. For this reason, it is vital to keep the language simple and to the point. Most patients aren’t trying to become doctors, they just need to know what to do and what not to do. For example:
“Jill, during your procedure, CO2 gas was used to fill your abdomen and lift it away from your internal organs. The gas is removed at the end of the procedure; however, it is possible for a small amount to become trapped against your diaphragm. When this happens, pain and discomfort can radiate into the shoulder. Medication can help alleviate this pain.”
“Jill, you might have pain and discomfort around your stomach after your surgery. This is normal. To help the pain, walk around and take the pain medication prescribed by your doctor.”
Limit How Often You Contact the Patient
How many times have you ignored an app because you received too many notifications from it? This phenomenon has become so frequent that it now has a name: notification fatigue. If a patient’s phone is constantly dinging, ringing, and chiming because of messages being sent by their care team, they will learn to ignore those messages over time.
The frequency of communication is a balancing act between over-engaging a patient until they ignore the messages and not communicating enough to keep the patient engaged.
At Twistle, we’ve seen that communications that are sent once a day at or around the same time, for short periods of time (i.e. a week or two), work well in getting the patient to engage with the messages. As time progresses, these communications should reduce in frequency, to every other day, then every third day, then once a week.
Communicating your clinical care directives in a clear, concise manner will not only help your patients but their caregivers, family and loved ones as well. When patients understand what is expected of them, they are more likely to comply, leading to better outcomes. We’ve worked with clinical teams all over the country to develop pathways that automatically deliver the right information at the right time. To see how we can help your team, give us a call.