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Dialogue and understanding: Communication between patient and doctor

17 August 2023

Communication between patient and doctor is a pillar of healthcare, being integral to diagnosis, treatment and support. The dialogue that takes place during each medical visit is more than just the transfer of information - it is the key to building a relationship based on mutual understanding and trust.

Communication between patient and doctor is not only a channel for the exchange of medical information, but also the basis for creating a therapeutic relationship. When the patient feels listened to and understood by the doctor, it increases the patient's engagement in the treatment process, understanding of their illness and adherence to treatment recommendations. In fact, numerous studies show that effective communication can lead to better health outcomes, including satisfaction with care, improved health status and fewer complications.

However, communication in the medical sphere often faces many obstacles. On the one hand, doctors may find it difficult to adapt their language to the patient's level of understanding, which can lead to misunderstandings and errors in the treatment process. On the other hand, patients may feel confused or frightened, which in turn can make it difficult to express their concerns and questions.

In addition, social inequalities, cultural differences, language barriers and age or health-related limitations can further complicate the communication process. All of this points to the need to develop strategies and tools that can support effective dialogue and understanding between patient and doctor.

One of the most important aspects in doctor-patient communication is empathy. Doctors who are able to understand and share their patients' feelings can better understand their problems and concerns, which can lead to more effective treatment strategies. Empathy training for doctors is now becoming more common and is showing promising results.

Another solution is to use language that the patient can understand. Doctors should try to avoid medical jargon and complicated technical terms, instead explaining information in a way that is understandable and accessible.

Technological innovations are also creating new opportunities for improving patient-doctor communication. Artificial intelligence and machine learning, for example, can contribute to understanding and analysing conversation patterns between patients and doctors, which can help identify and eliminate communication barriers. An example is the use of text analytics tools that can identify key points and topics raised during a visit, helping doctors to better understand patient concerns and needs.

While technology can revolutionise communication in healthcare, we should not forget that it is only a tool. Communication is based on human relationships and requires empathy, understanding and commitment from both the doctor and the patient. Therefore, communication skills training for doctors should remain a priority, helping them to relate more effectively and build trust with patients.

On the other hand, patient education is also crucial. Patients should be encouraged and educated to be actively involved in their healthcare, to ask questions, express their concerns and share their experiences. This type of patient engagement can lead to greater understanding, better adherence to medical advice and, ultimately, better health outcomes. Finally, health systems should integrate communication as a key element in their structure and culture. Policies, procedures and practices should promote open and honest communication, providing tools and resources that enable effective information exchange and dialogue. Only when patient-physician communication is recognised as a core element of healthcare can its full potential in improving health outcomes and patient satisfaction be expected to be realised.