One step at a time
Dr Jagdeesh Singh Dhaliwal, MPS Manager and Senior Medical Educator for the Asia-Pacific region, offers some thoughts on what it takes for doctors to improve their communication skills
Most colleagues will be aware from reading previous Casebook articles that poor communication contributes to approximately 70% of clinical negligence claims against doctors.
Nevertheless, communication issues continue to surface, with depressing regularity, with each new series of claims and complaints assisted by MPS.
Doctors clearly do not communicate poorly on purpose. As a group, we have a strong ethical drive of wanting to do the best for the patient and this is combined with a pragmatic desire to avoid being sued.
Why do communication failures persist?
A report by the British Medical Association’s (BMA) Board of Education has highlighted key barriers to effective communication.1 Several of these barriers link to personal traits and attitudes.
The same report recommended that more communication skills training programmes should be developed for doctors. MPS Educational Services offers members a number of three-hour workshops that aim to support doctors’ communication skills.
Small interactive workshops, like those offered by MPS, have been shown to be effective in changing doctors’ behaviours.2 And after attending a workshop, 80% of participants say they will change their practice.
As doctors, we know from our own experiences of supporting patients with behaviour change, such as quitting smoking or addressing weight problems, that good intentions on their own often aren’t enough.
Overcoming barriers, especially when they are related to attitudes or personal traits, requires support, reflection and reinforcement.
It is for this reason that MPS offers members a series of communication skills workshops. The workshops each focus on a different area of communication. This was another recommendation of the BMA’s Board of Medical Education.