Good communication is an important part of the healing process.
Studies find that effective physician-patient communication has specific benefits: patients are more likely to adhere to treatment and have better outcomes, they express greater satisfaction with their treatment, and they are less likely to bring malpractice suits.
Research also shows that good communication is a teachable skill. Medical students who receive communication training improve dramatically, not only in communicating with patients, but also in assessing and building relationships with them. Time management skills also get better. Interpersonal and communication skills are now a core competency identified by the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).
Learning effective communication techniques—and using them—may help you build more satisfying relationships with older patients and become even more skilled at managing their care.
Communicating with older patients involves special issues. For example:
With questions like these in mind, the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, developed this booklet.
Although referring to clinicians throughout the text, this booklet is intended for use by a range of professionals dealing directly with patients—physicians, physicians-in-training, nurse practitioners, nurses, physician assistants, and other health care professionals. The aim is to introduce and/or reinforce communication skills essential in caring for older patients and their families. Talking With Your Older Patient: A Clinician’s Handbook offers practical techniques and approaches to help with diagnosis, promote treatment adherence, make more efficient use of clinicians’ time, and increase patient and provider satisfaction.
Three points are important to remember:
Many physicians, nurses, researchers, and other health care professionals were generous in providing information and advice on making this edition of the Clinician’s Handbook useful. The Institute is grateful for their thoughtful contributions.
Richard J. Hodes, M.D., Director
National Institute on Aging
National Institutes of Health