Reducing Physician Burnout By Improving Communication Skills

HealthDay News — Better patient-physician communication can improve care and reduce burnout, according to a report published by the American Medical Association.

At a recent education session, Emily Aaronson, MD, from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, discussed how patient-physician communication improves care, reduces the risk of medical error, and improves physician satisfaction.

Aaronson reported that less than 50% of hospitalized patients are able to identify their diagnosis or the names of their medications at discharge. Furthermore, ineffective team communication has been identified as the root cause for almost 66% of medical errors, which increase when the health care team is under stress or not communicating clearly. 

Evidence suggests that physicians who participate in communication courses become more skilled and have improvements in empathy, thereby reducing burnout. When providing increased communication with patients, physicians have higher proficiency and less burnout. For effective communication, Aaronson recommended the ICARE method: Introducing oneself and stating role in patient care; Collaboration, encouraging patients to continue; Acknowledging the emotion, patient, and situation; Reflectively listening, allowing the patient to speak; and Setting Expectations, communicating the plan of care.

The evidence points to “the relationship between the clinician’s level of satisfaction and their ability to build rapport with their patients, their ability to express care and warmth [as] being critical in staving off burnout and cultivating joy in work,” Aaronson said in a statement.

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Better communication with patients linked to less burnout [press release]. Chicago, Illinois: Amercian Medical Association. Published July 7, 2017. Accessed August 4, 2017.