How a patient feels during his or her dialysis treatments often affects whether he or she will return to your clinic for further treatment. The National Kidney Foundation recommends patients evaluate the staff of a dialysis clinic before choosing a provider. The organization advises patients to see if the staff makes them feel welcome, if they were helpful, knowledgeable and were able to answer their questions. Patients also are encouraged to notice if clinic staff listens to them and addresses their needs.
Patients want to feel understood and at ease, and if your clinic is struggling to retain patients, this could be a contributing factor to patient retention.
Thankfully, a few changes in the way your staff communicates can improve patient experience at your dialysis clinic.
Importance of Communication
Good patient communication not only helps patients feel at ease and respected, it also plays an important role in safety. Proper communication lets the patient know how to care for his or her access and what to watch for during and after dialysis sessions or as their condition progresses.
It’s important, though, to consider your patients’ varied backgrounds and their understanding of how the kidneys function.
Take this situation, for example: “A patient from Tonga who barely spoke English and had no formal education kept hearing the same message from his nurses and technicians: ‘You’ve gained too much weight!’ In his confusion, instead of drinking less, he ate less, which diminished his muscle mass,” explained dialysis author and educator Roanne Faith Dale.
Dale said the staff needed to clarify to the man that he had gained too much water weight and that he still needed to eat food to remain healthy. She also noted it would have been helpful to have visual aids for the man.
Consider these additional tips for improving patient communication.
Look at your CAHPS survey data: Patient feedback in the form of your clinic CAHPS survey data can provide valuable insight into communication issues. Use this data to identify common communication issues, create performance measures and track your progress.
Use active listening: Good listening is more than simply waiting for your turn to talk. Concentrate on what the patient is saying, try to avoid interrupting the patient and try to avoid thinking about what you will say next.
Be aware of your body language: Patients can read a lot from your facial expression, the way you hold yourself or a simple act of crossing your arms. Try to be aware of the tone of your voice, your posture and your facial expressions.
Make sure your huddles are optimized: These quick meetings allow your staff to share crucial information about patient care. To get the most out of your huddles, make sure they’re at the same time and same place, include the necessary people — vascular access coordinators, nurses, technicians, social workers, etc. — and check in with the team at the beginning of each huddle.
Better patient communication doesn’t have to be a large effort. Making simple changes like taking patient feedback into consideration and making an effort to improve listening and body language can have a big impact.