Not On The Same Page: How Do Patients and HCPs Speak Differently?
“Effective communication is a cornerstone of quality healthcare. Unfortunately, the differences in language and understanding between patients and HCPs can be a significant barrier to achieving that communication.”
– Dr. Greg Oliver, Journal of Oncology
This blog delves into the disconnect between patients and Healthcare Professionals (HCPs) as they communicate about health with a growing trend of patients turning to social media to share their experiences. As healthcare continues to evolve, it’s essential to address the communication gap between patients and HCPs and how to empower them to work together towards a common understanding and improved health outcomes.
The impact of HCPs speaking different languages to patients
There’s no doubt that HCPs and patients speak very different languages. Often, these separate languages do not directly translate, and can lead to frustration, miscommunication, and possibly, a negative impact a patient’s health and well-being.
Traditionally the sector has relied on patient feedback through HCPs; given that they speak so differently this is not always an accurate way to understand the lived experience of patients. To understand patients, it is necessary to accept that they talk to each other, peer to peer, and that these conversations will impact how they then interact with HCPs.
This language gap can create further challenges in accurately conveying patient experiences, as HCPs may not fully understand the language used by their patients. There is a language gap in the education and training that HCPs receive. HCPs learn medical terminology and technical language that is essential to their work but may not be easily understood by patients. This technical language can include complex medical terms, acronyms, and abbreviations that are second nature to HCPs but will be confusing to the untrained patient.
They talk to each other to try to decode and fill their own understanding gap.
For example: Patients tend to talk about symptoms in very emotive and descriptive terms
“The [drug] was helping for a while, I had dimples in my knuckles again.”
Often, the use language by HCPs leans towards being more focused on diagnosis and treatment rather than on the patient’s experience and perspective. When conveying information verbally, physicians and staff should communicate in key points, avoiding excessive information; most patients will not remember more than three messages (Graham & Brookey, 2008). This can make it difficult for patients to fully understand their health status living with the disease, and the treatment options available to them.
In addition to the challenges faced by HCPs, patients themselves may have limited medical knowledge and struggle to understand the terminology used by HCPs. Due to their personal experience, patients may be more emotionally invested in their symptoms and how it impacts their daily life. As a result, they may seek confirmation from others with similar experiences, which may not always align with the language used by HCPs
For example, consider this patient’s experience with a drug called Drug X for nerve pain and discomfort: “I am on a drug called Drug X for my nerve pain and discomfort. I am on Drug X for pain spasms, and I recommend a spray or roll on. The Drug X is noted to cause dizziness or black out when standing that will pass if you let it before moving. So be informed when you see a doctor.” (PatientMetRx®, 2023)
How can we close this gap?
To bridge the language gap between HCPs and patients, it is important for HCPs to be mindful of the language they use whilst making an effort to explain medical terms and information in a way that is easy for patients to understand. Encouraging patients to take an active role in their healthcare can help bridge the health literacy gap. By asking questions such as “Why are you recommending this treatment?” or “Why do you believe I should have this alternative treatment?”, patients can take a more proactive approach to their health. In turn, HCPs can provide clear and concise written materials to help answer these questions and facilitate better communication.
According to a study conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ, 2015), up to 90% of patients feel more understood when doctors speak to them in a language they can understand and provide resources that are clear and concise. This highlights the importance of clear communication between healthcare providers and patients in improving patient outcomes and overall satisfaction with their care.
Given the language gap that can exist between healthcare providers and patients, it is crucial for patients to play an active role in their own healthcare by advocating for their needs and ensuring that they understand their conditions and treatment options. By doing so, patients can help bridge the communication gap and contribute to a more collaborative and effective healthcare system. In light of this language gap that can exist between HCPs and patients, it is equally as important for patients to take an active role in their healthcare and advocate for their needs as communication goes both ways.
In summary, it is inevitable that there is some misalignment and how despite best efforts a gap that is difficult to close. However, through next generation social listening, known as patient intelligence, it is possible to home in on the patient voice. By using AI and NLP trained models attuned to patients by understanding the way that they speak, like PatientMetRx®, healthcare marketeers and HCPs can gain a deeper understanding of the patient experience. Understanding the patient voice in its entirety can enable marketeers to connect with patients on a more personal level and provide insights to HCPs that can drive better patient outcomes. Ultimately, this can aid in bridging the communication gap between patients and HCPs and lead to a more effective and collaborative healthcare system.
To learn more about how patient intelligence can help bridge the language gap in healthcare, and how PMRx can assist in effectively listening to HCPs and patients, please get in touch with us today – Learn more here.
- Do patients understand? – National Library of Medicine
- 2. Average Patient Appointment Wait Time Is 26 Days in 2022 – Patient Engagement Hit (Tech Target)
- The Power of Words: Improving the Doctor-Patient Dialogue in Cancer Care. Journal of Oncology Practice – Oliver, G. (2015)
- Patient Insight: Drug X for nerve pain and discomfort. – PatientMetRx®
PatientMetRx® is an AI accelerated machine learning platform that has turned the liberation of patient sentiment on its head through data science to create a single source of truth about feelings, attitudes, and behaviors. People describe their healthcare experiences through stories on social media, interviews, and research. PatientMetRx® uses advanced data science and technology including its own specialized LLM’s (Drug-GPT™) to structure signals at scale to make the complex simple. Tracking actionable insights and mapping across the patient journey comparing HCP and Patient Voices. Keep your finger on the pulse by putting the Patient Voice at the center of strategies. If you’re wanting to stay ahead of the curve in this rapidly changing industry then try it out today.