Thanks to unlimited access to healthcare information online, today’s patients are more informed than ever before. With a few strokes of a keyboard, anyone can search their symptoms and instantly access page upon page of health and wellness advice. Unfortunately, this proliferation of health resources also leads to an increase in the opportunity for misinformation and incorrect self-diagnosis.
Misinformed patients can be a patient communication challenge for healthcare teams. Luckily, because nurse leaders and their staff are frequently the first to interact with patients and their families, they can immediately start the process of clearing up misconceptions and help increase the likelihood of better outcomes.
Here are four tips to foster better communication with misinformed patients, quell unnecessary anxiety and ensure improved patient comfort and satisfaction.
1. Use Misinformation as a Teaching Moment
Nurse leaders and their staff play a critical role in helping patients better understand diagnoses and treatment plans through open discussion and education. This is the foundation of shared decision-making, and overall improved engagement. Properly educating them by sharing factual information with a personal approach contributes to successfully delivering quality patient-centered care.
2. Practice Active Listening
For busy nurses who are focused on quickly assessing a patient, it can be easy to unintentionally gloss over their concerns. But to prevent misinformation from taking hold, it’s important to address all questions. Take time to really listen and process how a patient feels about a diagnosis, scheduled procedure or care plan. By taking a few moments and ensuring they fully understand all information, they’re less likely to buy into misinformation from their own research.
3. Discuss the Risks of Self-Diagnosis
Many times, a patient reaches the hospital already armed with ideas of what he or she may be facing. This self-diagnosis not only causes undue anxiety, it can also thwart the success of the physician’s care plan and increase hospital readmission rates.
When a patient brings up their assumptions, make sure to reiterate the importance of professional medical diagnoses. Explain that while being informed is important, there’s no substitute for the advice of a medical professional who has performed an examination and has access to their medical history.
4. Provide Information about Credible and Reliable Healthcare Resources
Like it or not, your patients will almost always consult the Internet before or after visiting the hospital. Online forums and support groups can be helpful for patients managing chronic conditions, and credible health resources can reinforce your care plan.
To reduce the risk of misinformation, help your patients in their research quest. For example, provide free educational materials on-site and, if available, refer them to your organization’s online resources. Most importantly, maintain an open dialogue so, if they ever do locate information they’re not sure about, they feel comfortable reaching out to your organization for help.
The good news is, if a patient is taking the time to do their own research, it’s a sign they’re eager to become more involved in their care. As healthcare professionals, this makes our jobs much easier. By helping patients access the right information, we can improve outcomes, engagement and increase patient satisfaction overall.
Looking for more patient-centered care tips for your nursing staff? Check out our free eBook, How Nurses Can Increase Satisfaction through Patient-Centered Care.