Improving Patient Communication

Doctor In Surgery With Male Patient Using Digital Tablet

Plain language. To the point. Easy to read. And representative of the diverse patient-base the hospital serves.

When the PFACQS discussed improving communications with patients and families two publications topped the list of projects to tackle: The Patient Handbook and Preparing for Surgery.

“The 32-page handbook is given to each inpatient when they arrive at the hospital,” explains Amber Ostrup, community member and part of the small working group that volunteered to review the publication.  “We knew instantly that it was too long, too complicated and cumbersome for patients who are already overwhelmed by hospitalization.”

There was important information that people need in the booklet, and much that was redundant.  Critical passages were lost among less important information. “We knew we needed to streamline the booklet, make it welcoming, and hone in on what patients really need to improve their experience,” says Ostrup.

Fine Tuning Tools

“Medicine is complex and a hospital can be a frightening and intimidating place for patients,” adds Sandra Kaus, PFACQS co-chair and former patient.  “The council is working in many ways to demystify hospitalization, and the tools we use to communicate with patients is an important place to begin the process,” she explains.  “The council is a platform that enables us to be the voice of the patient and improve their experience from the moment they step through our doors.”

Revamping the Patient Handbook began with a brainstorming session in which council members voiced concerns and questions—a plethora of suggestions that was then handed over to the working group.

Read pens in hand, “we went through every word on every page,” says Kaus.  “We took it apart, reordered the sections, removed repetition of information and simplified the language. We clarified important phone numbers, added TV channel listings and offered up ways to improve the map so it could really help guide people through the buildings. ”

“We added diversity in the photos of patients and added tabs so that patients and families could easily find what they needed,” adds Ostrup. “Sandra and I were like ‘right side, left side’ of a single brain!”

Devil in the Details

When they completed the overhaul, the booklet went back to the full council for review, and on to Marketing for publication.  Then the group tackled the Preparing for Surgery booklet with the same attention to detail.

These projects are step one in a broad range of issues related to communication that the PFACQS hopes to tackle.  The spoken word—and silences—between patients, families and the care team are even more powerful.  “We believe our job is to help build bridges so that we can all recognize and respect the differences between us, understand the real impact of every interaction we have with one another—and work to improve the quality of the patient experience,” Kaus adds.