The importance of good communication

Young female doctor With Mother And Child - Medical Communication Skills Coaching | Oxford, UK | OMCS

The General Medical Council (GMC) sets out what newly qualified doctors must know and be able to do in its publication “Outcomes for Graduates” 2018 and these outcomes relate to the “Generic Professional Capabilities Framework” published in May 2017 by the GMC describing the interdependent essential capabilities that underpin professional medical practice in the UK setting these out as educational outcomes. These capabilities and outcomes lay on a spectrum that progresses through undergraduate and postgraduate medical education and training.

In “Outcomes for Graduates”, in the section Outcomes 2 - Professional skills - a number of attributes and competencies are listed under communication and interpersonal skills which can be summed up as “newly qualified doctors must be able to communicate effectively, openly and honestly with patients, their relatives, carers or other advocates, and with colleagues, applying patient confidentiality appropriately”.

"Much has been researched and written about the doctor-patient relationship and how effective communication is a central plank in building a successful therapeutic bond between the two parties which, after all, is the essence of the art and practice of medicine. There is much more focus nowadays in modern medical student education about communication skills, and much patient dissatisfaction and many complaints are still due to the breakdown in this fundamental relationship."

Dr. Roger Harrington MB BS FRCGP (Consultant to the University of Buckingham Medical School)

  • Effective communication is proven to get a quicker diagnosis and could be the difference between life and death in some cases
  • Effective communication will relax a patient so they offer you (the doctor) the right information to enable you to make a quick and accurate diagnosis
  • The model of experiential learning can be a powerful learning tool and so 'tailored for you' sessions can provide an opportunity for you to experiment with your individual style of consultation. The aim being to learn specific techniques to improve your communication as well as gain a richer understanding of patients and yourself. Self-awareness is key
  • By using a professional actor as a simulated patient we hope to give you believable and realistic direct experience of important and also challenging areas of communicating with patients
  • It is important to reflect on and work through any of the topics which you find challenging e.g. breaking bad news, conveying empathy, dealing with angry and aggressive patients
    • As a student and continuing trainee you will be assessed on your patient communication skills before you can progress. We help you pass those exams and give you the ongoing communication skills to take you into the medical profession
    • Also good communication is necessary amongst your colleagues as you continue in your postgraduate study/practise.

  • "Experiential learning in clinical settings, both real and simulated, is important to ensure graduates' preparedness for Foundation Year One (F1) training." 
  • (Tomorrow's Doctors - General Medical Council 2009)

From “The Consultation, Oxford General Practice Series 6", David Pendleton, Theo Schofield, Peter Tate, and Peter Havelock: 

  • The consultation is the central act of medicine, and it deserves to be understood.
  • Nearly all problems presented to the doctor have a psychological element to them and this needs exploring.
  • The general practitioner has a positive therapeutic role in all consultations, not only in those with a defined disease process.
  • Many messages are transmitted between doctor and patient without words - messages concerning emotions are most frequently expressed non-verbally, especially throughout facial expression, direction of gaze, and tone of voice. Doctors use these and many other non-verbal cues to form impressions of what is happening to the patient, or how the patient feels.
  • Patients also interpret the doctor’s non-verbal behaviour. When the doctor tells the patient that all is well, the patient may well notice inconsistencies in the doctor’s non-verbal behaviour which might imply a nagging doubt in the doctor’s mind about the matter. Similarly, the communication interest in the patient by the doctor will frequently be achieved by the patient noticing indictors in the doctor’s posture, direction of gaze, and facial expression of responsiveness and understanding.