Patients value clear communication

SINGAPORE - THE lack of clarity in communication, rather than the quality of clinical care, is what upsets patients, said Minister of State for Health Amy Khor yesterday.

This is based on feedback she has received, which also reflected that patients acknowledge the job complexities and pressures faced by health-care workers.

At the 10th Hospital Management Asia Conference 2011 held at Resorts World Sentosa, she said: "Good and clear communication is vital in keeping patients informed, and in addressing their concerns."

Tailoring courses to improve the communication skills of health-care professionals could be a solution, she added.

She said: "Healthcare providers must listen respectfully, communicate openly and not attempt to hide (information)."

Also, they should be mindful of the feelings of patients and their families, such as choosing appropriate times to discuss medical fees.

Stressing the importance of being patient-centric, she said that clinicians and management staff need to work as a team and not "in silos".

She said: "(Health care) shouldn't be at the convenience of the health-care professional. The focus must be on the patient."

Leaders from the hospitality and banking industries were also invited to the event for the first time to share their experiences.

Ms Claire Chiang, senior vice-president of hospitality chain Banyan Tree Holdings, highlighted the similarity between hospitals and hotels.

She said: "Both are about hospitality (and) providing efficient care, high-quality service and detailed attention to (attend to) the needs of guests or patients."

The resort veteran even suggested ideas such as infusing aromatherapy scents in public areas of hospitals, and installing pull-out beds in wards for family members to stay overnight.

While Dr Khor agreed that providing quality service is a good idea, she pointed out that there is a need to balance costs and comfort.

Still, the extra touch, she said, could come in the form of simple innovations, such as providing fresh fruit and wireless access in hospital waiting areas.

Where affordability is a concern, Ms Chiang said that luxury amenities could be done away with, while maintaining professional service standards.

She said: "Apart from clinical expertise, which I assume is a non-negotiable demand, the differentiator will be good customer-service standards."

For more my paper stories click here.