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01 Sep Healthy Communication

For some years now research has pointed clearly to the strong link between effective doctor-patient communication and patient well-being. Good communication skills impact positively on many areas of patient care: from how well the patient understands their medical condition to how they feel about it and their doctor, which in turn increases how likely the patient is to adhere to a prescribed treatment and the effectiveness of said treatment. Effective communication has been similarly linked to the adoption of preventative behaviours and the ability to self-manage chronic medical conditions, both of which improve the patient’s quality of life on the long-term.

It is also good news for doctors, who report greater job satisfaction and less work-related stress when communication is optimised. Not to mention fewer formal complaints and malpractice suits.

These findings support the current shift from the paternalistic “doctor knows best” approach to a model of shared decision-making and patient-centred communication – a principle that is fully applicable to all written material intended for reading by the patient, including medical translations.

Indeed, it is important that it be applied to patient-facing documents when you consider this research into patient memory for medical information, which found that “written information is better remembered [than information communicated orally] and leads to better treatment adherence”. The complexity of the information, or a patient’s state of anxiety, means that between 40-80% of information conveyed in the consultation room is immediately forgotten, this study reports. Information presented in written form, however, gives much better retention rates.

Informed consent forms, patient information leaflets and health fact sheets and the like should therefore be seen as means of consolidating the doctor-patient relationship and not just as legal formalities.

The same goes for their translations: it is crucial that other language versions of these documents engage with the patient and support doctor-patient communication in the same way as the original. This is what you get when you used a specialised translation agency.

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