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4 Tips for Effective Verbal Communication

Did you know that during a health care office visit, almost 50% of what was discussed is forgotten and even less is correctly understood? Verbal or spoken communication is an essential way in which health care providers and individuals share information and make decisions about treatment plans.

Use these 4 tips to improve verbal communication:

  • Provide a Warm Welcome. Create a shame-free and respectful environment that will encourage individuals to feel comfortable sharing their health information. Recognize the uniqueness of each person by taking the time to assess their cultural and linguistic values, beliefs and preferences.

  • Speak in Plain Language. Avoid using medical jargon and concept words. Use everyday words that most people know and understand the first time they hear them. For example, say “chest pain” rather than “angina”, “3-4 times a day” rather than “frequently” and “walk” rather than “ambulate”.

  • Confirm Understanding. Ask the individual to teach-back the information you discussed to be certain you were clear when providing it and clarify any misinformation right away. For example, “We just reviewed some new medication instructions. I like to be sure I was clear when I explained these to you. Will you please tell me how you will explain these new instructions to your wife when you get home?” If information was not explained correctly, then state, “I must not have been clear when I explained that, let’s go over the instructions again”. Provide the information in a different way and repeat the teach-back until it is done sufficiently. Then you can ask, “what questions do you have for me?”, rather than “do you have any questions?”

Effective verbal communication requires a partnership between individuals and their health care providers. Start using these tips today! If they are new to you, begin by practicing with your first appointment of the day or your first office visit after lunch.

As you practice these tips you will soon become more comfortable and skilled. Effective verbal communication can lead to improved quality, safety, satisfaction and health outcomes.

Health Literacy Partners is available for consultations or on-site workshops to help your team enhance their verbal communication skills. We create individualized branded educational programs and trainings focused on all aspects of clear communication for your workforce. Contact us today!

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