The Net Impact of Poor Patient-to-Provider Communication


Poor communication between patients and providers is, unfortunately, all too common.

Poor patient-to-provider communication leads to suboptimal outcomes, including poor health results for patients and wasted resources for providers.

Studies show that patients misremember or completely forget roughly 80 percent of the medical information they receive.

Here’s how poor communication affects both patients and providers and how a text-first strategy can improve overall outcomes.

Why patients miss appointments

The rate of appointment no-shows varies widely, from five to 55%, according to some estimates. But why do patients cancel as many as 55% of appointments?

Sometimes there are actual logistical reasons for a patient to miss an appointment. If a patient can’t get off work or is too sick to travel, for example, it’s not unusual that he/she would miss an appointment.

But, as one study highlighted, some patients miss or cancel their appointments because they’re afraid of the potential diagnosis, they feel that the provider has disrespected them and they are confused because of miscommunication regarding their provider’s scheduling system.1

Poor communication between patients and their providers can cause more frequent patient delays as well as appointment cancellations.

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Avoidable delays and cancellations

Interestingly, many of the patient-related delay and appointment issues—ranging from perceived disrespect to lingering fears or worries—could be easily addressed by increased communication efforts on the part of a healthcare provider.

For instance, a mix of tailored education, instructions and alerts can be sent to patients before their appointment, and since more than three-quarters of American adults text regularly, text messaging can be an ideal resource for providers who are looking to improve communication with their patients.

Treatment plans and medication adherence

Keeping open lines of clinical communication — like provider-to-patient texting — can help patients avoid bungled treatment plans and poor medication adherence.

One healthcare study estimated that roughly 25% of Americans don’t follow the treatment plans outlined by their providers.2 Their reasons varied, but 39% of patients didn’t agree with their clinicians about the diagnosis, 27% had concerns about the cost of treatment, 20% felt that the treatment went against their beliefs and 25% thought the treatment plan was just too complicated to follow.

Better communication between providers and patients can help this 25% of patients understand and follow their treatment plans better.

Miscommunication also leads to poor medication adherence: one study noted that 50 percent of chronically ill patients don’t take their medication properly.3 When patients fail to follow their treatment plans, they usually hinder their chances for a successful recovery.

Providers have to try to explain their treatment plans clearly and succinctly—failure to do so can lead to suboptimal outcomes. Mobile technology – more specifically text messaging – can play an important role in improving medication adherence by supporting those initial conversations. A “text-first” mobile patient engagement platform can be used to support much more than reminders and actually help provide a touch point that improves their overall health.

Poor health outcomes

Patient delay, missed appointments, and poor medication adherence — these issues are all directly related to poor patient-to-provider communication.
When providers fail to check in with patients or when they fail to fully explain a treatment plan to a patient, this typically leads to suboptimal outcomes.

When patients don’t follow through with their treatments, they usually fail to recover successfully, which oftentimes leads to avoidable readmissions.

Hospital readmission is a critical issue in the United States: one in five Medicare patients in the U.S. each year is readmitted within 30 days of leaving a hospital.4 However, a recent Harvard Business Review article pointed out that a “hospital would, on average, reduce its readmission rate by 5 percent if it were to prioritize communication with the patients in addition to complying with evidence-based standards of care.”5

Suboptimal outcomes lead to poor health results for patients, and repeated hospital readmissions eat up costly and critical provider resources. In order to improve outcomes and avoid patient-to-provider miscommunication, providers must focus on improving their overall communication efforts with patients.

A cost efficient and effective way to reach patients is through text messaging. The right platform not only support automated and on-demand messaging, but it also provides tools for provider staff that help them manage this critical communication channel.

Text messaging holds great promise for improving provider-to-patient communication and, most importantly, outcomes for all.


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