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How Better Communication Will Improve Clinical Outcomes

Growing interest and opportunities in the field of patient experience reflect a shift toward value-based healthcare and the importance of measuring outcomes and approaches that truly matter to patients. As a developing field, patient experience leaders benefit by considering application of more academically rigorous research approaches.

At the 2019 Patient Experience Summit, Laura Cooley, PhD, led a deep dive session to discuss the landscape of academic perspectives focused on many facets of the patient experience field. “For decades we’ve been conducting research to demonstrate the way effective communication between patients and providers can lead to better outcomes, improve safety, and can make people feel better,” she says.

Dr. Cooley leads strategic efforts for The Academy of Communication in Healthcare (ACH), a non-profit organization with the mission of improving healthcare through education, research, and practice that focuses on communication and relationships with patients, families, and healthcare teams. She also serves as editor-in-chief for the Journal of Patient Experience.

“It’s not easy,” explains Cooley. “Communicating is a skill, and it’s not a skill that we’ve traditionally taught in medicine. We’ve focused on the science of the human body. We haven’t focused on the art, the feelings, and the mind aspects of it. I think there has been a shift in that direction, so we’re focusing on the mind-body connections and really paying attention to the perspective of humanism and consumerism, and those things really affecting the way we look at care.”

Her research focuses heavily on the intersections between patient-centered care, interpersonal skills, mindfulness, empathy, and communication in the end-of-life context.

“I think there’s a worry that we [humans] have that technology is dehumanizing us and at the same time I like to be optimistic about it. We can harness the power of technology to enable human connection and to decrease some of the barriers to accessing care, [saving] time, keeping our records, evaluating our progress. That’s my hope for technology and the intersection of healthcare.”


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