Role of Technology in Enhancing Communication Skills Among HCPs

By Dr. Swadeep Srivastava


Amidst all the social media cacophony and information overload, effective and focused communication can play an important role in nursing better doctor-patient relationships.

While it is assumed that effective communication is a central clinical function in building a therapeutic doctor-patient relationship, which is the heart and art of medicine, the same holds good for bedside caregiver, paramedical staff, clinics, hospitals and even a corner shop drug store.

However, at the core is the doctor-patient communication.

A study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine analysed 112 recorded clinical encounters between doctors and patients. The study showed that doctors interrupted patients in 67% of the recorded encounters. They listened to patients for a median of 11 seconds before interrupting them.

Some providers interjected within three seconds, while others waited up to 234 seconds.

Listening is an art that is central to communication, especially in the internet era where patients and their relatives come loaded with information (true or false) on the ailments they face.

Instead of dismissing them outright or admonishing them, the physician should hear them out and then debrief them, leading them to the right information.

Says Dr V Ravi, a leading ortho surgeon: “Patients come bursting with anxiety and information. I listen to them and then use visual charts and models to explain the facts and convince them. At this juncture, half the treatment is over and the patient is relaxed.”

The study cited above suggested that there should be structured and regular courses focusing on the art of listening, and undergoing communications training.

Effective communication between doctors and patients is essential for several reasons:

Rapport & Trust: Doctors who communicate effectively can establish rapport, trust, and confidence with patients more easily. This enhances the flow of crucial information and increases the likelihood that patients will understand and follow medical advice.

Reducing Complaints & Legal Issues: Good communication decreases the likelihood of patient complaints and legal action, especially when adverse events occur.

The goals of good doctor-patient communication should include building trust and empathy with patients; ensuring accurate diagnosis, appropriate counselling, and clear therapeutic instructions; shared decision-making and patient-centred communication.

Studies have shown that doctors sometimes overestimate their communication abilities. Patient surveys consistently show that patients want better communication with their doctors.

Some of the suggestions put out in the studies include: acknowledging what patients say and encouraging them to continue sharing their concerns; demonstrating understanding and compassion toward patients; providing clear and jargon-free explanations of diagnoses, treatment options, and procedures.

Effective communication should also ensure that patients understand risks, benefits, and alternatives before making decisions.

While dealing with communication, nonverbal communication has a major role to play. Paying attention to body language, eye contact, and tone of voice are as important as words spoken.

Of late, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has emerged as a potential tool to significantly enhance communication between healthcare professionals and patients.

A study conducted by UC San Diego Health revealed that generative AI can draft compassionate patient responses to assist providers in answering an influx of patient messages.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) generates empathetic drafts, which physicians can then edit rather than starting from scratch. Although it didn’t reduce physician response time, it helped relieve cognitive burden.

The bottom line is that while some physicians are born natural communicators, others may need regular training and take the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Effective communication is not only about technical medical knowledge but also about connecting with patients on a human level. Doctors who excel in communication can deliver better patient care and build greater trust with their patients.


(The author is Dr. Swadeep Srivastava, Founder & CBO (Chief Belief Officer), HealthPresso, and the views expressed in this article are his own)