Communication therapeutic skills for medical assistants

Of all the tasks and skills required of the medical assistant in the ambulatory care setting, none is quite so important as communication. Communication is the very foundation for every action taken by health care professionals in the care of their patients. Because medical assistants are often the liaison between patient and physician, it is critical to be aware of all the complexities of the communication process. A medical assistant shold describe effective communication principles, apply those principles to face-to-face communication as well as telephone communication, and describe the basic roadblocks to communication. The key word to all communication in the medical setting is therapeutic. In all conversation with patients, the more therapeutic the conversation, the more satisfied the patient will be with the care provided.

Importance of Communication
Communication in the health setting is the foundation for all patient care and is of the utmost importance. The majority of this communication in the ambulatory care setting will be therapeuticit will utilize specific and well-defined professional skills. Patients' satisfaction with their medical care is as much related to the effectiveness of the communication between themselves and their chosen health care provider as it is to the actual care itself.
A patient choosing a physician wants a clear understanding of the physician's professional and technical skills as well as the physician's ability to communicate. The patient may question family members and friends regarding their personal physician's professional manner and communication skills. Questions often asked include: ''Will your doctor talk with me so that I understand what is being said?" "Will your doctor listen to what I have to say?" "Can I talk to your doctor honestly and openly?" When communication is therapeutic, patients feel validated and respected. Therapeutic communication skills create a feeling of comfort for patients even when difficult or unpleasant information must be exchanged.

Cultural Influence on Therapeutic Communication
For true therapeutic communication to take place, the influence of culture must be considered. Cultural influences include one's ethnic heritage, geographic location and background, genetics, economics, educational experiences, life experiences, and value system.
Any or all of these influences may exhibit themselves when health care is sought by patients. A patient's ethnic heritage may indicate a slant toward the Eastern influence in medicine as opposed to the traditional Western style more commonly taught and practiced in the United States today. Geographic location and background may reveal that a person is more comfortable with a family physician in a very small clinic than in a large metropolitan multispecialty practice. The influence of economics may reveal a discomfort if the office staff and patients have a different perception about how billing is managed and when and how payment is expected.
Educational and life experiences will, in part, determine how patients react to their care. Patients with family members being treated for a chronic illness will have more knowledge and understanding of that illness in their own lives. Individuals who have already suffered a great deal of loss and grief in their lives may handle the information of a life-threatening illness more easily than someone who has experienced little grief.