The Importance of Effective Healthcare Communication


Communication is vitally important. This is one of the major tools used by human beings to establish interpersonal relationships. This is can be seen by how a person communicates his intentions and his desires. Without the ability to communicate, interpersonal conflict can easily arise but more importantly there can be no way to resolve it. Healthcare communication is a sub-set of human communication. It is a narrower scope but still, the same benefits apply. This means that healthcare can be made more efficient and more effective if communication flow easily between client and health professionals.

Healthcare Communication

Healthcare communication is merely a sub-set of human communication and it has something to do with how individuals deal with health-related issues (Northouse & Northouse, 1998). The ways in which these health-related issues are dealt with are called transactions. It is simply a more technical term that can also be rendered as verbal or nonverbal, oral or written, personal or impersonal, issue-oriented or relationship oriented (Northouse & Northouse, 1998). The same transactions occur even outside the world of healthcare but healthcare communication is focused on the application of communication and concepts that occur among those who are involved in dealing with a health-related issue.

There are at least two major forms of healthcare communication. The first type is made within the context of an organisation. The second type is made in the context of public communication. In the organisational context healthcare communication may involve hospital administration, staff relations, and organisational communication climates (Northouse & Northouse, 1998). When it comes to groups that are within a particular organisation, healthcare communication techniques can be used when conducting treatment planning meetings and staff reports. When it comes to an interpersonal context this is expressed in the interaction between health workers as well as the interaction between professional and client. When used in the public sphere, health communication is seen in presentations, speeches, and public addresses made an expert or a health official.

Effective Healthcare Communication

Healthcare communication can be an effective tool in terms of increasing access to information as well as the clarification of expectations and objectives. For instance, the Surgeon General’s infomercial about the hazards of smoking can increase awareness regarding the detrimental effects of tobacco smoke. This can serve as a warning to those who may attempt to try. On the other hand, the said information campaign can encourage heavy smokers to quit. When it comes to therapy and treatment procedures it is important that patients should cooperate. A health care professional who is skilled in healthcare communication can easily encourage the patient to adhere to whatever treatment program is necessary to improve health (Allen & Brock, 2000). This is made possible by explaining that it is in the patient’s best interest to cooperate.

In an organisational context, effective healthcare communication can be used to clarify the goals of the facility. Without the ability to communicate effectively, one can expect confusion, duplication of work and interpersonal conflict. Effective healthcare communication in the context of an organisation will help resolve issues before it can escalate into something more serious. It is also important to point out that an effective communicator is not only skilled in the technical aspect of communication such as the right way to write a business letter or the proper way of pronouncing words, it is also about a certain sensitivity to culture (Giger & Davidhizar, 2004). In fact, culture and communication are closely intertwined it would be best to understand the culture of the audience to assure of effective communication.

The therapeutic model can be used to understand the importance of healthcare communication. This is due to the fact that the therapeutic model placed a great deal of importance to relationships. The healthcare professional is not only limited by the need to administer medicine and to provide a prognosis of a particular health problem; the healthcare professional must also come to know the patient, if possible in a more personal way. If this relationship is developed and nurtured then it can significantly improve the chances that the patient will cooperate and adhere to the treatment program.

Therapeutic Communication

There are three major aspects of therapeutic communication and these are empathy, control, and trust. Empathy is a critical component when it comes to therapeutic communication. This was made clear by Carl Rogers when he described the significance of empathy and he wrote that it is “…entering the private perceptual world of the other and becoming thoroughly at home in it … It includes communicating your sensing of his world as you look with fresh and unfrightened eyes at elements of which the individual is fearful” (Northouse & Northouse, 1998). In other words when the client is comfortable in relating to the healthcare professional then he or she can make appropriate disclosures that can allow physicians to have a more in-depth understanding of the health issue they are dealing with.

Empathy is made more effective if the health professional has also learned to earn the trust of his or her patients. This ability to make the patient feel that he or she can be trusted is a valuable ability in healthcare. In times when patients feel that they are vulnerable and fearful, the ability to generate the feeling of trust can be another helpful tool in the hands of a healthcare professional. This ability can be improved much further if the health care professional is prepared to talk to the patient. This simply means that the ability to ask appropriate questions can be complemented with planning and preparation (Darley, 2002).

While it is important to have empathy, the ability to enter the private world of the individual and see the patient as a human being, it is also equally important to know when to use control. In the healthcare profession the professionals must learn how to negotiate control (Northouse & Northouse, 1998). They must accomplish a complicated juggling act by making the patient feel that they are in control while at the same time they must also have the ability to make the patients feel that ultimately the health professional is on top of the situation and that everything done within the medical facility is for the best interest of the patient.


Healthcare communication is vitally important in the context of an organisation as well as in the public sphere. In the context of a group or a healthcare facility, healthcare communication can improve the flow of information. It is also a way to clarify objectives and expectations as well as to identify minor issues and deal with it before it become unmanageable. In the context of public communication a skilled healthcare communicator has the ability to broadcast the needed information but at the same time has the ability to compel the listener to follow or to act in adherence to the information given.


Allen, J. & S. Brock. (2000). Health Care Communication Using Personality Type: Patients are Different. New York: Routledge.

Darley, M. (2002). Managing Communication in Health Care. London: Harcourt Publishers.

Giger, N. & R. Davidhizar. (2004). Transcultural Nursing: Assessment & Intervention. Missouri: Mosby.

Northouse, L. & P. Northouse. (1998). Health Communication: Strategies for Health Professionals. Prentice Hall.