Improving Cross-Cultural Communication in Healthcare
Most healthcare providers have a diverse staff, and many treat patients from a number of backgrounds as well. It’s no wonder that certain barriers due to cross-cultural communication arise. By finding ways to bridge these communication gaps, your healthcare organization will be much better primed to serve your patients.
Learn how cross-cultural communication in healthcare creates certain issues that need to be addressed, along with how technology can help to bridge any existing communication gaps.
Understanding Cross-Cultural Communication in Healthcare
Not every patient you treat will come from the same cultural background. With diversity come possible language barriers, different perspectives about what wellness entails, and even sociocultural hurdles that you’ll come up against.
Without properly addressing these, you’ll have a much lower rate of patient satisfaction, making things much more difficult on your staff who directly deal and communicate with patients.
Cross-cultural communication is imperative when treating patients from different backgrounds and when working with peers from different cultural or demographic backgrounds as well. Many factors affect cross-cultural communication, including:
- Language differences
- Nonverbal differences
- Business customs
- Belief and communication strategies
- Power distance, or how society manages inequality between individuals and how individuals perceive that management
This means you need to have solid internal practices, as well as the proper training tools and protocols, to ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to patients’ health situations.
When communicating with staff or patients from another background, things like empathy, active listening, and communicating in the clearest way possible are important. This may even involve adjusting or slowing down speech patterns, using simpler language, and reinforcing important points, such as care protocols.
Follow up-questioning is also critical to help ensure that your patient has a full understanding of what they should know and what’s expected of them before you move forward.
However, you also don’t want to place the full burden of communication solely on your staff. With proper training, you can teach your staff the best practices. In some cases, you may need to find staff with the appropriate cultural background or language abilities.
Issues Created by Cross-Cultural Communication
Failing to plan for cross-cultural communication issues before they arise can lead to patient dissatisfaction and disruptions in your workflows.
Here are some of the biggest cross-cultural communication issues that might arise:
1. Failure to Understand Ongoing Care Protocols
Making sure that patients follow through with care protocols is difficult enough when they understand everything you say. But add in cultural barriers and this task becomes even more difficult. With the right communication plans and training in place, you can help to improve patient follow-through and improve patient satisfaction.
2. Increased Chances of Improper Diagnosis
When you’re attempting to diagnose a patient, communication is very important. Language barriers can reduce the chances of a proper diagnosis. With language assistance, you can improve diagnostic accuracy.
3. Team Communication Breakdowns
Do you have cross-cultural teams in your workplace? If so, be sensitive about your staff’s cultural beliefs and potentially even language preferences. Improving communication between teams will lead to a more collaborative workplace overall.
4. Workplace Dissatisfaction
Your various teams and departments must effectively communicate with one another. They must be able to count on the other person when the need arises. Having cross-cultural teams who can't communicate with one another will only lead to issues and possibly even high employee turnover. Reduce these issues with an effective communication strategy.
How Technology Can Assist in Eradicating Communication Gaps
Now that you’re aware of the various communication issues that can arise in the healthcare setting, let’s look at how technology can help to alleviate some of these. The main reason you’ll introduce communication technologies into your healthcare organization is to streamline communication.
With a cloud-based communication system, you’ll be able to do things like:
- Offer phone support in multiple languages, so there are no discrepancies in communication
- Have the ability to access patient data at a moment’s notice
- Easily share information between multiple departments with a central database
- Communicate with patients and team members over video conferencing software
With a cloud-based communication system, you’ll be able to improve internal and external communication, even across different cultures. Plus, with a HIPAA-compliant provider, you can keep your patient’s sensitive health data safe and avoid any fines or penalties.
Improve Patient Outcomes with Effective Communication
Achieving effective cross-cultural communication in healthcare is very important, both in dealing with patients and managing your teams. By mitigating the issues above and implementing cloud communication technology, you’ll make communication between different cultures a whole lot easier.
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