This article offers health care providers evidence-based principles for communicating with sick patients during a community health crisis.
Communication challenges with sick patients have been exacerbated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Health care providers are facing patients with extreme levels of apprehension, uncertainty, and fear as they deliver serious diagnoses and prognoses and attempt to discuss goals of care. Evidence-based communication methods exist to train clinicians in how to communicate with patients with serious illness. Specifically, health care providers are reminded of three core principles:
- Dealing with emotion is more important than providing a lot of information
- Information is best delivered in small doses with the most important information first
- Patient values should be at the heart of medical treatment plans
These principles are important for patients to feel valued and heard, and they provide patients with the information needed in ways that they can process and manage. However, health care providers must manage the third principle with the realization that under crisis standards, individual values must shift to population-based resource allocation. Therefore, providers need to explain what specific care is possible for each specific patient. High-quality communication is an essential part for patients and clinicians to survive well.