Verbal Communication

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What we say, how we say it and who we say it to can have a massive impact.

It is important that what we say is clear and concise and that we base our interactions on trust, understanding, empathy and cooperation.

Effective communication strategies relate not only to clinical interactions, but also to all non-clinical interactions such as scheduling appointments, explaining a bill, or giving directions.
A health literate organisation

  • uses health literacy strategies in all communications and confirms understanding at all points of contact. [1]
  • Builds a culture that encourages checking for understanding in all communication interactions (both clinical and non-clinical) and allows adequate time for all interactions.
  • Plans for and provides language assistance where needed and treats communication failures as patient safety issues.

Strategies to improve verbal communication

There are many things to think about when communicating important health information. This list contains a few ideas that can be used at all points of communication.

  • Prioritise what needs to be discussed and limit information to 3-5 key points
  • Organise information so that the most important points come first
  • Break up complex information into understandable chunks (Chunk and Check)
  • Avoid use of jargon and acronyms
  • Speak clearly and at a moderate pace
  • Use visuals (pictures, graphs, maps, charts, 3D models), demonstrations, and gestures to support spoken information
  • Check back with the consumer to see if they understand. Verify understanding using Teach-Back or chunk and check techniques
  • Do not make assumptions about what people do or don’t know
  • Actively listen to concerns and the priorities of the consumer
  • Use open questions such as “What questions do you have?” rather than “Do you have any questions?”
  • Do not assume people will read information you give to them. Only use written materials in conjunction with spoken instructions.
  • Request interpreter services for all consumers who do not have documented proficiency in English language.
  • Greet consumers with a warm smile, eye contact and a welcoming attitude

Source: Central West Gippsland Primary Care Partnership


 Written Communication   Organisational Health Literacy