Massachusetts Medical Society: Care Coordination through Communication

Care Coordination through Communication

Vital Signs: December 2012/ January 2013

On Friday, February 8, 2013, the Massachusetts Medical Society will host a CME program titled, "The Impact of Effective Communication on Patients, Colleagues, and Metrics."

The program will feature three experts in the field of health communication discussing their research on health communication within the context of recently passed health care legislation.

Helen Riess, M.D., director of empathy research and training in psychotherapy research in the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, will discuss physician-to-patient communication with a special focus on physician empathy. David Longworth, M.D., a physician at the Medical Institute of the Cleveland Clinic, will discuss the importance of patient engagement in relation to prospective payment systems. And Ronald Epstein, M.D., professor of family medicine, psychiatry, oncology, and nursing at the University of Rochester Medical Center, will discuss effective physician-to-physician communication, and how clear communication can enhance patient outcomes within integrated delivery systems.

Many physicians and health care administrators do not have specific training in communicating with colleagues or patients, and the issue of engaging patients in their medical care is a relatively new topic.

In 2011, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) identified patients and providers as the groups who must be fully engaged to reform the current health system infrastructure.

The IOM asserts that an informed patient, invested in health care improvement and engaged in shared decision-making, is central to a reformed health system that is both effective and efficient. Operationally, patient engagement and physician-to-patient and physician-to-physician communication all rely on similar principles. Patient engagement includes working together with patients to select appropriate treatments or management options, understanding and acting on health information, and providing feedback on health care processes and outcomes. Physician-to-patient communication utilizes healing relationships, grown on principles of adaptability to the patient's needs, growth of both parties, and commitment to the healing process. Physician-to-physician communication hinges on direct, concise information-sharing. In all three concepts, the importance of teamwork, care, and precision is highlighted.

Coordinated health care emphasizes the key role of clear, concise communication at all levels. In our upcoming CME program, providers will gain a better understanding of best practices and necessary steps for enhanced patient engagement, as well as new techniques for communicating with their colleagues and their patients. This knowledge will be necessary for physicians to operate a successful practice under the new coordinated care models.

For more information on the program, please visit

- Leif Brierley and Melissa Higdon

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