5 Communication Skills Every Healthcare Manager Needs

According to Healthcare Global Magazine, healthcare leaders’ success “is determined by how well they clearly communicate with patients, staff, providers, business partners, insurance companies, and regulators.” Effective communication is equally important for providers and clinicians, as the Institute for Healthcare Communication (IHC) reports:

“Studies conducted during the past three decades show that the clinician’s ability to explain, listen and empathize can have a profound effect on biological and functional health outcomes as well as patient satisfaction and experience of care.”

The work of healthcare managers bridges these healthcare system relationships, which requires communication expertise. The Youngstown State University (YSU) online Master of Business Administration with a Specialization in Healthcare Management program is a dual-specialization degree program, focusing on both leadership and healthcare management.

Through program studies, students develop the communication skills needed for various environments and contexts common to healthcare management. Students can also apply learned advanced leadership skills when inspiring and coaching staff on effective communication. This can foster improved communication with patients and positively impact health outcomes and the patient experience.

The following are five essential communication skills that will help healthcare managers succeed in leadership roles:

1. Empathy

IHC notes that empathy is a core component of effective patient-centered care models. Applying empathy to the healthcare setting involves seeking to understand a patient’s values, experience, emotions, concerns, needs and questions in an authentic way.

This can benefit health outcomes through more informed diagnostic accuracy and improved patient-provider relationships. Empathy can also foster patient satisfaction, participation and investment in their healthcare experience.

Similarly, healthcare managers who demonstrate and interact with empathy can help staff feel valued and understood. Modeling empathetic communication creates a work culture of compassion and belonging. This sort of culture engenders the team cohesion and collaboration that drive high-performing healthcare organizations.

2. Active Listening

Active listening could be thought of as empathy in action. The American Association for Physician Leadership explains: “Actively listening to patients conveys respect for their self-knowledge and builds trust. It allows physicians to assume the role of the trusted intermediary. It is only through shared knowledge that physicians and patients can co-create an authentic, viable care plan.”

This communication skill involves soliciting and listening to concerns, ideas, feedback and feelings of others. Beyond simply listening, the active listener considers what others have to say carefully and asks questions to ensure what is communicated is fully understood.

Beyond patient-provider outcomes, active listening is central to leading and managing effectively. Active listening ensures staff know their concerns are heard and understood. It also provides leaders with the accurate understanding of staff concerns needed to address issues successfully.

Active listening is also important when communicating with parties like other healthcare entities, business partners and insurance companies. It fosters trusting relationships where shared knowledge and information is understood.

3. Interpersonal Skills

Constantly improving on one’s interpersonal skills can be very beneficial in healthcare management. According to Kognito, effective interpersonal communication in healthcare can improve patient satisfaction and outcomes while combatting staff stress and burnout.

Interpersonal skills can be either verbal or nonverbal (body language, facial expressions). In addition to empathy and active listening, interpersonal skills also include patience, responsibility, dependability, flexibility, teamwork and authentic leadership.

Demonstrating these traits and skills shows staff that a leader’s intentions, attentiveness and decision-making are trustworthy and genuine, helping build followership and motivation. Additionally, good leaders endeavor to help their reports develop interpersonal skills, which promotes staff cohesion, teamwork and better communication with patients.

4. Clarity

Clarity is vital for effective managerial communication, regardless of the field. This is especially true for healthcare management, where consequences for misunderstood communications could be dire.

Healthcare managers must use clear language to communicate expectations, policies and procedures. Staff must also have all the information they need to engage clearly with patients regarding care plans, treatment options, financial matters and any patient concerns.

Clarity is also essential for communicating with business partners, insurance companies and regulatory bodies. There should be no doubt regarding what each party expects of the other, how collaboration will benefit each, and how compliance with regulations will be measured and met.

5. Reading and Writing

Healthcare systems rely on extensive written documentation, policies, guides, agreements with partners and insurance companies, electronic medical records and other written communications. Thus, healthcare managers must be adept in reading and writing, with awareness of medical terminology and shorthand.

However, healthcare managers also need to be able to convey messages via written word without the added verbal and nonverbal cues of interpersonal communication. Managers can hone their written communication skills through study and practice.

Communication skills such as these are a must for modern healthcare managers. By communicating effectively, healthcare managers can improve staff performance and satisfaction, patient outcomes and organizational relationships, all core drivers of a healthcare organization’s success.

Learn more about Youngstown State University’s online MBA in Healthcare Management program.

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