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Communications Barriers in Health Care

A new study shows that Tanenbaum’s Health Care program still has important work to do. QuantiaMD, an online physician-to-physician learning collaborative, conducted an online initiative of 17,200 clinicians to gather data on patient-doctor communication. The results of the survey were quite interesting.  

One of the main barriers that doctors cited was the lack of inclusion of the topic of religion in assessment and screening tools. Another study, which also examined physician perspectives on discussing religion and spirituality with patients, found that the main barriers were: insufficient time (48%), concern about offending patients (40%), insufficient knowledge/training (26%), and a general discomfort with discussing religious matters (23%). 
Tanenbaum’s Health Care program works toward eliminating these barriers to patient-doctor communication by training clinicians and other health care professionals in core practices and critical communication skills so they are prepared to respectfully inquire about patients’ religious beliefs, respond appropriately and anticipate potential areas of conflict. 
Breaking down the barriers to patient-doctor communication around the topic of religion allows providers to gain patients’ trust and loyalty, which is all the more important considering that QuantiaMD found that 48% of physicians currently feel that one-quarter to one-half of their patients did not trust the U.S. healthcare system. 
Patient-doctor communication around the topic of religion can also provide valuable and essential information for effectively diagnosing, treating, and managing the care of patients. In a separate study conducted by QuantiaMD, doctors were asked to identify the top three culturally related behaviors that affected their care of patients. The use of alternative remedies, modesty/reluctance to have a physical exam, and other religious practices such as not accepting blood products and putting faith in only God for healing, were identified by physicians as some of the main patient behaviors that they felt adversely impacted care.
These findings align with a list of “trigger topics” that Tanenbaum has identified. These “trigger topics” are areas within health care – such as modesty, use of alternative remedies, acceptance of drugs and procedures, and end-of-life – where religion often comes up, across faith traditions. By training practitioners to identify these areas, Tanenbaum hopes to assist health care providers in more effectively recognizing and addressing the religious concerns of patients.