Many business schools teach communication as a formal topic; however, medical education ignores it to the detriment of physicians all their lives.
Consider when you have an important message for someone. Which scenario is more effective, crafting the best combination of words so that your intent is crystal clear and then send it off via an email? Or do you get a fairly good idea of what you want to say and make an appointment for a meeting?
A full channel message is 68% body language and eye contact , 28% voice inflection and only 7% words, according to our communication professor. If your message is important, go in-person and look that person in the eye to have an engaging conversation.
Importance of Face-to-Face
After I had been in practice for a few years, a physician leader called me saying he needed to ask me something. “Go ahead, I have the time now,” I said. “No” was the answer. “I want to come see you.” He came to my office and asked me to head up the physician campaign for United Way. How could I refuse with him looking me in the eye? I couldn’t decline and I have never forgotten the lesson of the importance of face-to-face communication.
If that conversation had been over the phone, it would have been much easier for me to refuse. When phone calls are necessary, the energy that would have gone to body language should be used for your voice. When you’re on the phone, remember that voice inflection is much more important than the words you choose, so put life and energy into your voice, especially if it’s an important call. Be alive!
Keep communications short
Another important aspect of business communication is brevity. Everyone is busy, and the typical reader will take in about 10 percent of any text or report longer than a page and a half.(Dibble) Short, short, keep it short.
With brevity in mind, think about the typical 5-10 page copy from someone’s EMR that is supposed to serve as a consultant’s referral report or an introduction to a patient. It’s abuse, unquestionably!
Don’t be guilty of this! If you are sending a report to someone who referred you a patient and you have to send the EMR, take the time to provide a brief note with key details of your findings and plan. Nobody has the time to thumb through all those pages, desperately searching for the few nuggets of useful information. Have pity by taking the time to send such a summary and you will gain a friend and loyal source of referrals.
The flip side is to send a note when you are referring a patient to a consultant for his or her opinion about a problem condition. The patient frequently has no clue of the reason for the referral and the EMR no hints, so better patient care will result if the consultant knows what to look for.
Effective communication in medicine as well as business not only benefits the parties directly involved, but it can also improve your relationship with other practitioners and the care for your patients. Remember to speak face-to-face when it’s important and always keep it short.
 Dibble, J. Communication Skills and Strategies: Guidelines for Managers at Work