According to Stephen Covey, we should “seek first to understand, then to be understood” to achieve effective interpersonal communication. The purpose of clinical communication is to link the patient’s needs and preferences with the clinician’s knowledge, skills, and performance so that both work together to accomplish therapy goals and are satisfied with treatment outcomes. This face-to-face interaction should be patient-centered, and the clinician must integrate his or her skills in the use of communication strategies and techniques with a set of desirable personality traits or soft skills.
Patient-centered communication skills can be analyzed using the 4 clinical domains adopted by the American Board of Orthodontics (Chung CH, Tadlock LP, Barone N, Pangrazio-Kulbersh V, Sabott DG, Foley PF, Trulove TS, Park JH, Dugoni SA. American Board of Orthodontics: Time for change. Am J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop 2018;153:321-3).
Data gathering and diagnosis: Using respectful, nontechnical, concise language adapted to the patient’s age, sex, culture, and psychosocial context. Combined with ethics, trustworthiness, and truthfulness, this builds a good relationship and rapport. Getting the patient to open up provides essential and accurate information. This will lead to a more comprehensive diagnosis of the problem and reduce the frequency of diagnostic errors and malpractice claims, thus increasing the patient’s safety.
Treatment objectives and planning: A 2-way dialogue, without interruptions, asking open-ended questions, with assertiveness and emotional intelligence, will lead to a partnership with the patient, resulting in shared treatment goals and the design of a personalized treatment plan. Educate the patient and the parents or care givers about the problem to help them understand the risks and benefits of different therapy options, including no treatment; and share power and responsibility with the orthodontist.
Treatment implementation and management: Active and reflective listening, displaying understanding, flexibility, and empathy will lead to adequate adherence throughout the therapy process.
Critical analysis and outcomes assessment: Using patient-reported outcomes will enable an assessment of the effectiveness of the treatment. Determining patient satisfaction is a measure of the quality of care and will produce the essential feedback for continuous quality improvement.
Effective communication is the main requirement for an evidence-based, patient-centered, and outcomes-focused practice. Patient-centered communication must be part of the clinical competence necessary to provide the best orthodontic care. It consists of hard and soft components, so both teaching methods and assessment strategies must adapt to its complex nature.
∗ The viewpoints expressed are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect those of the editor(s), publisher(s), or Association.