Healthy communication makes a big difference


Above: Professor Ian Cumming OBE, Chief Executive of Health Education England

I have a real soft spot for good speakers. There is something invigorating about listening to informative, entertaining people who really know how to engage an audience.

The People in Health Summit in Melbourne last May had more than its fair share of excellent presenters. The conference theme was the health workforce of the future and the presentations were wide ranging, thought provoking and, unexpectedly, regularly turned to the topic of communication.

Strategy Planning Group Principal David Chalke highlighted the current communication paradigm: We hear what we want to hear and disregard the rest. He pointed out that Facebook reinforces our prejudices because we only listen to people who are like us.

David presented ABS statistics showing that less than 50 percent of the population have the literacy, numeracy and problem solving skills to meet the demands of everyday life and work – so how are the majority of us meant to comprehend, analyse, prioritise and act on available information?

Professor Ian Cumming, Chief Executive of Health Education England highlighted four significant factors that would impact health care in future: Economics, Genomics, Infomatics and Demographics. (These had been deftly translated by his children as: Money, Parents, Computers and Getting Old.)

And in a fascinating panel session moderated by SBS Insight host Jenny Brockie, panel members were asked what one practical innovation they would like to see in health care. Answers were wide ranging, and some would require big changes to our health care systems. The final comment came from Mary Draper, CEO of the Health Issues Centre, who brought everyone back down to earth with her simple plea: if every person who entered a patient’s room said ‘hello’, introduced themselves and explained why they were there, patients would have a significantly better experience of health care.

I was left thinking that sometimes it is not just about keeping communication simple: it is the simplest things that can make the biggest difference.

By Jane Fenton