On many occasions, the way of communicating bad news predicts both the prognosis and the attitude of the patient and family members in health contexts. And it is that, in doing so, there are alterations at an emotional, mental and behavioral level in the receiver. These effects persist for days or months after the news is given to you.
In several studies it has been documented that neither students nor doctors have been instructed in how to communicate a negative result to patients. This leads to doubts, fears or insecurity in health professionals when dealing with these types of vicissitudes.
In fact, in some cases these problems are camouflaged with an avoidance of personal doctor-patient contact so as not to get too involved. What to keep in mind when communicating bad news? There are several strategies. We detail them below.
Conditions to consider before communicating bad news
Generally speaking, there are four conditions to keep in mind when communicating bad news to patients. They correspond to the following:
- Have as much information as possible about the diagnosis, prognosis, severity, etc.
- Bear in mind the idiosyncrasy of each patient (N = 1).
- Lean on the patient’s family.
- Value the genuine doctor-patient relationship and avoid lying or being falsely optimistic.