The European Symposium on “Health Communication: Training, challenges and opportunities for health professionals“, was organized by Prolepsis Institute on Thursday, June 14, 2018 at the Main Building of the University of Athens (Propylaea) as part of the project “Health Communication Training for Health Professionals, H-Com”.
Specialists from Greece and Europe, representatives of international organizations and academics, as well as health professionals participated in the Symposium. The participants highlighted the necessity of building and strengthening communication skills of health professionals both at graduate level and through continuous medical education training.
The discussion focused, among other issues, on communication problems and on the practicalities of dealing with patients with chronic health and mental health problems. The Symposium included also presentations concerning communication with special patient groups (refugees, elderly, children/young adults) and health communication in the workplace.
Athena Linos, Professor of Medical School, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and President of the Prolepsis Institute stated that: “Health communication has been recognized as an integral part of clinical medicine and public health, whereas plays a crucial role in improving the relationship between health professionals and patients. With Prolepsis Institute, we are launching a major effort to fill a huge gap in the training of healthcare professionals in Greece, utilizing H-Com’s educational tools and the valuable experience of participating in this innovative project.”
Lidia Del Piccolo, Professor in Clinical Psychology, Head of the Unit of Clinical Psychology at University Hospital of Verona and member of the European Association of Communication in Healthcare (EACH), in reference to health communication training pointed out that “the core abilities that have to be learnt are both related to skills and attitude. Content, process and mind-set have all to be addressed during teaching”.
Julia van Weert, Professor of Health Communication, Director of the Amsterdam Centre for Health Communication, University of Amsterdam and member of the European Association of Communication in Healthcare (EACH) stated in her presentation within the section on communicating with patients with diverse needs, that “Older patients forget 50 to 80% of the information directly after the consultation. Moreover, many of their emotional needs are not fulfilled. Since we know that adequate responding to emotions by caregivers fulfills not only affective needs, but also improves the retaining of information, communication skills training is highly needed to adapt to both the cognitive and the affective needs and abilities of patients.”
The results of the European study regarding the needs of physicians and nurses on matters related to health communication and the relationship between health professionals and patients were presented at the Symposium. 702 health professionals (physicians, nurses and representatives of other allied health professionals) from the project’s partner countries (Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Germany, Poland) and from other European countries, such as Italy, Portugal etc., participated in the study.
According to the study, significant shortcomings in health communication training for health professionals in Greece are reported. More particularly, only 38.6% of health professionals in Greece report that they have received health communication training (primarily during their studies and to a remarkably limited extent). The respective percentage in Cyprus is 72%, whereas in Germany and Spain the percentage reaches 66.7%. More than 54% of the study participants report that they encounter problems when communicating with patients during day-to-day clinical practice, while 10% of the participants encounter problems very often.
The areas in which physicians require to acquire more skills and training are the following: patients’ stress, disappointment or fear management and announcing bad news. Moreover, health professionals report that the most important barriers in effective health communication in primary health care settings are heavy workload, exhaustion, time restrictions, language barriers and lack of professionals’ training in health communication skills. It is indicative that 9 in 10 health professionals consider the training in health communication necessary, whereas one in four health professionals support that such training should be continuously offered and not limited to graduate level.
Opening remarks were made by Giorgos Patoulis, President of the Medical Association of Athens, Athina Kalokairinou, Professor of Community Nursing of National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and Dr. Dimitrios Papageorgiou, board member of the Hellenic National Nurses Association. The following speakers participated in the H-Com EU Symposium: George Chrousos, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the Athens University Medical School, Athena Linos, Professor of Medical School, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, President of the Prolepsis Institute, Lidia Del Piccolo, Professor in Clinical Psychology, Theano V Kalavana, Assistant Professor in Health Psychology and Clinical Communication, Dimitrios Linos, Professor & Chairman 5th Surgical Clinic, National & Kapodistrian University of Athens, Luisa Krontiri, Journalist, SKAI TV, Andrea Ildikó Gáspárik, Department of Public Health and Health Management, University of Medicine and Pharmacy Tg Mures, Monika Ditta Toth, Semmelweis University, Alexandrina Vodenicharova, Associated Professor, Department of health policy and management, Faculty of public health, Medical University Sofia, Julia van Weert, Professor of Health Communication, Director of Amsterdam Centre for Health Communication, University of Amsterdam, David Smith, Director of the International Network for Health Workforce Education, Elena Riza, Epidemiologist, Public Health Specialist, Medical School, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Anastasia Pantazopoulou, Former General Director of Public Health, Ministry of Health, Eliza Patouris, Project Manager & University Lecturer, Centre for Advancement of Research and Development in Educational Technology, Piotr Sakowski, Health Policy Department, Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine, Afroditi Veloudaki, Health Communication Specialist, Managing Director of Prolepsis Institute, Pania Karnaki, Health Promotion Specialist, Director of European and International Programs, Prolepsis Institute, Dina Zota, Health Promotion Specialist, Director of Educational Strategy Development & Health Promotion, Prolepsis Institute.