Communication science conceptualizes human communication as a complex, dynamic, holistic, interactive meaning-making activity that is co-produced between two or more individuals. By definition, communication encompasses
“all procedures by which one mind [and body] may affect another”
-- Shannon and Weaver 1964
In the context of healthcare, this means that interpersonal communication constitutes the vehicle through which understanding, affection, conflict, compassion, social support, and trust transpire in both provider-patient and inter-professional interactions. This conceptualization requires a more holistic and nuanced understanding than is generally found in the medical literature on how care objectives are achieved through interpersonal interactions, and a more robust consideration of contextual factors that influence interpersonal communication processes in the healthcare setting.
Clinical encounters are commonly compromised by insufficient or unclear information, time pressures, professional hierarchies, and conflictual relationships. In this context, the achievement of a mutual understanding is a necessary quality standard that requires advanced interpersonal skills (see Hannawa 2015). Safe communication encompasses complex encoding, decoding, and transactional sense-making activities of verbal messages and nonverbal (and other metalinguistic) cues that commonly make it difficult to reassemble what a speaker originally meant and intended. This is especially true when an interaction involves high emotional content, as is often the case in healthcare encounters.
This interpersonal sense-making process is complicated by the fact that encoding activities can be either intentional or unintentional in nature. Even silence, withdrawal, or immobility can convey messages that speak louder than words.
There are several incorrect assumptions or “myths” about human communication that are commonly shared by both patients and healthcare providers. These misperceptions often lead to insufficient interpersonal understandings that, in turn, directly compromise the safety and quality of care (visit SACCIA Resources for scientific references and further information).
The SACCIA© Safe Communication Academy conducts courses that illustrate these common myths in practical ways. It teaches nine evidence-based "core truths”of safe communication in healthcare to replace these myths, as an important theoretical fundament for a successful implementation of the five SACCIA safe communication core competencies in everyday practice. This scientifically grounded pedagogical approach promotes a better understanding of how a SACCIA© safe communication practice can enhance the safety and quality of patient care in measurable ways.