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What did patients think about communicating with doctors and nurses?

More than 2/3 of patients said that doctors and nurses always listened carefully and explained things clearly
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Good communication with doctors and nurses is important for ensuring that patients clearly understand their treatment plan and can take an active role in their care.

Medication is an important component of hospital care. Effective explanation about medication helps patients understand how to take what has been prescribed, as well as possible side effects, and may prevent medication errors.

Percentage of patients who felt that their medication was always explained well, by province: New Brunswick: 53%; n = 6,314 respondents (mode of survey administration: mail); Ontario: 52%; n = 34,970 respondents (modes of survey administration: online, mail and telephone); Manitoba: 55%; n = 10,414 respondents (modes of survey administration: online and mail); Alberta: 62%; n = 19,717 respondents ( mode of survey administration: telephone); British Columbia: 50%; n = 20,020 respondents (modes of survey administration: online and telephone); Overall average: 54%. Results are weighted and adjusted for non-response, sampling design and patient characteristics. Survey responses were collected via 3 modes — telephone, mail and online — which may contribute to variation in provincial-level results. See the methodology notes for more information.


Percentage of patients who said that hospital staff always explained the purpose of a new medicine


Percentage of patients who said that hospital staff never described possible side effects of a new medicine in a way they could understand

Patient perspective

Receiving timely information on a diagnosis, being able to ask questions or feeling like the staff care can mean the difference between a positive and a negative patient experience in hospital.

3 patients who shared their experiences with CIHI about their recent hospital stays highlighted communication with health care providers as a key factor in their overall experience.

“The only reason I got better treatment than I had in the past is because I actually said something, so the ER supervisor came to my room to talk to me,” said Gail, age 55, who was hospitalized for 9 days due to symptoms of vertigo. “I often don’t want to go to the hospital unless I have to because you basically have to get upset at them for them to hear you, and if you get upset then they threaten you with security. What are you supposed to do?”

“The doctor came in and her phone kept ringing and she was very distracted,” said Howard, age 65, who was hospitalized for 5 days due to complications related to diabetes. “She was trying to talk to me while she was looking at the reports, the charts and the bloodwork. I felt bad for her because she was obviously very busy.”

“I would have liked to have asked her a few questions, but she didn’t really give me that opportunity.”— Howard, age 65

“I had to wait in the emergency room longer than I would have liked, but once I was admitted I was pleased with the care that I received,” said Rachelle, age 31, who was hospitalized for 5 days after suffering a bowel obstruction. “The specialist came to check on me every day, even when his shift was over. I appreciated that. I felt I had enough time to ask questions.”