Global Communication Crisis: Healthcare

Regardless of the ongoing debate and political struggle surrounding health care in the United States, the world is still a cornucopia of differing views, opinions, and ever-changing policies. Every person will require health care at some point in their lives as sickness runs rampart throughout the world. This is more prominent than ever in our current pandemic climate.

Television advertisements, internet videos, and the celebrity aspects of human consumption all teach that good health is something that ought to be sought with passion. The basic human instinct of survival is at its strongest when relating it directly with health care, as humans want to prolong their longevity. Given that it is a human instinct, this ultimately means that all people from all cultures and societies around the globe seek good health as an overall whole.

The real question, however, is how do all of those cultures acquire the knowledge, information, ability, and technology capable of providing that good health to its members? By analyzing the consequences, impacts, and internal implications of interpersonal relationships of the health care industry, new plans can rise up into action to help facilitate a better relationship in health care around the world.

Given the barriers of communication around the globe, unkempt repercussions are abundant when analyzed and noted. For instance, the conversations between health care professionals and patients has been a rising concern. All culture and nationality aside, the relationship, both professional and personal, between a patient and the provider of health care is an intimate one that can help a person survive the straits of life. Yu Xu, an assistant professor and PhD in organizational communication, says, “First, there are different perceptions, attributions, and reason . . . Differences in cultural background, personal experiences are among major determinants that account for these differences.”

Yu was analyzing a miscommunication between a couple of Chinese descent and an American oncologist. The differences in their cultural backgrounds led to a miscommunication which ultimately led to the Chinese couple not getting the help they needed. When a person from a specific culture attempts to explain something to a person from another culture, a vibrant array of miscommunications can occur. Yu describes those miscommunications as a detriment that keeps the human soul from healing another soul to its fullest potential. This is all because of a difference in cultural backgrounds.

The relationship between providers and patients from all over the world suffers because of a myriad of dissents. Verbal communication seems to be the primary focus of relaying information within the medical field as a layman would not understand all of the intricacies of a diagnosis by looking at it. This means that any language barrier between a patient and health care provider could have dire consequences that leads to improper diagnosis. Even though this is a tiny example of the broader spectrum of the problem, it does not make the impact of it any lesser.

Misunderstandings during intercultural communication in the business world can lead to lost business, incomplete business transactions, and an unhappy consumer base. In the medical world, improper intercultural communication can ultimately lead to literal life and death situations. Adhering to proper verbal communication can literally safe a life, and most medical professionals have difficulty understanding this. Medical professionals are taught to save a life from a scientific standpoint at any and all cost, but they sometimes fail to see past the cultural boundaries. Those failures can lead to a detrimental case of improper medical diagnosis and explanation.

The dignity of a person, much like verbal communication barriers, is a strong issue within the industry. Different organizations and industries from around the world suffer from miscommunication, but none can be literally more dangerous than the health care world. Most of this miscommunication stems from the idea of the cultural patterns and backgrounds of many people from around the world. Yu says that personal bias, dignity, care, and emotional stints can cause a massive misuse of communication within the health care field. goes on to describe the necessity for altering the communication style to better accommodate the differences in audiences in the medical world.

Identifying cultural patterns and backgrounds is pivotal to deciphering the differences between a cohesive relationship between patient and provider and a failed one. A modicum of respect and care has to be put into more than just the scientific side of what it means to be a health care provider. Every patient is inherently different, and just like they teach in medical school, no two cases are exactly the same. This does not apply to just the medical side of things, but the interpersonal, human side of things as well.

One difference in cultural patterns has already been seen by the inability of the American oncologist to explain a medical diagnosis in a way that the Chinese couple would understand. Because of the differences in American and Chinese culture, the Chinese couple, according to Yu, found the diagnosis insulting to their way of approaching medicine and communication overall. The doctor did not understand that in China, the husband usually speaks for the wife. When the husband began talking to the doctor, the doctor continued to ignore him and talk to the wife. The husband was a well-educated man, and thus believed he could speak more efficiently about the entire affair.

On the other side of the situation, the wife was not able to effectively communicate her problems and concerns to the oncologist. This led to even more miscommunication between the two as the doctor no longer understood what was needed, and the Chinese couple no longer cared what the doctor had to say. Ultimately, the entire thing boiled down to the idea that neither party knew the proper way to address the situation. Situations like those provide an awful insight into the terrifying realization that appropriate intercultural communication is essential in the world of health care.

If a medical situation is predominantly controlled from the medical provider’s side, then it makes sense that their cultural knowledge should be improved. It is definitely a benefit for all people to have a broader spectrum of knowledge regarding different cultural patterns, but it should not be required when seeking medical help. Medical professionals need to understand that all people may be the same on the inside, but the cultural and social aspects of them are different. Understanding that difference will immensely help the miscommunication between the two.

The most important step according to Yu for improving intercultural communication within the field of health care is finding a way to provide bountiful properties that will help facilitate verbal communication between people of different cultural backgrounds. Basically, medical workers around the world need a better resource for adapting to intercultural communication. Yu suggests taking the necessary steps toward educating medical workers in intercultural relationships specifically. This is possible through language barriers.

This would involve branching out and adapting a more complex lifestyle by learning a second language as a good first step in improving intercultural communication as a whole. Some skepticism for this strategy exists simply based on the idea that not everybody is capable or willing to learn a second language. Even though Yu is correct in saying that learning a second language would be highly beneficial to the process of improving intercultural communication, there are several barriers to success.

With an ever-dwindling economy around the world, the lack of motivation to learn a second language, and a myriad of other barriers, Yu provides a helpful model for overcoming those barriers. According to Yu, Ting-Toomey’s face negotiation theory is abundant all over the world, especially in the health care industry. Each culture may have different ways of interpreting and initiating the phase of saving face in intercultural communication, but one apparent strategy exists that helps unify those cultures: the idea of a third party.

Yu recommends instituting a third party into all intercultural communications in the medical field. Drawing upon those ideas, the process of implementing a third party into communication has advantages and disadvantages, but first, an analysis of exactly what the third party does is necessary. The third party’s purpose is to hear both sides of the conversation between the first two parties. The third person’s job is to listen to the context from both the medical provider and the patient. The third party would require a working knowledge of both cultures and understand the context of the medical situation, much like a psychiatrist in an emergency room would.

The next step is for the third party to make sure they are one hundred percent impartial with no signs of bias. After the third party has garnered an analysis and interpretation of the entire ordeal, then he or she can competently convey each person’s message to the other. This requires a modicum of trust between the three parties. Each party has to understand the cultural patterns, differences, and nuances for a successful communication process.

This strategy is highly simple at its core, and Yu explains that people have been using this technique for the majority of their lives. Given that people already have a proclivity for allowing another party to interpret and pass along a message, it should be relatively simple for two parties to do the same in the medical world. The third party would act like a translator for language barriers, but instead of relying on just language, he or she is interpreting cultural norms. The end game is to provide a higher understanding of other cultures while also quelling the issues that plague the medical community on a current intercultural level.

The entire world faces health issues every single day, and the relationship between health care professionals and patients is the catalyst that helps facilitate those health issues. A multitude of intercultural communication issues plague the medical industry around the globe. Medical diagnoses and the conversation between a health care provider and patient are both integral aspects of the health care industry. A working knowledge of all cultures is literally impossible, but to refrain from improper medical diagnoses and miscommunication, there are strategies and ideas that could be implemented to help facilitate a more copacetic communication process. Rather than relying on personal knowledge, medical professionals could employ the help of a third party to help interpret and translate ideas and actions from different cultures. This way, the third party could provide an outlet to avoid miscommunication, save face, and allow for a better and stronger communication process between the two parties. Improved intercultural communication can provide a better outlook on life for all of those in need of medical help, and the health care industry can become an even better catalyst on the path of saving lives.

Written by Sean

Sean is currently a freelance writer that spends much of his time worrying far too much. He is a board and video game enthusiast, an avid watcher of movies, a lover of sports, and a certified nerd. While he has no specific writing style, he likes to think he can adapt as needed to different writing styles, tones, and intonations. He likes to cook, read books and is currently engaged to the love of his life!

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