Improving Blood Clot Care Through Better Communication

NATF is excited to announce a new project in the works, Optimizing VTE Communication: A Toolkit for Healthcare Professionals and Their Patients. Venous thromboembolism or VTE, better known as blood clots in the veins, requires immediate medical attention – but there are often communication-related challenges in the emergency room or urgent care setting that can make it hard for patients and families to understand and process a blood clot diagnosis.

Spearheaded by Dr. Erik Klok, Professor of Medicine, at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, Dr. Grégoire Le Gal, Professor of Medicine at the University of Ottawa in Canada, and Dr. Scott Woller, Chair of Medicine at the Intermountain Medical Center in Utah, this project is the first of its kind to bring together a global taskforce of clinicians, communication experts, mental health experts, and patients to address the critical issue of patient-clinician communication at the point of VTE diagnosis and beyond. Together, our taskforce members bring perspectives from six different continents and represent more than 10 different medical and research specialties.

A recent study from the University of Indianapolis identified three factors that negatively influenced the patient experience at the point of VTE diagnosis in the emergency room:

  • Clinician word choice: The use of medical terms, metaphors, and “alarmist language” (e.g., “you’re a ticking time bomb”) contributed to anxiety and distress.
  • Nonverbal cues: Clinicians’ facial expressions often heightened patients’ concerns, along with the number of clinicians that entered and exited the room without directly addressing the patient or caregiver(s).
  • Incomplete information: Patients reported that they were unclear on their diagnosis at every level, from the basic definition of VTE to their expected prognosis and how VTE would impact their lifestyle and day-to-day activities.

To help ease the burden on both clinicians and patients, we are creating a unique resource that will include:

  1. A set of best practices and recommendations for clinicians focused on how to communicate a blood clot diagnosis and what information to communicate when in an emergency room or urgent care setting.
  2. A complementary toolkit to support patients at the time of VTE diagnosis as well as in the first 3-6 months of their blood clot journey. Resources will include a comprehensive Q&A about VTE, a glossary of medical terms, information on VTE treatment, lifestyle considerations, and mental health, and materials to help support open conversation and shared decision-making between patients and clinicians.
    Effective patient-clinician communication is associated with better health outcomes and greater levels of patient satisfaction. It is our hope that with the creation of these resources, we can make VTE information more accessible to clinicians, patients, and caregivers – and ultimately improve patient outcomes after a blood clot diagnosis.

Looking for current resources on navigating a blood clot diagnosis? Check out Is This Normal?! and our Thrombosis Tips page for answers to common questions about life after a blood clot.

*Originally published in The Beat — October 2023. Read the full newsletter here.

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