Brain Disorders: The Communication Challenge

Communicating effectively with those affected by brain disorders can be challenging. Certain brain disorders restrict the ability of the patient to communicate, listen and absorb information.

At the Joint Congress of European Neurology, EFNA organised an Awareness Session on ‘Brain Disorders: The Communication Challenge’. This session took the format of an interactive workshop focussing on how the neurologist can overcome the obstacles to effective communication during consultation. It included role-plays and the presentation a disease specific case-study, in Traumatic Brain Injury, from both the physician and patient perspective.

The session was chaired by Prof. Gunhild Waldemar and featured a presentation from Dr. Nikolaus Steinhoff. Ms. Sigrid Kundela, a Traumatic Brain Injury Patient, also spoke of her communication needs as a person affected by a neurological disorder.

At the end of the session, a debate and discussion took place to identify areas where communication could be improved from both the perspective of the doctor and the patient. The suggestions identified included:

– Develop tools for patients to ensure that they can communicate concisely and consistently with their health professional e.g. diaries
– Give health professionals (especially young doctors) access to psychologists or communication specialists when support is required
– Increase the role of other members of the multi-disciplinary healthcare team in communicating with neurology patients e.g. hospital pharmacist, specialist nurse, etc.
– Introduce a case-manager for each neurology patient
– Encourage specialists to refer patients when required and encouraging patients to seek a second opinion when necessary, as well as open choice for patients in the specialist they attend
– Restructure the health service to allow increased time for consultation with neurology patients (minimal investment, maximum effect)
– Involve patients/patient organisations in the setting of medical education curricula
– Ensure communication skills are part of continuous medical education, and not just included in undergraduate programmes
– Explore the possibility of a European Research Project on the obstacles to communication in neurological disorders and the development of tools for improvement

Following the session, EFNA President Audrey Craven appealed for interested parties to express their interest in becoming involved in a steering group to develop the project.

She said, “It is really important that physicians and patients engage in a more meaningful manner as we move into an era of patient-centred care. However, the empowered patient still needs to be guided by their health professional team. Therefore, we want to work with interest health professionals to ensure that we can overcome this communication challenge together to the benefit of both patients and those who treat them. So, I am appealing to those of you with an interest in this area to get involved in working with us on this important topic. We plan to convene a steering group meeting in early 2015 to set out the strategy and workplan for this activity.”

If you are interested in getting involved, please email: