Communication in Healthcare

Diagnosing and treating patients is naturally important, but effective communication in healthcare is also essential. Without good communication in healthcare between care team members and patients, it will not be possible to consistently provide a high level of care to patients.

The most successful hospitals and clinics have strong communication policies and communicate efficiently and effectively internally, with business associates, and with patients. Good communication translates into better patient outcomes and higher patient satisfaction scores. When there are unresolved barriers to effective communication and procedures have not been put in place to ensure information is accurately shared with all members of the care team, it is inevitable that information will be miscommunicated, and mistakes will be made.

When information is not properly communicated to patients there is a much greater chance of readmission. A study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco found that a quarter of hospital readmissions could have been prevented if information had been more effectively communicated to patients.

Effective Communication in Healthcare Teams

In acute care facilities, communication breakdowns result in an increased length of hospital stay, an increased risk of patient harm, a higher number of readmissions, and poor patient satisfaction levels. There is an increased chance of medical errors and that means more money is lost to medical malpractice claims.

An analysis of medical errors between 1995 and 2005 revealed poor communication was the root cause of 66% of medical mistakes over the 10-year period. Another study revealed poor communication in healthcare teams has been a key factor in the deaths of 1,744 patients over the five-year study period and more than $1.7 billion was lost in malpractice claims over the same time frame.

One of the areas where communication breakdowns commonly occur is during shift changes. During shift changes, a lot of information must be passed on. Without effective communication procedures for patient handoffs, important information can easily be left out. This is one of the most common areas where mistakes are made that affect patient outcomes.

There are many communication strategies that can be adopted to ensure all relevant information is passed over. One approach is to perform a handoff at the patient’s bedside and encourage them to take part in the process. Spending more time at the patient’s bedside has been shown to improve patient satisfaction and involving them in the handover process reduces the potential for the omission of important information.

Implementing good communications protocols to structure patient handoffs will also help to ensure that mistakes are avoided. Templates and checklists can be used to make sure everything is covered, rather than relying on the memory of staff. Handoff protocols should be created for all types of handoffs to ensure that each time someone takes charge of a patient, even for transportation, important information is communicated to ensure patient safety.

Clinical Communication and Collaboration (CC&C) platforms are extremely useful tools to ensure all patient information is communicated during handoffs. These platforms allow detailed patient information, test results, and treatment information to be passed on accurately at shift changes. These platforms integrate with other healthcare systems, including EHRs, to ensure that all patient information is recorded and can be quickly accessed by all members of the care team.

Effective Communication Improves Job Satisfaction

There are other important benefits that comes from effective healthcare communication. Studies have shown that when communication in healthcare improves, there are improvements to staff morale, job satisfaction, and job performance. A better working environment helps healthcare professionals manage stress more effectively which helps to reduce staff turnover. Poor communication is one of the major contributory factors to staff burnout.

Efficient Healthcare Communication Reduces Costs

Communication is an area where there is considerable waste. Despite modern technology being readily available to improve communication, many hospitals are still heavily reliant on outdated communication tools such as pagers and faxes. It is common for healthcare staff to have to make multiple phone calls to try to reach a physician, make multiple requests for prescription refills, and a great deal of time is wasted playing phone tag and chasing up pages.

One study conducted by the Ponemon Institute suggests each hospital doctor wastes an average of 45 minutes a day on inefficient communications systems, time that could be devoted to providing care to patients. The study suggests an average hospital loses in excess of $1 million a year due to insufficient communication.

Healthcare Communication and Collaboration Platforms

Inefficiency in communication in healthcare is a major contributory factor to the high cost of healthcare. By adopting a healthcare collaboration and communication platform, workflows can be optimized and accelerated allowing healthcare workers to achieve more in less time. These platforms ensure the accurate and efficient exchange of patient information to reduce the potential for communications errors, which improves patient safety.

TigerConnect is the leading Clinical Communication and Collaboration platform provider in the United States. The company’s platform has been implemented by more than 6,000 healthcare organizations to improve communication efficiency. Adoption of the platform has allowed Waterbury Hospital to save more than $2,200 per patient through the integration of the platform into its EHR, and Innovation Care Partners was able to cut healthcare costs in half, which equates to around $19.5 million in savings. Westchester Medical Center implemented the platform and the improvement in communication efficiency saw patient transfer times reduced by 13 minutes. Response times were also significantly improved, and patient and provider satisfaction both increased.