The Cost of Miscommunication in Healthcare

The Cost of Miscommunication in Healthcare

We all know that effective clinical communication is central to delivering good healthcare outcomes. Get your workplace communications right and you enhance patient treatment, build strong teams, and reduce inefficiencies. Get healthcare communications wrong and you risk harming patients, damaging morale, and increasing rework.

Communication isn’t easy. Healthcare staff members like you are often short on time, working long hours, and with constant demands to move onto the next patient. It’s no surprise that miscommunication happens, but just what are the costs?

What is Ineffective Healthcare Communication?

There are several ways that medical providers communicate with each other, the patient, and third parties. We believe that miscommunication happens in one or more of the following four areas:

  • Communication doesn’t take place when it should
  • Incorrect or incomplete information is communicated
  • Information is shared with the wrong recipient or third party
  • The message lacks critical facts or is unclear, meaning it isn’t understood correctly

These miscommunications can happen in all professional relationships — between team members, managers and employees, patients, third parties, specialists, and more.

Causes of Inefficient Healthcare Communication

The main causes of problematic clinical communication include:

  • Medical record issues — failing to properly interpret or understand medical information, diagnosis, or treatment
  • Poor professional relationships — an ever-changing staff and lack of good communication between peers
  • Ineffective communications with the patient — issues with getting consent, properly explaining diagnosis and treatment options, rapport, and language barriers
  • Process failures — central records are not updated, results are delayed, options are not shared with the patient or team members
  • Wrong information in the system — inaccurate or delayed documentation and updates, insufficient documentation of patient history or clinical diagnosis and treatment

Cost of Ineffective Communications in Healthcare

When you bring all of these risks together, it’s easy to see that they can cause big problems. Here are some of the issues they cause. An analysis of medical malpractice claims discovered the following:

Provider-to-provider communication issues were mainly:

  • Miscommunication about the patient’s condition: 26%
  • Poor documentation: 12%
  • Failure to read the medical record: 7%

Provider-to-patient communications issues were mainly:

  • Inadequate informed consent: 13%
  • Unsympathetic response to patient complaints: 11%
  • Inadequate education about medications: 5%.
  • Incomplete follow-up instructions: 4%
  • Other issues: 8%.

8% of communications failures were in the ER, 44% in an inpatient setting, and 48% in an ambulatory setting.

Miscommunication was a major issue for cases across several medical areas:

  • 38% of all general medicine cases involved a communication failure
  • 34% of all obstetrics cases involved a communication failure
  • 32% of all nursing cases involved a communication failure
  • 26% of all surgery cases involve a communication failure

Miscommunications around medication caused major issues:

  • One in nine malpractice cases involved medication errors
  • Medication categories that were especially problematic included analgesics, anticoagulants, antibiotics, and cardiovascular drugs
  • Medication issues cause more patient deaths (32% of cases) than other malpractice areas (19% of cases)

Over 7,000 cases were analyzed to discover this information, with total losses from those 7,000 cases amounting to over $1.7 billion.

Misalignment of Clinical Communications Being Sent and Received

There are clearly breakdowns in the communications process. According to a study in “Archives of Internal Medicine”:

  • 69% of primary care physicians (PCPs) say that they send notification of a patient’s history, and the reason for consultation to specialists “always” or “most of the time”
  • But, only 35% of specialists report receiving these notifications
  • 81% of specialists say that they send consultation results to the primary care physician, “always” or “most of the time”
  • But, only 62% of PCPs report receiving this information

Increase Clinical Communications Efficiency with a Trusted Platform

There’s a simple way to make clinical communications more efficient — use a technology platform and software specially designed to reduce errors, enhance communications, and ensure everyone is working from common, high-quality information.

Here at TigerConnect, we’ve created a clinical communications platform that puts you and your staff back in control. You get a centralized view of the information you need, complete integration with EHR and other systems, and a record of all communications and discussions on individual cases and patients.

Reduce issues and enhance patient outcomes by making clinical communications more effective. Learn about the “5 Most Vulnerable Patient Handoffs” in our free eBook linked below.

Dr. Cheryl McKay is a healthcare leader with over 20 years of executive experience in directing quality care for large academic facilities, smaller multi-site inpatient and outpatient centers, as well as research, quality, education, and clinical divisions. As a critical care clinical specialist, nurse executive, and researcher, she has a broad range of experience in helping clients successfully manage technology implementation and advancement, product development, marketing, and sales.

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