How a Lack of Communication is Damaging Healthcare

How a Lack of Communication is Damaging Healthcare

The pace of change in healthcare moves slowly, and this is completely understandable. When patients’ lives and overall well-being rests in your hands, it’s an enormous responsibility and generally safer to rely on proven methods of care. Unfortunately, that mentality sometimes extends to areas that could really help, like modern-day communication technology, causing the pace of change to move a bit too slow, creating patient safety issues and at times leading to a lower quality of care and patient experience.

In many cases, people are not to blame. Instead, bad policies, poorly-implemented systems, fragmented technology, and an overburdened staff are the main obstacles that prevent effective interactions.

What the Data Tells Us About Broken Healthcare Communication

Piled on top of these communication challenges is an ever-increasing need for fast, accurate, centralized, efficient collaboration. This gross misalignment between intent and implementation results in poorer patient outcomes, greater staff frustration, lower patient satisfaction ratings, and more medical errors.

This is borne out by the data — according to a study in “Archives of Internal Medicine,” there are significant breakdowns in communication between providers:

  • 69% of primary care physicians (PCPs) say that they send notification of a patient’s history and 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.

Provider to patient communications suffered as well, and with communications issues being the root cause of many medical errors, these are issues that healthcare providers must deal with.

Let’s dig into the causes of healthcare communications breakdown.

Bad Policies, Culture Endanger Patients

Hospital policies, workplace culture, and broken systems make effective team collaboration and communication difficult. Research shows that around 30% of malpractice cases are caused by breakdowns in team communications. This breakdown is often a combination of workload pressures, issues with EHRs, long shifts, lack of access to information, distractions, and poorly-implemented communications technology.

Competition and Fragmentation Between Hospitals and Medical Providers is Intense

Healthcare organizations are often in fierce competition, so they lack incentives to make sharing information fast, easy, and patient-centered. Different providers may use widely-divergent technologies, processes, and systems, making the transferal of medical data even more problematic. This fragmented approach means it is very difficult to have “one view of the truth” — a centralized, high-quality, accurate, and timely medical history, diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plan.

Electronic Health Record Systems are Isolated and Lack Integration

Electronic health record (EHR) systems are the backbone of good healthcare provision and patient outcomes. Unfortunately, there is little interaction, commonality, or agreed standards between EHR systems and the vendors who make them. Integration between EHR systems is notoriously difficult — combine this with the competitive nature of hospitals, and it’s easy to see why healthcare providers often do not have all the latest information for a particular patient or case.

There is “Too Much Noise” In the System

Due to the urgent, important nature of medical services, alarms and alerts are a fact of life for all clinicians. Unfortunately, the prevalence of notifications, cases, and actions marked as “urgent” creates a very poor signal-to-noise ratio. Of the dozens of notifications they get a day, how can physicians, nurses, and others know which ones are true emergencies? This is often compounded by slow and inefficient healthcare processes.

Solving Broken Healthcare Communications

When it comes to healthcare communications, there is no silver bullet. But, there are things you can do that will enhance healthcare communications across your organization.

  • Policy — develop patient-centered policies that prioritize value-based care, patient outcomes, and quality above volume-based care, business outcomes, and quantity.
  • Training — provide communications training and guidelines to all staff on how to effectively communicate and hand over patients and cases.
  • Quality — institute quality control and audits of individual cases to find and resolve gaps in healthcare provision, with a particular focus on communication, or the lack of it.
  • Process — evaluate all of your organization’s processes with regard to communications and patient outcomes. Identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies that delay or impact communication.
  • Technology — invest in a Clinical Communication and Collaboration (CC&C) platform that will centralize all of your communications, provide a complete history, and empower your clinicians.
  • Integration — integrate your various systems and technology with your CC&C platform, so staff only need a single application to access the critical information that they and their patients need.

CC&C technology like TigerConnect can truly change the way healthcare is delivered. All of our products — TigerConnect Clinical Collaboration Platform – Standard Essentials, TigerConnect Clinical Collaboration Platform – Pro, and TigerConnect Clinical Collaboration Platform – Pro Enterprise are designed to revolutionize your healthcare communications. Far more than “just texting” they put essential patient information into the palm of your clinicians’ hands. With full integration across all your healthcare technologies and systems, physicians and nurses will have access to the information and communications they need to radically improve patient outcomes.

Will O’Connor, M.D. is the Chief Medical Information Officer at TigerConnect. As a physician executive with more than 20 years of healthcare experience, Will is a passionate advocate for rapid advancement across the healthcare industry.

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