The patient handoff process is a sensitive period, rife with potential error. According to the Joint Commission, most serious medical errors involve miscommunication during patient handoffs between providers and care settings.¹ Whether transitioning care to another shift, team, or organization, communication gaps leave patients at risk.
Examples of common healthcare communication gaps:
Healthcare organizations can reduce risks by combining real-time clinical communication with in-depth patient data and trends. Below are four strategies for streamlining patient handoffs to close healthcare communication gaps and ensure excellence during care transitions.
Reduce risks by combining clinical communication with patient data.
Understanding your patient audience requires a two-pronged approach. First, health systems would do well to borrow methodology from other service industries and assess the general personas of their patients. Psychographics – a term commonly used in market research – can be applied to understanding your patient population’s attitudes, aspirations, and personalities and how they best receive communications.
Once you have a general assessment of your patients, the next step will be to dig into their unique data sets. By looking for signals, such as a patient always requesting ice, nurses can more accurately route requests to support staff and free up their time for higher-value tasks. Care teams can also leverage these trends to facilitate smoother handoffs and build positive patient relationships by anticipating their needs and increasing their overall satisfaction.
The five most vulnerable patient handoff scenarios across the industry are:
Your handoff scenarios will be unique to your organization and business processes. Work with your care teams to assess the types of handoffs taking place, identify who is involved, and pinpoint the obstacles causing patient care to slip.
Once you have a complete picture, you can establish best practices to meet your patient, provider, and employee needs and leverage clinical collaboration technology to improve efficiency and safety. Here are a few examples of common pain points and technology-driven solutions.
Creating a seamless process for patient handoffs will help you reduce communication barriers, improve care transitions and produce a positive patient experience.
When care team members don’t have access to the most current patient information, patients receive conflicting instructions, and the care plan suffers. Patients can end up waiting days to follow up with their primary care physician or inadvertently take an old medication dosage. A recent study found that twenty-five to sixty-five percent of patients have a poor understanding of their discharge instructions, and almost half receive incomplete instructions.²
The remedy for this is ensuring best practices are in place to support better patient handoffs where the patient and the incoming care provider receive real-time communication reinforced by up-to-date patient information.
Opt for a clinical collaboration platform that supports robust record-keeping, analytics, and integrates with the EHR. Staff on both sides of the care continuum should also be thoroughly recording and reviewing relevant communication and case histories for accuracy to ensure continuity of care.
Care providers understand that how they communicate with patients matters. Body language, word choice, context, and rapport play a role in how a patient internalizes and acts upon a message. With the rapid evolution of digital communication, physicians, nurses, and support staff must also be aware of the new rules of communication and how they come into play in healthcare.
With cell phones, everyone has a personal computer in their pocket. Make sure your message is clear, presented with context, and backed by accurate data because your communication can easily be shared with others in the patient’s immediate network and beyond.
With social media, online search engines, and 24-hour news cycles – for better or worse – every patient who walks through your doors will bring views and perspectives they have formed from participating in our digital world. You may need to spend more time building trust and rapport before a patient can hear a message that doesn’t align with their viewpoint.
Physicians and care providers who keep these new rules in mind will protect themselves from having their messages misconstrued and better serve their patients in making informed healthcare decisions.
Physicians and nurses are getting crushed under a system that prioritizes data entry over patient care. TigerConnect integrations help reverse this trend by merging only the most critical, relevant, and timely system data – EHR, nurse call, physiological monitors, labs, and imaging – within a single, mobile-friendly clinical communications app. Physicians can stop wasting time in the EHR and focus on delivering better outcomes for patients.
When effective clinical communication is paired with on-demand, patient-centered data, patients, and providers benefit from smoother handoffs. Implementing the strategies outlined above reduces administrative burdens and closes dangerous communication gaps.
Ready to take a deeper dive into how your organization can leverage clinical communication platforms to improve your patient handoffs? Download our ebook “The 5 Most Vulnerable Patient Handoff Scenarios.”
¹“Sentinel Event: Inadequate Hand-off Communication, Issue 58.” The Joint Commission, 17 Sept. 2017.
² Sheikh, Hasan, et al. “Patient understanding of discharge instructions in the emergency department: do different patients need different approaches?.” International journal of emergency medicine vol. 11,1 5. 8 Feb. 2018, doi:10.1186/s12245-018-0164-0