Improving Patient Transfers with Better Communication and Collaboration

Improving Patient Transfers with Better Communication and Collaboration

A 2020 study by CRICO Strategies showed that one-third of malpractice claims were caused by a failure in healthcare communication. Gaps in communication are one of the biggest causes of delays in patient transfers – leading to delays in treatment and a longer than necessary length of stay.

Clinical communication and collaboration (CC&C) platforms can speed up and improve patient transfers—increasing patient and care team satisfaction while contributing to better financial results. When collaboration improves between care team members and the transfer center, it becomes possible to improve patient transfers throughout an entire facility.

It’s Time to Modernize the Patient Transfer Center

Get the eBook: 6 Easy Ways to Modernize Hospital Transfer Centers today.

eBook: 6 Easy Ways to Modernize Hospital Transfer Centers

Communication problems affecting patient transfers

Communication difficulties impact patient transfers and related information handoffs across a patient’s entire hospital experience. Figuring out where to send patients may result in “phone tag” between hospital personnel and delays in placing the patient in a room. Multiple people need to have the same information about the patient, which begets more phone calls. Or, the admitting physician is unavailable to take a call, which further delays the admission process.

  1. When hospital personnel only use phones and pagers, the physical transport of a patient can be a cumbersome process.
    For example, if a patient needs to be moved between units or sent down to have an x-ray, the transfer center may start calling team members to see who is free to complete the task. If the first person doesn’t respond, the transfer center calls another, and so forth.
  2. Reaching family members emerges as a related problem.
    Care team members frequently need to coordinate transfers with family members to get permission to perform a treatment, facilitate billing or resolve any number of practical matters. If family members must return phone calls and have care team members paged, this creates an unproductive situation for the team and a frustrating experience for the family and patient.
  3. Difficulty reaching physicians can further disrupt patient transfers.
    For instance, a patient might need a consult with a specialist before being sent to another hospital unit or transferred to another facility. If it’s hard to reach the specialist, this will cause delay. This common occurrence may arise because the transfer center has inaccurate contact information for the doctor. The on-call schedule may not be accurate, as well, making the right doctor hard to locate without placing multiple calls and waiting for them to call back.
  4. Inefficiency in transfers can also delay patient discharge.
    As patients leave the hospital, various people and teams must get involved. These include the charge nurse, pharmacy, transport team, family, and sometimes an education coordinator. Getting all these people together and arranging for physically moving the patient generally takes more time than anyone wants. It’s also inconvenient for patients and families to be left waiting as a slow discharge process unfolds.

Financial impacts

A lack of transfer center efficiency is more than a nuisance. It’s also expensive. Delays in patient transfers mean that facilities cannot fill available beds, impacting revenue. Additionally, transfer delays increase labor costs from physicians and other clinicians waiting for orders, information, or patients.

For example, Westchester Medical Center Health Network transfers patients from its emergency department to another facility 10,000 times a year. Their previous transfer process required attending emergency physicians to leave a message with an internal call center to notify physicians at other facilities via their pagers requesting a return call. This inefficient process led to transfer delays, slow response times, and patient dissatisfaction. After implementing the TigerConnect Clinical Collaboration Platform, clinicians were able to directly collaborate on patient transfers, saving time and labor costs.

Negative patient experiences can also be costly, with patients telling others about their negative experiences, which will affect revenue. Patients who have negative experiences are less likely to comply with care plans, leading to costly readmissions. 

How better communication and collaboration improve patient transfers

The University of New Mexico Hospital (UNMH) in Albuquerque offers a great example of how CC&C technology can improve patient transfers. UNMH selected the TigerConnect Clinical Collaboration Platform to replace the organization’s pager system. With TigerConnect, the UNMH Transfer Center improved external communication with rural facilities, especially for consults or requests for patient transfers. The platform gave UNMH physicians quick and efficient access to patient information including pictures, videos, and files. This capability, among others, has enabled UNMH care team members and people working for external providers to save time on transfers. 

CC&C platforms tie together many of the currently separate threads of clinical communication. Care team members have a single app to consult for virtually every communication and collaboration need.

  • A modern CC&C platform enables transfer centers to contact entire teams all at once, minimizing transport delays.
  • Concerning reaching family members, a CC&C platform makes it possible to keep family members in the loop regarding transfers with secure, one-on-one messaging.
  • Consults can be arranged more quickly and easily via secure text, voice, or video with a CC&C platform. Role-based messaging eliminates the need to know a specific staff member’s name and phone number.
  • Clinicians are able to notify all departments and teams involved in a patient’s discharge at the same time with a single message.

These are just some of the ways that robust CC&C solutions improve patient transfers and related administrative processes. Download our eBook, 6 Easy Ways to Modernize Hospital Transfer Centers, to learn more.

Chris Lowder is a Senior Solution Architect at TigerConnect. He has more than 18 years of healthcare experience defining and articulating clinical solutions, workflows, and integrations.

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