What happens when physicians and nurses have different communication channel preferences?

Collaboration is key to success in any organization, but even more so in healthcare. Speed to care is a critical driver, especially when treating patients with severe conditions. Nurse and physician communication must be in sync to share insights and coordinate patient care. For some patients, delays as little as two minutes can make a difference in life and death. 

This isn’t new news. Over the years, many studies have demonstrated that care team communication disconnects lead to unfortunate outcomes–including medication errors, decreased nurse and physician job satisfaction, and adverse medical events. Yet, many health systems still struggle with ineffective nurse-physician communications today.

Healthcare organizations need to fix this problem–and the right technology is key. With clinical communication and collaboration (CC&C) solutions, health systems can overcome nurse and physician communications barriers, achieve new levels of efficiency, and improve care coordination.

state of clinical communications and workflows report

The State of Healthcare Communications Report

TigerConnect surveyed 105 medical and nursing leaders about clinical communication and clinical workflows at their organizations. Read the report to learn the results!

3 Nurse-Physician Communication Pitfalls to Avoid

Our recent study, The State of Healthcare Communications, uncovered why nurse-physician collaboration challenges persist and strategies to move forward.

#1 Outdated Technology

Although other industries have left tools like landline phones, faxes, and pagers behind, these out-of-date technologies are still prevalent in healthcare. In fact, research on healthcare organizations found that:

  • Nearly 90% use landline phones and unsecured emails
  • 70% use faxes
  • 34% use whiteboards
  • 27% use handwritten notes
  • 25% use unsecured texts
  • 20% use pagers

A fractured communication approach that relies on outdated technologies inhibits effective information flow. Miscommunications and poor care handoffs between nurses and physicians can lead to preventable medical errors.

#2 Different Contact Channels

Our research found a distinct difference between nurse and physician communication channel preferences. While more care providers are moving to secure messaging, physicians rely more heavily on personal smartphones while more nurses opt for landline phones. Training and day-to-day work tasks appear to be the most likely drivers of these differences.

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Complicating matters further, allied health professionals and staff outside hospitals rely on asynchronous landline phones and email as their top two communication channels. These channel disconnects can slow down the flow of accurate health information and prevent patients from receiving the treatment they need across the care continuum.

#3 Interrupt-Driven Communications

By its very nature, some aspects of healthcare communications will take care providers’ focus away from the task at hand. A critical alert from nurse call, physiologic device, or other critical event needs immediate attention and follow-up. Other less critical notifications can be directed to the proper care provider to intervene as appropriate.

Misdirected communications can also disrupt a care team member who doesn’t need to take action. For example, when nurses identify a need for immediate specialist intervention, they may consult a list of providers and reach out via phone. If the call reaches a physician engaged in a critical task or off-duty, the interruption is an unnecessary distraction. Interrupting the wrong professionals at the wrong time can cause significant problems. 

How do interruptions affect care? One study in the Journal of Patient Safety reported that error rates among intensive care unit (ICU) nurses that experienced 12 interruptions were much higher than those who experienced three interruptions. Among the group with 12 interruptions, clinical errors were two times higher, and procedural mistakes were 1.2 times higher. Other research has affirmed that more frequent interruptions lead to increased clinical and prescription errors by physicians.

Overcoming Nurse and Physician Communication Roadblocks

The solution to persistent nurse-physician communication challenges is within reach. By implementing an advanced clinical communication and collaboration platform, health systems benefit from a secure, HIPPA-compliant platform that allows their organization to scale. This technology empowers nurses and physicians to send context-rich messages in real time, leading to more prompt and effective patient care. Nurses and physicians can communicate in real time without needing to know who is on call.

As an added benefit, healthcare systems can use role-based messaging to eliminate unnecessary mass messages or outreach to the wrong people. CC&C solutions maintain up-to-date information on which professionals are at work or on-call. For example, if nurses need to reach an on-duty or on-call neurologist, they can simply select the neurology role and send a message. 

The right physician will get an immediate notification. If there’s no response within a few minutes, the system will automatically escalate to another neurology group member. This powerful functionality saves time for nurses and scales back unnecessary interruptions that can distract physicians.   

As the pace of healthcare accelerates, health systems need to evolve. It’s time to phase out old technologies and embrace secure messaging as the go-to communications medium. Making the shift can transform healthcare organizations and make a difference in their patients’ lives.

When nurses and physicians communicate effectively, everyone wins. Our exclusive study–The State of Healthcare Communications–reveals essential insights into current communication challenges and how to overcome them. Download the report today.

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