What Happens When Care Teams Don’t Communicate?
A new lead anesthesiologist was excited: He knew of a communication tool that he used at his previous hospital that would be the perfect fit for the OR at his new employer. He went ahead and implemented it, without following the proper approval channels.
The problem? The communication tool wasn’t so perfect. It worked well enough for communication within the walls of the OR. However, it didn’t connect with other departments involved in broader OR workflows, like the ED and recovery rooms. Communication quickly fell apart when staff in those departments, who depended on each other, couldn’t communicate easily.
Communication failures, delays, and errors can cause patient harm, and improving how care teams communicate helps put patient safety at the forefront.
Let’s explore the five points of failure within the communication infrastructure described above, and how you as a healthcare leader can correct or prevent them at your own organization.
1. Islands of Communication
The typical care episode involves healthcare professionals from a variety of disciplines providing care at various times of the day. With all of the roles, schedules, and locations at play, it’s critical to take an enterprise approach to care team collaboration. Having a centralized, web-based directory and on-call schedules that can be accessed throughout the organization enables care teams to find and act on real-time information.
Did you know? Nearly 30 percent of U.S. malpractice cases from 2009-2013 were attributed to communication failures—resulting in nearly 2,000 patient deaths and $1.7 billion in costs.
Source: Malpractice Risks in Communication Failures
2. A “Do What You Want” Culture
The enterprise approach is critical to patient safety: You want to establish a team culture that evaluates solutions based on more wide-reaching needs. Every healthcare organization should have a multidisciplinary governance structure to evaluate clinical communication and collaboration solutions.
3.Supporting Just One Device
With the proliferation of mobile technology available, as well as the different communication requirements for various roles, healthcare organizations need to support many types of communication. Clinicians, for example, must navigate voicemails, text messages, emails, and EHR inbox messages in addition to phone calls, pages, and hallway conversations (“curbside consults”). It’s not about standardizing on one device, but rather, determining the right device mix for your hospital.
4. Only Including People
It’s important that your staff can communicate not only with each other, but also with those critical systems that supply essential updates about patient care. A healthcare communication platform should be able to receive alerts about important patient events from these systems, so a care team member can quickly see and act on these events and changes in the patient condition.
5. The Inability to Learn From Mistakes
A robust healthcare communication platform allows hospitals to track responses. It maintains an audit trail so you can see who sent the message, who received it, and whether the recipient acknowledged the message and when. Communication processes can also be analyzed on an ongoing basis to spot opportunities for improvement and set goals. Measure your performance, celebrate your success, and go after the opportunities.
What Happens When Care Teams Get Communications Right
Seconds matter in healthcare. By giving clinicians enterprise tools that allow them to receive, process, and act on information more quickly, you can help improve patient safety throughout your organization. Having the right technology, process, and culture to support frictionless clinical communications often generates results such as:
- Marked improvement in real-time communication
- Faster response times
- Improved patient care and faster discharges
- Increased patient and clinician satisfaction