- Strong clinical communication during COVID-19 has been essential
- The pandemic put a spotlight on areas where clinical communication is weak
- There have been three key clinical communication lessons learned, and there are solutions to address them
Clinical communication during COVID-19 has been of the utmost importance. The pandemic has demanded innovative approaches to collaborating. However, efficient and effective communication has been a goal of healthcare organizations long before this national health emergency. In fact, outside of the pandemic, ineffective communication has consistently contributed to care delays and adverse care events.
As healthcare leaders balance the demand of care delivery during COVID-19 with planning for the future, it is wise to consider what the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light in terms of clinical communication.
What lessons can be learned from this challenging time? What weaknesses in clinical communication became present and what solutions are needed to correct them?
3 Lessons Learned about Clinical Communication During COVID-19
Lesson #1: Communicating with Roles and Teams Expedites Care
When time is of the essence, care providers cannot be searching through directories for who to contact. They cannot be dependent on unreliable modes of communication. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it was essential for clinicians and clinical staff to reach who they needed, when they needed, without delay. Role and team-based care is essential to this effort.
For example, if a clinician needs a consult, they typically have to identify the name of the provider and then page or message that specific individual. With role-based communication, clinicians simply message “infectious disease team” or “on-call cardiologist” and the communication is routed to the right role or team instantly.
As COVID-19 has changed the entire healthcare landscape, the need for role-based and team-based communication has never been more apparent.
Lesson #2: Segmenting Communication by Urgency is Critical
As the COVID-19 pandemic impacts our global communities, clinicians have been under persistent strain. In fact, a university medical center survey found a 56.5% increase in clinician burnout during the pandemic. In part, this burnout has been driven by the high demand to care for severely ill patients. However, burnout is also exacerbated by poor communication.
Clinicians encounter a cacophony of noise during their shifts. Alerts, alarms, notifications, and fragmented attempts at communication distract and pull attention from care providers every day. Communication should not add chaos to the daily lives of clinicians, especially during a time of crisis like the pandemic.
Communication needs to be segmented based on urgency. Messages, alerts, and notifications should be tiered, delivered to clinicians based on if they are high priority, urgent, or emergent. Unless information falls into one of those three categories, someone can review and react at a later point in time.
Additionally, clinicians need to be able to quickly access consult teams to make critical clinical decisions. For example, contacting a “COVID interventions consult team” promptly to determine if a specific medication or intervention is applicable to a COVID-19 positive patient.
Lesson #3: Communication Cannot be Siloed by Differing Communication Tools
Barriers to communication became apparent during the pandemic. When the need for collaboration has never been so high, siloed communication tools became obvious problems to providing efficient and effective care.
Clinicians began to create workarounds, even texting using their own mobile devices to quickly provide care. Recognizing the complexity of communication for most health systems, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) temporarily suspended penalties for non-compliance with HIPAA regulations, to help reduce the stress that comes with the need to communicate quickly during a high-pressure medical situation.
However, the enforcement of patient privacy protections should not have to be abandoned because of poor communication infrastructures, and poor communication cannot be the cause of ineffective care.
Moving Forward: Adopting a Solution
Clinical communication during COVID-19 has had strengths and weaknesses. Based on the lessons learned, healthcare organizations have an opportunity to prioritize improvement.
So, where to start?
There are three evidence-based best practices for clinical communication that healthcare leaders can begin to deploy today, including adopting a solution that allows for a rapid and scalable implementation.
Learn about these evidence-based best practices in our eBook, “Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic: How to Improve Clinical Communication & Plan for the Future.”