3 Simple Ways to Improve Communications Among Hospital Staff
Poor communication presents a number of clinical, operational, and financial challenges to today’s hospital staff.
- A 2016 study found that communication failures were a factor in 30 percent of malpractice cases – leading to medical errors, patient harm, and nearly 1,750 preventable deaths.
- An earlier report concluded that the average 500-bed hospital loses $4 million per year due to communication inefficiencies, which in total costs the entire industry more than $12 billion annually in lost productivity.
- Communication gaps can lead to lost revenue (as Care Teams refer patients out of network because it takes too long to identify and notify an in-network provider) as well as unnecessary expenses (as patient discharge is delayed when physicians are unable to share information in real time).
Communication is critical for hospitals looking to boost clinical outcomes, streamline workflows, and reduce costs. Better communication helps hospitals improve day-to-day tactical operations as well as long-term strategic plans. These three simple steps can help hospitals improve staff communication and achieve those tactical and strategic goals.
Provide actionable, real-time information. Hospital staff are inundated with phone calls, pages, alerts, and electronic health record (EHR) messages. This information overload causes two key problems. First, physicians spend less time on patient care and more time on documentation and clerical work, which reduces job satisfaction and contributes to burnout. Second, staff ignore notifications – as often as 96 percent of the time, according to a 2016 report – and miss critical alerts that impact patient safety and care quality.
When communication is optimized to provide actionable information, hospital staff can focus on critical information that matters at that point in time. This dramatically improves clinical workflows. Instead of sorting through emails or voicemails hours after they were sent, staff receive information in real time, allowing for faster decision-making and more informed treatment decisions. What’s more, when staff members can see if their message has not been read or acted upon, they can escalate, reroute, or take other action to make sure the message is seen.
Message the role, not the person. One of the biggest barriers to effective hospital staff communication is knowing which personnel fill which role on a clinical care team. In many health systems, staff are forced to look at a call sheet, page an individual, and wait for a call back – only to find out that the person they paged is not, in fact, the on-call physician. Waiting to get the right information from the right person in order to make the best care decisions can add more than an hour to a 12-hour shift.
A Clinical Communication Platform that is synced with a health system’s scheduling solution enables staff to reach a colleague by sending a message to a role or team, rather than a person by name. For example, a message intended for the Charge Nurse of 3 West is sent to the “Charge Nurse 3 West” team, and is received by whoever joined that team. Role assignment may happen automatically for scheduled services, or clinical users may “toggle-in” to a team when they come on shift. Hospital staff spend less time waiting for information and more time focusing on patient care – which leads to shorter hospital stays, faster transfers and discharges, and improved patient satisfaction.
Reach outside the hospital. The ability to connect hospital staff to affiliated specialists, independent providers, and pharmacy partners improves care coordination. When a patient is admitted to the hospital, staff can communicate with the rest of a patient’s care team to receive updates on recent care episodes, up-to-date medication lists, and other information that will improve inpatient care.
Better care coordination has been proven to reduce hospital readmission rates, which improves a health system’s clinical and financial outcomes. It also allows health systems to strengthen ties with external partners and affiliates, which increases in-network referrals and creates new sources of revenue.
Are you ready to improve hospital staff communication and enable faster care decisions, reduced wait times, increased ED throughput, expedited room turnover, and higher patient satisfaction? Request a demo of our Clinical Communication Platform today.