Efficient Hospital Communications: Steps for Automating, Streamlining, and Improving Care Team Communication
Part 2 of 2
Care Team Communication Technology
Healthcare organizations should leverage technology at every level of their institution to automate, streamline, and improve communication. At the point-of-care level, healthcare organizations can use technology to improve the legibility and thoroughness of provider documentation, provide HIPAA compliant text messaging between care team members, send secure notifications to clinicians, and much more.
Healthcare organizations can also embed technology throughout their organizational infrastructure to capture efficiency gains in perhaps unexpected places.
For example, healthcare organizations can turn to products that automate communication throughout their organization such as by:
- Automatically messaging building personnel notifications when a thermostat malfunction.
- Automatically sending a secure message to housekeeping when a patient is discharged and a room is ready for cleaning.
Advantages of Automation
Automation reduces response time and staffing costs by removing the need for a staff member to identify an issue and deliver the message. Not only is the message sent immediately, reducing lag time, it also reduces the amount of staff resources allocated to rote tasks.
Automation also greatly removes opportunities for human errors, such as forgetting to deliver the message or delivering the message to the wrong recipient.
According to the authors of the Journal of Healthcare Management article: “The complexity of inpatient care delivery and discharge planning in hospitals is undisputed: It demands rapid and timely access to information, the ability to locate important stakeholders at any point in time, and platforms for coordinating the work of providers and other actors who may be temporally distributed.”
Technology can help organizations meet the complex demands of the hospital setting; and allows healthcare organizations to implement a streamlined, automated technological solution that, touching back on the requirements described above, provides:
- Rapid and timely access to information. An enterprise-wide communications system should be in place that can access information about patients, care providers, and ancillary staff within seconds. That system would be able to pull in information from different departments, and be easy for staff to update and maintain.
- The ability to locate important stakeholders at any point in time. The enterprise-wide communication system should be able to contact care providers and hospital staff for both emergency notifications and routine communication.
- Enterprise-wide communication platforms to coordinate the work and improve workflows of providers and others across different departments and shifts in the hospital.
Communication Training and Standardization
Technology is a crucial part of improving communication efficiency and accuracy. Healthcare organizations remain places where care is provided by humans, however, and staff training is an important part of any solution.
In addition to training staff on new technology they interact with, it’s important to train care providers and hospital staff on communications skills so that handoffs and other forms of communication contain all of the necessary and relevant information.
For example, many healthcare organizations are adopting a handoff method known as I-PASS. The mnemonic training method emphasizes covering Illness severity, Patient summary, Action items, Situation Awareness, and Synthesis by receiver during verbal handoffs.
According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, implementing I-PASS at nine hospitals resulted in 23 percent decrease in overall medical errors across all sites. There was also a 30 percent reduction in preventable adverse events across all sites.
Inefficient communication costs hospitals millions of dollars each year in loss of productivity and efficiency and in legal costs from malpractice suits. The average 500-bed hospital in the United States loses over $4 million each year due to inefficiencies, and the industry as a whole loses billions of dollars each year.
Healthcare organizations can reduce those losses by implementing modern technological solutions that streamline and automate communication throughout healthcare organizations, as well as staff training to improve the efficacy of the human conversations that will always take place in a healthcare setting.