Approaches to Improving Communication in Hospitals

communication problemsPoor communication can cause U.S hospitals to waste approximately $12 billion annually, or about 2 percent of revenues, according to a recent study by Accenture. In order to decrease financial losses and increase patient satisfaction, hospitals must improve both face-to-face communication and ICT technology integration. Understanding which areas would benefit from the use of technology (such as patient flow between units) and which would be better-scaffolded by improved face-to-face interactions (the patient-physician relationship, for instance) will allow hospital management to create more efficient, organized and communicative teams.

Technological Communication

Accenture’s study on communication in hospitals isolated four core problem areas needing technological solutions:

  1. Interruptions
  2. Patient transition between units
  3. Communication among nursing staff, patients and families
  4. Communication between nurses and physicians

Accenture proposes, among other recommendations, that hospitals integrate presence trackers with which nurses and physicians can update their status and availability; send text message updates to families so nurses are interrupted less frequently; and put patient kiosks or tablets in waiting rooms to speed up routine procedures.

Accenture acknowledges that adding too many mobile applications or devices at once could complicate the workflow and prove cumbersome for hospital staff. Phasing in new applications that are available from one communication device, and/or implementing an integrated technology kit with multiple devices, are two approaches to improving communication among hospital staff.

Face-to-Face Communication

Team satisfaction has a significant influence on communication in hospitals and is best cultivated through an amiable atmosphere. Nurses who are overwhelmed by an onslaught of new technology may benefit less from an online tutorial than from in-person training sessions, where they can practice with fellow nurses. A combination of digital and in-person orientations, or a choice between them, are also good options.

Perhaps most importantly, the patient-physician relationship depends on positive face-to-face interactions. The patient interview is a physician’s most common routine, but research shows that patients often do not have adequate time to explain their histories, usually due to interruptions, which can cause patients to feel that their stories are not important or are not being heard. This may cause them to withhold important information, compromising clinical accuracy.

Communication is one of the most significant indicators of hospital success, and the human aspect of communication is just as important as the way in which hospitals phase in new ICT technology. By adjusting hospital procedures to create a healthy balance between the two, hospital management can foster a highly productive yet personable environment.


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