In healthcare, communication is everything. We all can agree that it is the core foundation of the patient-provider relationship, but why is that? From the moment a patient starts to explain their symptoms to a healthcare professional to the completion of their action plan, multiple layers of communication have to be crossed to make sure all patient-centered information is accurately documented for the next healthcare professional to see. As wise healthcare managers say, “if it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen.” For instance, a nurse checking on medications with other providers, doctors gathering information about a particular medical test/ procedure, nurse practitioner updating the Electronic Health Records (EHR), and so on. These real-time examples are an amalgamation of different forms of communication which are vital for a common goal; the patient’s well-being. Comprehensive communication is fundamental to patient-centered care.
Effective And Efficient Communication
Transitioning from fee for service care to value-based care, health professionals have moved into a joint decision-making mindset. Curating a well-advised plan for a patient’s health is not only a priority for medical practitioners but also essential for the patient’s road to recovery. A lack of communication can result in increased healthcare costs creating a burden for the patient. Effective communication also minimizes provider burnout and increases efficiency.
When referring to effective and efficient communication, we’re talking about time management. How can we relay patient information the fastest way without compromising the quality of care? The focus is on quality versus quantity in order to adopt the mindset of which route would be the best for the patient. It is important to note that the means we use to communicate is equally important as the information being communicated. Traditionally, communication has been focused on sending email threads, faxes, phone calls, voicemails, etc. All of these are great communicators but are not efficient.
In our complex healthcare system, communication must be patient-centered. According to Harvard Public Health Review, there is a bidirectional connection; a back and forth flow between the patient and provider. The three vital measures in ensuring healthcare communication are:
o Patients need to feel comfortable in communicating their health complaints to their provider(s).
o Healthcare providers must be able to accurately interpret the information for other providers to see.
o Adequate preventative measures need to be communicated to the patient in order to keep medical costs low.
If any of these processes are compromised, healthcare delivery becomes ineffective. Thus, leading to added costs and patient dissatisfaction.
Transitioning into Value-Based Care
Patients, over their continuum of care (acute and post-acute), go through many providers, specialists, clinics, departments, etc. At every interaction, the exchanged information needs to be documented accurately and ready for the next potential provider to see. Therefore, following the traditional ways of communicating can become burdensome for providers to keep track of the many patients they see, hence, increasing the probability of a medical error. Although those are still great tools to communicate, an intervention is needed to keep up with the high demand.
Advancements in technology are the gateway to solving this challenge. We use our phones frequently to talk, text, take notes, set reminders, etc. Implementing these features in a healthcare setting is beneficial ineffective communication as we are already trained in using them on a daily basis. The convenience of being able to see an alert of a patient’s risk (similar to a social media notification), communicating with the patient’s health care team in real-time, and accessing all medical records at a click of a button are just some ways that would help tremendously.
In a recent article published by Skilled Nursing News, 550 nursing homes have closed from 2015 to 2019. With an increasingly older population, this is a big concern for the delivery of care. Although the underlying reasons for closure may be related to changing regulations, some recommendations to prevent future closings revolve around communication. The article suggests:
Integrate more community health care options, including home health and more services with multiple revenue streams, to meet the increasing population.
Adding in more services and especially home health in order to deliver the same hospital-level care to a patient’s home. However, this opens the door to increased staff communication to keep track of patients and records. Implementing a digitized system where communication happens in real-time would be beneficial to stay connected. Doing so would lessen the burden of traveling to the central healthcare facility to fill out paperwork. All of it can be done remotely.
Create a program similar to the Critical Access Hospital (CAH) classification to assist rural nursing homes in geographies with high demand programs
In a value-based care setting, expanding services are a great way to provide care to hard to reach areas. Therefore, being connected will be important to maintain the patient-provider relationship.
Revisit the regulatory environment and study the long-term care survey process and how it connects care outcomes, with an eye toward alternative strategies to assess quality care
In order to move forward, it is important to take a step back and analyze things that can be improved on. Alternate strategies would be to explore the different technology apps to virtually stay connected.
Effective and efficient communication bind healthcare systems together. Not only is it important to the patient’s delivery of care but also to the healthcare providers. Patients are increasing, thus, the susceptibility of burnout amongst providers is high with keeping up with all of the paperwork. Implementing innovative methods can lessen the burden and increase satisfaction where the patient and provider are content with the delivery of care.