Three Communications Challenges Impacting Collaboration in Healthcare
One of the greatest challenges in the healthcare setting is a lack of efficient interprofessional communication between physicians, nurses and ancillary staff. In such a fast-paced, highly regulated and complex working environment, healthcare providers often struggle to exchange the most pertinent, actionable information about patients in a timely and secure manner.
These communication issues can lead to overcrowding in hospitals, physician burnout and less than optimal patient outcomes. One study of physicians, physician assistants, nurses and nurse practitioners found that poor communication was driving the delay in removing unnecessary catheters in patients, which predisposes to infection. Study participants cited poor relationships between staff, workflow issues and the EHR as drivers of this issue.
Healthcare leaders should look to resolve the following communications issues in order to improve collaboration in healthcare:
- Alarm and Alert Fatigue: Because technology permeates the hospital, doctors, nurses and support staff have become inundated with prompts and alerts, many of which can be counterproductive. In fact, the ECRI Institute ranks alarm fatigue as one of the top 10 health technology hazards of 2020. When healthcare professionals are overwhelmed with alerts, it becomes challenging to distinguish which require the most immediate attention and which can be de-prioritized. Addressing this issue by investing in personalized, physician-centric technology can empower physicians to better care for patients, and improve communication among the care team.
- Lack of Mobile Access: Mobile devices including smartphones and tablets have become more commonplace within the healthcare setting in recent years; however, healthcare organizations still face challenges in maximizing these devices to empower care team collaboration. For instance, while many clinicians use mobile devices for HIPAA-compliant secure texting, issues such as insufficient Wi-Fi coverage and application interoperability from device to device are holding providers back. Although secure texting is a start, as a standalone application, external to the EHR, it may actually be underutilized and potentially disrupt provider workflow. The true value of secure texting lies in the integration of the texting platform within the EHR, where clinical content is easily incorporated into the message and utilization is optimized.
- Insufficient Reach across the Care Team: Even as healthcare organizations adopt new communications solutions, without reaching across the full care team — physicians, nurses, other ancillary clinicians, revenue cycle and office administrative staff — the full potential of the technology will not be realized. For instance, coordinating an inpatient discharge may require communication among numerous players within the hospital, and also between a specialist provider and her office practice administrator to schedule a follow-up appointment, plus revenue cycle personnel to ensure no charges are missing.
Fortunately, solutions exist to address these challenges. Healthcare leaders that prioritize care team collaboration, and implement technology solutions to support it, will see efficiency and outcome benefits across the entire organization.