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The Impact of Communication in Healthcare

Posted by Jerry Stone on Sep 28, 2016 1:15:09 PM

communication in healthcareCommunication in healthcare is a complex series of connections and critical interactions between patients, providers, staff, and organizations. From check-in or registration, to seeing the physician and everything in between, there are numerous points at which communication can be broken and impact a patient’s outcome and overall experience.  The Joint Commission estimates more than 80% of serious medical errors in healthcare are the result of communication failures. Research from a study published by The Journal of Healthcare Management suggests that US Hospitals lose over 12 billion annually as a result of communication inefficiencies, and an average 500-bed hospital loses approximately $4 million per year.

Measuring Communication

These are  alarming statistics during a time when value-based payment models are replacing fee-for-service reimbursement and costs are being scrutinized more than ever. Financial performance is largely dependent upon the measurement of quality and patient experience through key metrics such as readmissions rates and The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) surveys. Many believe that mandated use of the CG CAHPS (Clinician and Group Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) survey in outpatient care settings is forthcoming. Similar to HCAHPS, CG CAHPS includes questions regarding communication and service related behaviors. Both patient surveys are designed to capture information related to care from a patient’s perspective. Higher scores on questions such as “nurses listening” and “doctors explaining information” were found to be linked to a decreased risk of readmission.

Better Communication = Better Outcomes

Research has demonstrated that there is a strongly correlated relationship between good communication and higher patient satisfaction. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, more than a quarter of hospital readmissions could be avoided with better communication among healthcare teams and between providers and patients. By making efforts to improve communication, organizations can expect to increase patient satisfaction, improve outcomes, and reduce readmissions rates.

Most healthcare leaders recognize the significant impact communication has on the overall performance of an institution.  The challenge is how to improve it. There are countless theories, blogs, trainings, and initiatives on how to improve communication within a healthcare organization. Finding the right method is largely dependent upon the institution itself, however, there are many ways technology can help relieve some of the burden.

Improving Communication

Technology has many benefits that providers and organizations can use to improve communication and engage patients in their health. It can be used to help patients understand their medical conditions, surgical procedures, and recovery. It can assist with coordination of care, help with managing chronic disease, and improve the overall quality of care. Involving patients in their care encourages the patient  to take ownership of their health which results in improved  outcomes.

As communication in healthcare improves, both through the use of technology and through interpersonal skills training, better patient communication will help organizations become more efficient, provide better quality, and enhance the patient experience. Ultimately, improving communication, leads to higher quality, which drives value-based care.  When higher quality is part of the value-based care equation, success is inevitable.

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