3 Ways Collaborative Communication Improves Healthcare
Many hospitals, long-term care (LTC) facilities and other healthcare delivery organizations (HDOs) are striving for a more agile and resilient workforce. Directives to cut costs and take a patient-centered approach to care delivery encourage collaborative communication in healthcare teams and the elimination of silos. Interdisciplinary healthcare teams have a primary role in improving communication, when provided with effective communication and collaboration tools. And the EHR is not the solution.
Benefits of interdisciplinary collaborative communication in healthcare
A report from the Advisory Board’s Nursing Executive Center (NEC) cites three clear benefits from better interdisciplinary healthcare team collaboration.
- Improve patient outcomes
Collaborative communication in healthcare correlates closely with improved patient outcomes. In a study of care team collaboration in the ICU, the higher the level of team collaboration, the lower the risk of negative patient outcome: on a 7-point healthcare team collaboration scale, an increase of 2.5 points cut negative outcomes nearly in half.
- Improve patient satisfaction
Poor team communication among healthcare providers can strongly impact a patient’s perception of care delivery. When a patient sees multiple caregivers, the repetition of diagnostic or personal questions and changes to treatment or discharge plans can make her feel like care has been poorly coordinated. Improving healthcare team collaboration can improve patient satisfaction.
- Reduce healthcare costs
The financial impact of inefficient healthcare team communication is estimated at $4.6 million annually for the average 500-bed hospital. Combining wasted nurse and physician time and increased patient length of stay (LOS), the costs to be recouped by more collaborative communication in healthcare teams are significant.
Moving from unstructured communication to collaborative communications
The NEC report found that the lack of communication between healthcare team members created one of the biggest barriers to interdisciplinary healthcare team collaboration. Care team members who rarely work side-by-side communicate with paper notes, voice mail, emails or similar means. This unstructured communication complicates collaboration by creating a time lag, so that information is not shared in a timely way. More important, in many cases these types of healthcare team communication lack the opportunity for a two-way dialogue.
Simple healthcare team communication, while critical, is not enough for collaboration. Communication, according to the NEC report, is “the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions or information by speech, writing or signs.” Collaboration, on the other hand, is defined as “individuals assuming complementary roles and cooperatively working together, sharing responsibility for problem solving, and making decisions to formulate and carry out plans.”
As healthcare organizations consider technology to support an agile workforce, the difference between unstructured communication and real-time, collaborative communication is critical. For example, EHRs are sometimes suggested as a tool for collaboration, but this is misguided. Designed as a digital version of paper charts, the EHR functions as a data repository and historical record. An EHR provides enhanced communication for nurses and physicians, allowing one provider to pass on patient information to another provider quickly. An EHR, however, lacks a framework for collaboration.
Collaborative communication in healthcare teams requires two-way dialogues, real-time resource mobilization, and exchanges that lead directly to action.
Collaborative healthcare team communication tools do more than carry a message from point A to point B: they also support efficiency and optimize decision making when time is at a premium..
Real-time healthcare team communication drives responsive patient care
Common hospital scenarios illustrate how healthcare team communication can become collaborative with the appropriate tools.
- Traditional physician paging—whether to a handheld pager or overhead—can be missed by the receiving physician, or may come at a time when the physician is unable to respond. Repeated pages may be necessary just to find out whether the specialist is available. A clinical communication and collaboration platform such as LiveProcess, which is designed for healthcare team coordination, not only accelerates the process but ensures accuracy and accountability.
With LiveProcess, a nurse can directly page the appropriate specialist, who receives the notification via the recipient’s preferred communication mode. With structured messaging, the physician can then choose from easy preset response options and reply with one click. The LiveProcess platform also allows verification of receipt, removing ambiguity when no response is received. Because the physician can respond directly, the communication is a closed loop, protecting patient safety and enabling an appropriate swift response to patient needs.
- When a healthcare team needs to be assembled from across a healthcare organization, prepared codes and pre-defined cross-disciplinary groups allow one-touch notification and response. This allows rapid response teams for high acuity conditions such as cardiac arrest or sepsis to convene quickly, while message receipt and response is logged in a centralized view for the sender.
- During patient discharge, the same healthcare team functionality can gather transport, housekeeping and any other staff or care providers needed — inside and outside the facility or organization — to ensure that a patient isn’t left waiting.
When interdisciplinary healthcare teams have the right tools for true collaborative care, everyone benefits, from the patient to the care team and the healthcare organization as a whole.
To learn more about tools for collaborative communication for healthcare teams, read the blog post Agile Healthcare: Leveraging Technology for Real-Time Care Coordination.
Learn about agile healthcare on our blog.
Take a look at LiveProcess Communicator, healthcare team collaboration tool.
Read more blog posts about collaborative communication in healthcare.
Terry Zysk, CEO of LiveProcess, has more than two decades of experience in leading organizations that provide innovative solutions to the healthcare industry.