from top-quality providers and the latest technology, what do the most successful
hospitals have that others do not? The answer is clear and effective
communication across all levels and areas of care. Effective communication is
central to the patient experience and important for both short- and long-term
episodes of care, but it is particularly critical at key transition points in
care, most notably at discharge.
|Improved Communication Leads to Higher Patient Outcomes, Lower Readmission Rates|
communication across the care team is just as vital as direct communication
with patients. In leading patient experience surveys the question “How well did
hospital staff work together as a team?” is highly correlated with overall
patient satisfaction. That correlation makes perfect sense. When patients
receive clear, consistent information from every caregiver, they are more
confident about what to both during a hospital stay and after discharge.
in a hospital or other care setting is more challenging than in virtually any
other industry. This complexity traces to a number of industry-specific issues,
including a high number of unique transactions during and across care episodes;
traditionally siloed work processes related to diagnosis and treatment; and
longstanding hierarchical barriers among care teams. Clear, open communication
builds trust, reduces confusion and increases patients’ confidence, which
contributes directly to better outcomes and reduced readmission rates.
are three overarching strategies to help organizations change the way frontline
staff think about communication:
1. Create a culture of
communication first. To improve interactions, staff members
have to understand what effective communication looks and feels like at all
levels of the organization. Leaders must demonstrate best practices and
reinforce communication as a priority every time they interact with staff and
patients, through strategies such as organization-wide town hall meetings,
attendance at individual departmental meetings and regular rounds at the
2. Make it easier to
communicate internally. If an organization’s culture is one
that encourages open, transparent communication, then providers will feel free
to question and investigate discrepancies and gaps in information. While the
latest comprehensive electronic health records facilitate information exchange,
they don’t replace effective interpersonal communication, either among the care
team or with patients and families.
3. Fully embrace a
customer-centric mindset. With focused training and mentoring
from managers, healthcare professionals can develop the communication skills
that improve interactions with one another and with patients. An investment in
improved communication practices and competencies is an essential part of
improving not only patient experience, but also patient outcomes.
research establishes that effective communication is essential to attaining
better health outcomes. To be sure, changing both the culture of communication
and the specific practices and tools used on the ground entails a significant
organization-wide commitment, but the results will be well worth the effort.
—Adapted from "How Better
Communication can Improve Patient Outcomes and Lower Readmission Rates,"
by Burl Stamp, Healthcare Business &
Technology, Feb. 26, 2019.