7 Ways to Improve Hospital Staff Communication
It’s estimated that 80% of serious medical errors occur due to ineffective communication among healthcare providers. When you consider that a single patient may receive care from 50 different healthcare professionals during a four-day hospital stay, it’s easy to understand how that might happen. Effective internal communication in the healthcare industry is essential to make hospital staff feel informed and empowered to do their job in the best way possible.
A lot is riding on good hospital staff communication in our healthcare system today. Poor communication among healthcare staff can have dire results on patient safety, including death. It can also lead to delays along a patient’s journey to recovery, increasing the patient’s hospital stay. These delays can frustrate patients, resulting in low patient satisfaction scores, ultimately impacting a hospital’s bottom line.
Miscommunications occur for various reasons – ineffective policies and procedures, overworked and weary staff, language issues, ineffective communication systems, and more. The good news is that hospital staff communications can be significantly improved. Here are eight steps to get your organization started on the path to more effective communication.
#1 – Know your starting point
First, evaluate how the staff currently communicates, including sharing data and updating records with necessary details. Does staff use email, phone calls, pagers, employee portals, HIPAA-compliant apps? Do they use patient communication boards? What other technology do they use? Ask yourself what is working and what isn’t. What are the most popular means of internal communication? Knowing the answers to these questions can help you determine the advantages and disadvantages of each method and where you stand.
#2 – Break down your communication barriers
What communication gaps exist, and what causes them? For example, one of the most opportune times for staff miscommunication typically occurs during shift changes. There should be a streamlined method for workers who need to relay pertinent information to their coworkers. Lack of training might be another barrier to communication. If healthcare workers don’t feel comfortable using technology, they may avoid it entirely. By educating employees, you can uncover their hesitations, answer their questions, and educate them on best practices for communication.
#3 – Incorporate employee training programs
Offer employees training on communicating with one another effectively, especially when sharing important patient information on a glass board, a common method of communication in the healthcare industry. An important aspect of communicating through a glass board is the use of visuals or even graphic inserts, so knowing what specific information or visual to communicate and how to use is a skill that employees should learn through training programs.
#4 – Ask for employee input
Everyone in the organization should have a voice, especially those doing the work first hand. Leadership can get employees involved by asking for feedback through surveys (anonymous, preferably). Staff meetings are another way to obtain involvement and get employees to talk about what may be frustrating and what you can do to make their work more manageable.
#5 – Model positive communication
Providing mandatory training that emphasizes how important good communication is to an organization is a good first step toward improving hospital communications. But it can’t stop there. It must be followed up by hospital leadership modeling those communication skills in real practice — exchanging information with staff, asking for input, asking for clarification, etc. That shows staff that communication skills are highly valued in the organization and encourages them to develop and use their own communications skills. Over time, these consistent communication practices will become part of the office culture.
#6 – Keep it simple
Pages, phone messages, alerts, electronic health record messages – healthcare staff are bombarded with daily information overload. It helps to streamline communication channels. The more complicated the communication process is, the more likely staff will make mistakes or revert to old practices. A 2016 report found that staff ignores notifications as often as 96% of the time. And that can have deadly consequences for patients. Once you’ve streamlined your communication channels, be sure to provide training on the selected methods for employees who need it.
#7 – Prioritize face to face communication
Even though we’re all much savvier about using Zoom meetings and other virtual meeting spaces since the pandemic, nothing replaces the good, old-fashioned face-to-face. Managers and leaders should schedule regular face-to-face meetings to build collaboration and encourage participation. With a face-to-face meeting, you can build an agenda and communicate the main items that will be touched on a communication board.
At Clarus, we are experts in communication in the healthcare industry, and we know how essential hospital staff communication is to keep your patients happy and healthy. Discover how you can improve staff communication and patient experience with Clarus. Contact us today!