Five Major Issues with Hospital Communications Systems and How to Improve Them

07.18.18 TigerConnect Enterprise, Healthcare, Industry Insights
Five Major Issues with Hospital Communications Systems and How to Improve Them

Hospital communication failures can have dire consequences for medical providers and patients. Behind almost every medical error, there’s a breakdown in communication, from misunderstood diagnostic results to erroneously entered information, a botched handover, or something else.

The impact of these mistakes can be a damaged reputation, malpractice claims, poor staff morale, and, at the extreme, patient death. This is an endemic problem — an analysis of 7,000 malpractice cases identified communications issues around medication, consent, the patient’s condition, poor documentation, inadequate understanding of medical records, and several other areas.

These problems aren’t isolated to one or two departments either — hospital communications systems failed across general medicine, obstetrics, nursing, and surgery. The total malpractice cost of those 7,000 cases was over $1.7 billion.

Preventing Healthcare Mistakes by Improving Hospital Communications Systems

All healthcare providers want to provide exceptional medical care and excellent patient outcomes. Improving hospital communications through systems, training, and technology is one of the most effective ways to drive dramatic improvement.

Clinicians know this. Analysis shows that physicians, nurses, and other care providers have significant concerns around hospital communications systems. These issues tend to fall into the following categories.

Fragmented, Poorly Implemented, Communication Processes and Technology
Without a central strategy and direction, healthcare communications systems quickly become an unwieldy, territorial, fragmented patchwork of disparate technologies and systems, desperately trying to work together. This results in gross inefficiency — clinicians don’t know where to find the latest information, there’s enormous duplication of effort, continuity of care is compromised, and patient outcomes worsen.

Solving Fragmented Hospital Communications Problems
The solution is simple — one integrated, central Clinical Communication and Collaboration (CC&C) platform that integrates with all your other technologies, including EHRs and diagnostic systems. This CC&C platform should be available at all times, across all devices like smartphones, tablets, and desktops. It should present the right information to healthcare providers in an easy-to-understand, actionable way, so they can use it to enhance provider to patient communications and treatment.

Concerns About Patient and EHR Privacy and Security
Medical record hacking and EHR theft is increasingly commonplace. With data breaches so prevalent, protecting patient data and staying HIPAA compliant is more important than ever. Unauthorized access to medical records or EHR negligence can be costly for hospitals, with large fines and significant reputational damage.

Solving Concerns About EHR and Patient Data and Security
Ensure that all of your technology, including integrations, has proper encryption, throughout data capture, transmission, updates, and archiving. A robust CC&C platform will have encryption built in as standard, allowing clinicians to access, communicate, and share sensitive information quickly, easily, and safely.

Inefficient Communications with Systems and Colleagues
Breakdowns in team communications are a major factor in medical errors. Clinical workflows, communications paths, and clinician involvement varies enormously from patient to patient, and treatment to treatment. Keeping track of healthcare activity and patient needs is extremely challenging, and made even worse by inefficient, wasted communications. This is exacerbated by siloed teams and challenges communicating between departments.

Solving Inefficient Communications with Systems and Colleagues
Besides centralizing your CC&C system, which will drive major communications improvements, the real secret here is automation and processes. A good CC&C platform will automatically route messages and connect activities to the right people at the right time, provide reminders, and allow a complete history of communications, so care is not impacted.

Siloed Systems, Medical Providers, and Third Parties
It’s not just inside a hospital that communications systems can break down. Medical providers have vastly different types of EHR systems, communications protocols, and integrations with other software. This can make it very difficult for a patient to receive consistent care, even for the same medical problem. There is no streamlined, easy way to transfer medical information and EHRs between providers.

Solving Siloed Systems, Medical Providers, and Third Parties
These issues can largely be solved through proper CC&C platform integrations. The right CC&C platform will integrate with multiple systems across the care continuum, gather disparate information, and present it all together, in a unified way. This means any clinician can get the latest information about a patient’s condition, taking into account their relevant medical history and information provided by third parties.

Lack of Timeliness in Communications
Medical errors sometimes happen simply because physicians, nurses, and others don’t have access to the latest information. Delays in lab test results, image uploads, diagnostic tests, and other issues can all contribute to slow or inaccurate diagnosis and treatment.

Solving Lack of Timeliness in Communications
Your team needs access to “one view of the truth”— continually updated, centralized communications and information on the medical history, diagnostics, prognosis, and treatment plans for a patient. When your CC&C platform integrates with every other system and gathers all that data in one place, your clinicians will be completely up to date. As soon as results are uploaded, or communications are entered, the central record will update with the details. This is essential to becoming a Real-Time Health System.

These five areas are all major contributors to medical errors and breakdowns in communications. A solid healthcare communications system strategy, supported by the right CC&C platform will deliver big improvements — to patient outcomes, care quality, patient safety, satisfaction, and staff morale.

To learn more about TigerConnect and our clinical communication platform, click here.