By Bill Ho
Why reliable communication is key to improving the patient experience
It’s more important than ever to ensure patients have a good experience. And the reality is that there is a strong correlation between patient experience and the success or failure of communication between payers, providers, and patients.
The Importance of Seamless Internal Communication
Patient outcomes and experiences suffer when communication breaks down. According to a study of 23,000 malpractice claims[i], there were 7,149 cases in which poor communication contributed to patient harm, tied to $1.7 billion in losses to the healthcare system. In 57% of these cases, there were communication issues among providers.
Part of ensuring high satisfaction scores comes from minimizing wait times, a perception of speed and quality, and accurate patient information delivery. While EMRs today provide better access to patient information than ever before, there are still many instances where both internal and external messaging happens outside the EMR system.
Solving External Coordination and Communication Challenges
Healthcare is made up of many interconnected departments, physicians, clinics, private medical groups, and people who may or may not be part of the primary care facility. For referrals to specialists, billing and insurance claims, prescriptions, and other external messaging, communications are often burdensome and time-consuming. Without a means to confirm receipt of communications, physicians are at times sending in the dark, hoping the communications system works as expected. For the most part it does, but when communications break down, patient outcomes and patient experience suffer.
Solutions that enable quick, secure, and reliable communications are essential for delivering information to the right recipient at the right time. Patient information often lives in disparate repositories that aren’t connected – so a system that works independently or that is integrated into these repositories (e.g. EMRs) help facilitate that information transfer. Even getting final paperwork and discharge instructions should be quick and easy.
Healthcare IT and Back Office Solutions
One of HIT’s many goals is to provide technical capabilities to support the physicians, nurses, administrators, business offices, and staff in their daily routines caring for patients. Systems such as EMRs, web portals, pagers, communications systems, desktop applications, among many others, are just some of HIT’s responsibilities. These systems have to work reliably and stay within the scope of HIPAA to maintain the privacy and security of patient information.
Because so much information flows between different parties and groups, the messaging system is a critical part of ensuring the smooth delivery of care. While it may not seem important, imagine a scenario where communications are interrupted or intermittently unreliable. Not only does this engender frustration among the caregivers, it also creates concern for the patients and can negatively impact their care. Keeping the lines of communication open, fast, and reliable makes it simply unnoticeable – so providers can focus completely on the patient.
Digital technology is a part of modern medicine and can help facilitate the proper care and treatment of patients when the right tools and systems are available. When critical health information flows quickly, easily, and securely, satisfaction is positively affected. Time spent researching and deploying the right secure messaging systems can have a positive impact on patients, providers, and the entire healthcare ecosystem.
[i] CRICO Strategies, Malpractice Risks in Communication Failures, 2015
Bill Ho is CEO of Biscom.