Why Employee Communication is a Matter of Life and Death in the Healthcare Industry
A challenge for any large organization is achieving communication mastery. However, most organizations don’t function with patient lives hanging in the balance.
In fact, a recent GetApp survey indicated that effective employee communication is most crucial in the healthcare industry.
For hospital and healthcare environments, effective employee communication isn’t just a matter of productivity or performance; it can quite literally be a matter of life or death. Despite this, many hospital systems are using antiquated communication channels that delay care and frustrate patients. This adds complexity to an already overtaxed hospital infrastructure.
There is a dire need for better employee communication options in healthcare settings.
The Need for Employee Communication
The complexity of medical care, coupled with the inherent limitations of human performance, make it critically important that medical professionals have standardized communication tools and create an environment in which individuals can speak up and express concerns.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Communication breakdowns between doctors, nurses, and caregiver staff are extremely common. These gaps in communication almost always lead to worsened patient outcomes, including preventable medical errors that are estimated to cause 200,000 deaths each year.
The sad fact is that even in healthcare, updating employee communication isn’t usually a priority. Sure, asking 10 hospital administrators about the importance of communication would produce just as many positive responses, but theory and practice are two different things. Life-saving communication strategies need more than just lip service; they need the support and collaboration of every employee involved in patient care.
Waste and Inefficiency
The costs of failing to do so can be drastic. A 2010 research study on communication inefficiency found that hospitals waste over $12 billion annually from inefficient communication between care providers. This inefficiency results in increased length of stay, which accounts for 53% of a facility’s’ annual economic burden. Communication issues also produce high employee turnover, creating a minimum loss of more than 5% of an organization’s total operating budget annually.
Aside from the fiscal burden, troubling findings from a 2004 survey by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices found that poor internal workplace communication also has a severe impact on patient outcomes:
Nearly 50% of caregivers surveyed would rather keep silent than try to clarify medication orders with an uncooperative doctor. Moreover, 7% of caregiver respondents admitted to being involved in medication errors that related to workplace bullying or intimidation from someone higher up.
Consider the implications here. The historically poor culture of communication in hospital settings is creating very real roadblocks to patient safety.
Traditional Communication Drawbacks
The costs of poor communication are high and simply adding more outreach channels won’t produce result.
Healthcare facilities already have more than enough. Basic communication methods like email, texting, and pagers are standard. Most hospitals also routinely use more archaic methods like whiteboards, bulletin boards, and corded phones. Hospitals generally allocate for new equipment or medical supplies. Then, despite its importance in delivering quality patient outcomes, communication takes a backseat.
Drawbacks to Solutions
All of the aforementioned communication channels suffer the same drawback: a lack of cohesive integration. Each system exists on its own, creating multiple disjointed methods of communication that can be a significant hassle for caregivers.
The entire spectrum of clerical and informational data in the hospital is at the mercy of these separate systems, creating disorganization and delayed care.
Physicians have to research new procedure information online and transfer it manually into patient files. New training strategies may exist for weeks before all employees are able to view them on bulletin boards or in training logs.
The list goes on and on. Sharing information among caregivers becomes a significant challenge without a unified, digital system of communication.
Digital Signage in an Omnichannel Communication Strategy
A unified system of clinical communications could be the missing link that hospitals need to improve patient outcomes. These strategies can significantly reduce the financial burden and improve the poor quality of care characterized by poor communication.
Case in point, St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Stockton, CA saw a 1.86% reduction in length of stay and a $1.98 million impact overall after implementing a unified communication system.
Digital signage is an integral part of this unified communication system. Make the flow of information from one channel to the next as seamless as possible by integrating digital screens into the existing communication channels.
For example, continuously improve caregiver skills by displaying new training opportunities and initiatives. Healthcare digital signage makes such info vibrant and engaging, and enables hospitals to share it to multiple screens instantly and simultaneously.
The digital signs can also be used to display administrative information: HR protocols, investment opportunities, industry updates, competitor activities, etc. This saves resources (time, manpower, money) and also makes caregivers better in-the-know ambassadors for their hospital.
Digital screens are also the perfect way to keep staff in the loop by reporting performance metrics and hospital goals. Offer caregivers a broad view of hospital performance by continuously displaying HCAHPS scores.
And when times get tough, digital screens are the perfect way to display motivational messages. That reinforces a positive workplace culture and keeps morale up.
Visibility and Constant Connection
Hospital digital signage can also be used as an effective emergency response tool. With widespread visibility and a constant connection to a central network, digital signage can quickly display emergency alerts. So, weather, gas leaks, or bomb threats, as well as CAP alerts from local and national sources. This coverage protects both employees and visitors. Emergency information, hospital maps, and escape routes can also be instantly displayed in the event of an emergency.
Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center proved this when they were able to enhance communication after implementing a digital employee communication solution. This connected physicians to other medical professionals better, and resulted in 817 fewer repeat calls to physicians overall.
The link between employee communication and improving patient outcomes is well established. Communication technology that empowers caregiver staff to more efficiently share information doesn’t just improve patient wellbeing; it improves quality of care and hospital efficiency throughout the patient’s entire stay.
As the complexity of care continues to increase, healthcare facilities need to upgrade their infrastructure accordingly. Failing to support hospital staff with digital solutions that empower success wastes hospital resources—and puts patient lives in jeopardy.