Communication gaps can lead to negative outcomes for patients. When healthcare organizations consider the patient journey as a whole, they can reduce healthcare costs for both their clinics and patients. Fast, effective, and reliable communication often leads to a more seamless and positive care experience for both clinical staff and their patients.
A Patient Experience Story
A 57-year-old single patient named Nancy sees a new physician with complaints of painful breathing. The doctor finds adult-onset asthma to be the cause of her symptoms, prescribes an inhaler, and refers her to a free-standing imaging center for a chest X-ray.
As the day moves to night, Nancy feels her condition is worsening. She continues to have trouble breathing, and an unproductive cough develops. She calls her physician’s office after hours, but the office voicemail provides no guidance other than recommending the hospital emergency department (ED). Nancy is frantic and calls her daughter, who suggests she call 911. An ambulance arrives and rushes her to the nearest ED.
Nancy is triaged in the overcrowded ED and is put in a hallway. Her ED care team has no access to her primary care physician’s notes or the free-standing imaging report. The doctor orders a repeat X-ray and gives her another nebulizer treatment. Imaging is backed up, but after a delay, Nancy has the scan and returns to the hallway. As they wait for the results, Nancy’s condition deteriorates, and she begins spitting up blood.
The ED nurse makes multiple requests for the imaging results, and while they are waiting, the ED care team is pulled away to handle other priority patients. Meanwhile, Nancy’s daughter has been calling the ED to find out her mother’s condition, wondering whether it’s necessary to come in or not. Does her daughter make the two-hour drive to the hospital?
When the report finally arrives, the care team is not notified and only sees the results when they next open Nancy’s chart. Finally, the care team reviews the imaging results that reveal diffuse pulmonary nodules. The ED physician flags the asthma diagnosis as suspect and admits the patient for observation and additional blood tests. Nancy is now stuck in the hallway, waiting for an open bed. She is concerned, confused, and not sure what to do next.
Communication Breakdowns Increase Costs and Negatively Impact Patients
Care coordination gaps and delays similar to those experienced by Nancy are common. But the risk is higher when clinics fax reports, use pagers, or don’t have reliable processes for out-of-network communications.1
In the above case, lengthy and unpredictable communication cycles made it difficult for the ED care team and patient to make timely decisions, impacting both quality of care and patient safety. They led Nancy to call 911, followed by a potentially preventable ambulance ride, ED visit, and inpatient admission that all placed more demands on scarce—and costly—resources. With little to go on, the hospital team ordered duplicate tests, exposing Nancy to unnecessary excess radiation and duplicate treatment. Through the many delays, her condition worsened. The entire process was an unfortunate experience for the patient and her family—they’re anxious, tired, and frustrated.
Equipping patients and care teams with the right information at the right time—whether it’s about their diagnosis, the logistics of their treatment, resources available to them, or something else entirely—can improve the care experience and outcomes by removing as much confusion and ambiguity as possible.
Providers across the board struggle with the communication gaps that hindered Nancy’s care in the above story. With better communication solutions, these gaps can be mitigated, and the problems that providers and patients face can be avoided. The chart below highlights some of the gaps providers, patients, and patient families commonly face and how better solutions can alleviate their impact:
The Right Tools Elevate The Patient Experience
PerfectServe’s clinical communication and patient engagement solutions are built to equip all members of the care team—including the patient and their family members or loved ones—with the right information at the right time to make the best care decisions. When you remove communication delays and other obstacles to allow for effective, efficient care delivery, you create a better experience for patients and providers alike.
With the introductory story mentioned above, how do you think the situation could be improved? Have you ever been in a similar situation? We always appreciate the chance to learn from firsthand experiences.
Schedule a demo to share your story and learn how PerfectServe might be the right fit for your organization’s needs.
1 Effects of Poor Communication in Healthcare. HIPAA Journal. https://www.hipaajournal.com/effects-of-poor-communication-in-healthcare/