Improving Healthcare Staff Communication Skills with Digital Education

May 17, 2021 - Gini Beqiri

Regardless of the size and field of specialization, effective communication between patients and staff is vital for the success of any healthcare organization. It is no brainer that the end goal for any of such organizations is to offer unmatched patient care services, targeting at most satisfaction.

According to a study by National Institutes of Health, more than 80% of healthcare quality experts claim that improved communication between healthcare staff and patients is the core factor that impacts the patient experience.

Even though the service delivery is top-notch, and the staff members are well experienced in their trade, the lack of communication in the healthcare workplace may lead to a negative culture and inferior patient care quality. Therefore, it is crucial to take the necessary steps to create a better environment for the staff and the patients.

Real-time communication can prove to be a challenging factor for healthcare professionals. This is mainly because much of their time is spent on the go and addressing their patients’ concerns. It might prove difficult for them to regularly check on their emails and stay up to date on the company’s updates and important announcements.

Why are better communication skills important in the healthcare industry?

Poor communication in the healthcare industry has cost it over $1.7 billion in losses and is associated with approximately 2,000 deaths annually. This is a clear indication that improved healthcare communication would benefit both the facility and the patients.

There are two key parts that would be prudent towards effective service delivery while saving on costs and protecting patients ‒ interhospital and intrahospital communication. Intrahospital communication is essential as the facilities can easily share patient data and medical history, eliminating any room for error.

Focusing on patient safety

The main driving force behind improved healthcare communication is patient safety. As seen earlier, inadequate communication is a leading cause of in-hospital deaths. Unlike the lack of adequate clinical skills, communication errors are easier to fix and are preventable. This fact alone is the single most crucial reason why effective communication in the healthcare industry is mandatory for patient safety.

Interhospital and intrahospital communication

There are two communication methods that are crucial for the patients’ well-being: interhospital and intrahospital communication.

Interhospital communication

This mainly involves data transmission between two different hospitals, either owned by the same organization or by two separate entities. Patient records are easily accessed when the need arises. At times, clear communication proves to be important when transporting vital medical equipment between sites.

Unfortunately, hospitals are still facing obstacles in communication between their staff. According to a study taken by the Centre for Health Information and Decision Systems (CHIDS), poor interhospital communication costs the industry an upward of $12 billion every year.

The costs can go higher when institutions are prevented from accessing patients’ files, as this may compel them to undergo duplicate tests and second opinions, which may not have been necessary in the first place.

Intrahospital communication

Communication problems may also occur to personnel working within the same facility. This can involve coordinating room changes, medication changes, procedural schedules, tests, etc.

When the medical staff and patients aren’t effectively sharing information, the efficiency of each process decreases, potentially leading to unnecessary costs and, worse yet, causing danger to the patients.

Common communication methods in healthcare

Common communication methods

There are many types of communication methods that organizational heads must train their staff to use. It would be prudent to understand that all these methods are interrelated, and whenever one fails, the patient can be put at risk. For instance, a minor printing error might lead to false prescriptions, incorrect dosages, or keeping the healthcare practitioner in the dark regarding the patient’s medical history.

Understanding how effective communication protocols work the first step is to ensure that a medical facility is run as smoothly as possible. It is also prudent to understand that time for most medical staff is crucial as they are always up and down dealing with patients and the management of the facility. This means it may be a little difficult for them to dedicate days (or even weeks) of training.

Fortunately, medical personnel can now enroll in online learning platforms to learn all the skills they need within a couple of hours. To that end, here are some important communication methods that the medical personnel must train on and be good at:

Transmitting patient data

Patient records are to be securely stored and shared through inter and intrahospital communication channels. Any delays in receiving such records or missing vital information within the shared data might have numerous negative consequences.

Collaborating with colleagues

Intrahospital communication is vital as it incorporates all key medical staff such as the doctors, nurses, lab technicians, and patients. Effective collaboration at the workplace is crucial for a smooth operation of the facility, more so when it comes to using shared databases. Inaccurate information between departments may lead to errors which may have detrimental impacts in the long run.

Coordinating hospital leadership

Hospitals are businesses, whether they are privately or publicly funded. The hospital leadership should communicate regularly with their staff through the pre-approved channels to better run the facility. The administration also must maintain open communication lines with those around them and facilitate sharing of information between different hospital departments and other institutions.

5 ways to improve healthcare staff communication skills

With all that information in mind, let us delve deeper into the five separate ways you can improve hospital personnel's communication skills.

1. Incorporate effective communication in your employee's training programs

Most organizations train their employees on various aspects (either as an ongoing program or one offered during the orientation process). While most institutions train their staff for customer service delivery, they should also be trained on effective communication skills.

2. Streamline communication channels

Effective communication in any workplace only works if there are streamlined communication channels in place. While there are protocols that all staff have to follow, there are steps that are not quite essential that are often time-consuming to navigate. Look for an alternative communication platform, preferably one that is mobile-friendly and simple to use that doesn’t involve emails.

3. Implement patient satisfaction surveys

You never know your overall patient satisfaction levels if you do not get the feedback from patients themselves. Patient surveys help you determine areas of improvement, which will help you seal any communication loopholes between the staff and patients.

4. Schedule regular meetings with staff

Professional development is key to improving communication skills amongst employees. To achieve this, the leadership needs to organize regular staff meetings to discuss patient feedback, streamline communication channels, and share their thoughts on improving their general performance.

5. Utilize technology where appropriate

It is close to impossible for healthcare facilities to ignore technology in the digital era. To affect a seamless operation, everything is digitized, including patient data. Employees need to know how to use these systems effectively to ensure that all records are accurate, secure, and easy to access by all the right personnel.

Improving healthcare staff communication is a process that starts from the ground up, meaning that the leadership must do so by example. Utilizing healthcare online course platforms is a great start to instil the knowledge to all staff on the suitable communication structures and how to deal with patients properly.