What Is the Importance of Communication in Health Care?

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What Is the Importance of Communication in Health Care?

What Is the Importance of Communication in Health Care?

For hospitals and health care institutions, ensuring that patients receive proper care takes more than performing procedures and making diagnoses. Communication is a crucial component in all steps of the health care process. Whether it be a clinic accurately sharing patient information with another facility, or a group of doctors, nurses, specialists, and other staff at a hospital discussing how to treat current and incoming patients, the need for concise, effective communication is always present in the health field.

Organizations with strong communication policies can enrich their patients’ health, while those that don’t have effective procedures in place can negatively impact patient well-being. Health care professionals and institutions need to recognize the importance of communication in health care in order to thrive.

How Better Communication Practices Are Beneficial
Poor communication has been a factor in 1,744 patient deaths and over $1.7 billion in malpractice costs nationally in the past five years, according to a study published in FierceHealthcare. This shows that better communication methods would benefit both patients and health care providers. Effective communication — both intrahospital and interhospital — is important for health care providers to protect their patients, save on costs, and increase day-to-day operating efficiency. Meanwhile, patients benefit from increased access to their medical histories, which reduces chances of medical errors.

A Focus on Patient Safety
When considering the importance of communication in health care, patient safety is one of the top reasons to create an effective communication structure in any health care organization. Inadequate communication is often a leading cause of in-hospital deaths. “In a retrospective review of 14,000 in-hospital deaths, communication errors were found to be the lead cause, twice as frequent as errors due to inadequate clinical skill,” notes a 2006 study in the Clinical Biochemist Review. While communication errors can have severe consequences, these issues are often relatively easy to fix, meaning many patient deaths caused by communication errors are preventable. That fact alone is one of the most important reasons why communication is so important for patient safety.

Interhospital vs. Intrahospital Communications
There are two types of communication methods that health care institutions use that are crucial to patient safety and well-being: interhospital and intrahospital.

Interhospital communications involve information sharing among multiple sites or institutions. This includes transmissions between facilities owned by the same organization and between completely separate health care entities. Moving patients from one facility to another, sending medical records, and transporting vital medical equipment all require clear communication between sites.

However, hospitals often encounter obstacles in communicating effectively with one another. A study conducted by the Center for Health Information and Decision Systems (CHIDS) found that poor interhospital communication costs the industry upward of $12 billion annually. Inadequate communication drives up costs by preventing institutions from accessing patients’ medical files, which may create a need for duplicate tests and second opinions that would not otherwise be necessary.

Problems with communication also occur among personnel within the same hospital. Intrahospital communication is any information sharing within a singular institution — whether it involves coordinating room changes, scheduling surgeries, assigning further tests, or even setting up appointments. When doctors, staff, and patients are not effectively sharing information, the efficiency of each process may decrease, potentially resulting in unnecessary costs or even danger to patients. Patient record delays, lack of procedural coordination, and even serious medical errors may all be consequences of poor intrahospital communication.

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