Some experts estimate that nearly 100,000 people die in hospitals every year due to a medical error. An overwhelming reason for these death-causing errors is lack of communication. During a hospital stay of approximately four days, it is estimated that a patient comes in contact with about 50 staff members including doctors, nurses, technicians, therapists, and other hospital personnel. Critical information must be communicated among all professionals within the healthcare organization to ensure instructions are being followed, proper care is given, and risk to the patient is minimized.
Lack of communication causes many problems, particularly medication errors and wrong-site surgery as well as fatal postoperative events. Hospital surveys reveal that more than half of all patients surveyed reported that they received conflicting instructions from medical personnel who were caring for them. Sometimes which doctor is in charge of patient care is unclear to the patient as well as to members of the hospital staff.
While problems in communication jeopardize many aspects of patient care, good communication improves patient care and patient satisfaction.
Common problems cited due to poor communication
- Inability of staff to contact the physician in charge resulting in delays in patient testing and treatment
- Difficulty of physician in charge to make contact with specialty consultants
- Delay in consultation visits, which in turn delays the discharge of the patient from the hospital
- Physicians not returning phone calls to other staff members in a timely fashion
- Medication errors
- Vital tests not being performed in a timely fashion
Noted benefits when communication is improved
Dire consequences can stem from ineffective communication among the staff. By contrast, effective communication among hospital staff produces the following outcomes:
- Improved safety
- Increased patient satisfaction
- Decreased number of medical errors
- Decreased length of hospital stay
- Improved employee morale
- Healthcare professionals view themselves as a team
- More efficient handling of emergency situations
- Clear identification of authority
Importance of a physician and staff hospital survey
A hospital-wide survey of physicians and staff members can identify the strengths and weaknesses of communication within your hospital organization. It is important to include all workers in the survey process so that a few disgruntled employees cannot skew the results. A true cross-section of survey respondents is needed to accurately identify any communication problems.
An employee/staff/physician satisfaction survey can identify specific problems in communication and identify ways to solve them. The staff will be more attuned to preventing communication errors when they feel they are being listened to and attempts are made to follow their suggestions for improved communication and patient care.
The fewer communication errors there are, the more satisfied patients are with their care. The more satisfied patients are with their hospital care, the more satisfied the staff. The more satisfied the staff, the lower the staff turnover which in turn saves the hospital money on hiring and training new employees.