Interaction with the front desk staff generally forms the patient’s first impression of a hospital. Lack of communication is also often the root cause of a majority of incidents that occur in a hospital. In today’s customer focused healthcare scenario, communication plays a massive role in a hospital. Sadly, it is also one of the most common and overlooked problem areas in a majority of the hospitals.
Communication can be a very effective tool for improving patient satisfaction in a hospital. Hospital feedback forms often reflect issues where improper or inadequate communication is the root cause. Long discharge time is a common cause for patient dissatisfaction in most of the hospitals, however, a major cause for disconcert could be that the patient/patient relative were not explained at the onset about the discharge process and the time taken for it and hence expects a discharge the minute the doctor orders it.
Similarly, if patients are informed beforehand of the expected time delay and reasons for delay in an OPD, they are less likely to complain about the waiting time and the services at the hospital. Patient Safety is another area which relies to a great extent on communication. Improving effective communication is also one of the patient safety goals. Even a minor mistake during handover between shifts can effect patient safety.
Similarly, critical test values need to be communicated instantly to the concerned consultant and in case of a code blue, alerting the code blue team or the concerned personnel is indispensable. In a healthcare set up where a critical test result or a change in the patient condition can be a matter of life and death the importance of communication cannot be emphasized enough.
Some strategies for effective communication in hospitals:
• Soft skill training should be given to staff for better patient handling. Rude staff and inadequate information and attention by staff are frequent complains of patients at the registration and enquiry desk during the peak hours of patient flow.
• The hospital should plan and prepare for communication strategies in situations where enhanced communication is required and train their staff for the same, for e.g. sudden death of a patient, violent patient relatives etc.
It is also important that the patient relatives are periodically updated about the condition of the patient.
• Senior clinical and management staff should always encourage an open channel of communication with staff down the line. There have been incidences in hospitals where patient care was compromised because the nurses were apprehensive to contact the doctor. A good communication culture in the organization also improves employee satisfaction as it improves transparency and increases accountability.
• Good intra and inter departmental flow of information is essential to improve the efficiency of hospital services. Quality indicator trends, audit results and patient feedback results should be communicated down the line to the concerned staff down the line, without which the activity is useless.
External and internal communication play a major role in a hospital set up where timeliness, adequacy, accuracy, completeness of information could play a vital role in avoiding errors and saving a life. At the end of the day, however good the clinical care given it will be useless if it is not communicated appropriately to the patient.
Shruthi Sasidharan is an associate consultant with Technecon Healthcare. With a passion for improving quality in healthcare, she works closely with hospitals for implementing accreditation standards like NABH and JCI.