Achieving Better Care Coordination with Improved Nurse-to-Physician Communications

By Benita Utz  /  17 Mar 2014

Before the age of rapidly advancing technology, the only way a nurse could get a needed physician order was to try to get in touch with the doctor directly through a variety of means. Depending upon the urgency, this could mean anything from leaving a note on the chart, calling the office and waiting for a call back, leaving a message on his voice mail, or waiting to find him on rounds. Notes and messages could be left open for interpretation, and as a result of these processes delays in communication and care decisions were often noted.

At St. Elizabeth Healthcare, we recognized that with the integration of the newer technology we had greater opportunities with improving communications than ever before. For example, we have given nurses smartphones and access to texting in our electronic medical record, but in some ways that just meant that doctors were being inundated with text messages, and they couldn’t possibly keep up. Not to mention, what if that doctor isn’t the one on call for that patient? How would you know to go to someone else or take alternative actions if a response isn’t timely?

In addressing our process concerns – by implementing a comprehensive and unified clinical communications platform – we’ve made great strides in encouraging our nurses and doctors to communicate directly with one another. This is primarily because it isn’t such an arduous task to try to do so, but also because there’s an increased awareness at St. Elizabeth Healthcare around the impact of communications on providing high-quality patient care. As a result we’ve seen marked improvements in response times, but also an increased awareness amongst clinicians at St. Elizabeth Healthcare as to the importance of direct conversations with one another.

The bottom line is this – the entire healthcare industry is looking for ways to better coordinate care. At St. Elizabeth Healthcare, we know that begins with enabling direct communications amongst those who provide the care.

Posted By Benita Utz, VP/Associate Chief Nursing Officer at St. Elizabeth Healthcare
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