Don’t Be A Stranger – Real-Time Physician Communication Key To Moving Healthcare Forward

By Martha Muhich  /  27 Jan 2014

By Martha Muhich, vice president of clinical services at St. John Providence Health System in southeast Michigan.

I’ve been working in healthcare for more than twenty-five years, primarily around performance improvement, and am happy to see our industry making some strides in this area. However there is still much progress that can be made, especially when it comes to physician communications.

Physicians are extremely busy, and because historically technology hasn’t been “up to snuff” in helping them communicate effectively with one another, they’ve begun to rely on nurses and administrative staff to fill the gap. At St. John Providence Health System we’re encouraging our physicians to communicate directly with one another as frequently as possible – by implementing both technologies and streamlined processes that enable this to happen – as we know that direct communication leads to clearly articulated consults, which can lead to better and more timely patient care.

In addition, I find that about twenty percent of patients who enter our hospitals and specialty centers have no idea who their primary care physician is. With health reform driving primary care doctors to become the quarterback of patient care, this is a huge problem. This issue often stems from patients not seeking care on a regular basis, where instead they end up in our more immediate care environments, missing a step in communicating their symptoms to and seeking preventative treatment from their primary care physician.

Finding a way to communicate information about that patient back to their primary care doctor is a critical step that will lead us forward and help keep patients healthy and out of the hospital. Furthermore, encouraging patients to get the right treatment from the right health care provider and to visit their primary care physician more frequently will help them to avoid hospital stays and drive down the cost of care.

I see a future where interconnectedness is the underlying theme of the healthcare industry, where patients carry their health record around on a credit card so that physicians have access to their entire health history via nothing more than a quick swipe (can you imagine it!?). But even then, physicians will need to speak with one another to determine the best course of treatment, and the tools and processes need to be in place now to enable those conversations to take place.

Posted By Martha Muhich
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