Look Who’s Talking: Clinical Communications Improves Physician Satisfaction

By Herbert Schumm, M.D., Vice President of Medical Affairs, St. Rita’s Health Partners and President of St. Rita’s Professional Services  /  09 Apr 2013

Part of the Mercy Health System, St. Rita’s Medical Center, located in Lima, Ohio, is a 383-bed acute care facility with a medical staff of 370 physicians. St. Rita’s Medical Center is the largest hospital within a 70-mile radius of Lima.

I’ve seen the positive impact sophisticated clinical communications systems can have on a healthcare organization. From consults to discharge procedures to safety issues, it plays a key role in every facet of improving patient care. But it’s also a game-changer when it comes to maintaining physician and nurse satisfaction and retention of these clinicians – which is increasingly critical in today’s competitive healthcare environment. Better connecting clinicians benefits them a number of ways, including:

  • Building a better professional environment – In every health care system, disputes will inevitably arise around who tried to contact who, when and how many times – especially if a communication failure led to a delay in patient treatment. The right communications tracking and reporting capabilities removes all guesswork and any finger-pointing, allowing you to move past any issues and focus solely on improving the process for connecting clinicians. It can also help identify the most responsive physicians and nurses and give others specific metrics to strive for when it comes to making sure the right messages are delivered across a team.
  • Realizing the power of choice – While many health systems today are focused on secure texting, that’s just one piece of a much more complex puzzle. Today, physicians and nurses want, need and deserve options for how they communicate, and all of it needs to be secure. Individual modes of communication – whether it be phone, e-mail or text – can no longer be viewed in isolation, but instead need to be offered as part of a broader strategy. Putting physicians in the driver’s seat and giving them the freedom to easily structure how and when they want to be contacted significantly increases the likelihood that nurses and other physicians can reach them when they need to.
  • Keeping everyone in the loop – As I’ve heard many colleagues say, now more than ever, healthcare is a team sport. And all physicians or nurses treating a patient should have access to the same information and be notified to any changes or updates. Better coordinated care is higher quality care. The capability to contact multiple groups at once makes it easier to keep that team intact and everyone remains informed and committed to a patient’s care.
  • Improving job satisfaction – Nobody wants skilled nurses spending half their day trying to track down Dr. Smith to deliver a message or just get a confirmation that an update was received. Not only does that amount to a loss of valuable resources, but it also isn’t very fulfilling for clinicians. With the right system in place, nurses will be happier doing what they entered the field to do – care for patients.

Beyond the range of benefits to patient care and safety, clinical communications makes a significant impact on care teams. Taking a strategic approach to clinical communications has given us the ability to build better relationships with our physicians and nurses and give them the ability to reach each when they need to.

 

Dr Herbert Schumm

 

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