Mission critical: Streamlining clinical communications in the ED

By Robert Takla, MD – St. John Hospital and Medical Center   /  19 Sep 2013

St. John Hospital and Medical Center receives upwards of 120,000 visits each year, making us one of the largest emergency centers in the country. As a high-volume facility, we are often faced with the challenge of maintaining the best level of care for each individual patient, without sacrificing patient or physician satisfaction in the process. This demands a high level of real-time communication and collaboration across the department.

The moment a patient arrives in our ED, our team relies on real-time communication to assess the patient situation, determine resources needed and initiate steps to care delivery. From administrative leads to charge nurses to emergency physicians, the entire process involves a web of moving parts and individual responsibilities that require the upmost attention to detail and efficiency. Without aligned communications, too many open ends could fall through the cracks and take away from the patient experience, which is why my team utilizes a clinician-to-clinician communications strategy as our lifeline to care coordination.

We’ve clearly seen how this real-time communication improves care coordination and ultimately reduces the cost of healthcare delivery:

  • Better use of resources: From a workflow perspective, our team thrives on user functionality and the ability to communicate or be communicated with in the way that best suits each clinician’s work style and schedule. By knowing to reach me via phone call rather than a text message, my care team doesn’t waste resources tracking me down. Rather than sifting through binders and excel spreadsheets, point people can connect key players in the process by leveraging automated, preference-based rules.
  • Customized patient care: A streamlined clinician-to-clinician communications strategy enables us to map out a patient’s care path and align care teams accordingly at each stop along the way. Whether coordinating an order for ICU transition or a discharge notice, my team is able to stay on top of each patient’s progress and communicate with other physicians involved in their care, even if that patient is not under their immediate care at a given point in time. With an auditable record of care transactions, we also eliminate any overlaps often resulting from miscommunications, including unnecessary diagnostic testing or scans. With clinical events-based communications, clinicians can not only track the progress of a patient when they are off-shift, but can also provide real-time updates to patients’ families on care activity.
  • Physician satisfaction: In the past, any negative feedback received from either a physician or patient perspective stemmed from one common root –communications. By implementing a comprehensive clinical communications strategy-rather than siloed solutions to address only part of the problem – we have seen increased adoption of the new technology and process across our clinician teams. In an industry where private physicians have the option to practice in a number of different facilities, tangible benefits to day-to-day work life such as improved clinical communications are difference-makers that will help our organization to gain local market share. We all want options, so offering customizable communications preferences is a competitive advantage for our facility.

At the end of the day, our goal is to provide the best care and patient experience through the most efficient methods for our clinician team. A streamlined clinical communications strategy has enabled us to align resources and improve real-time care coordination across the ED – a strategy any healthcare organization should consider adopting for critical care scenarios.

Dr. Takla Headshot






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