Prioritizing communications to improve care coordination

By Terry Edwards  /  20 Oct 2014

With the around-the-clock bombardment of texts, calls, voicemails, emails, tweets, etc. flowing right to our fingertips, everything can seem urgent. It can be difficult to realize what requires our immediate attention, what can wait, and what can be handled by someone else. This is especially problematic in the healthcare industry. In an effort to improve care coordination, many organizations are working to give clinicians all of the information that they need, as soon as it’s available. But while these notifications and messages are meant to be good, receiving a high volume of incoming messages can actually backfire. When we receive too many messages, we get ‘alarm fatigue,’ and have a tendency to tune out all of the messages.

Instead of getting clinicians every piece of information when it is available, we need to give them ways to appropriately filter and receive ‘pertinent’ information. The Memorial City Practice of the IPC Hospitalist Group is a good example of a provider that’s addressing this to cut down on unnecessary static. They’ve recently began a program that lets physicians create a personal algorithm that drives communications to them based upon how, where and when they work.

While Memorial City is taking steps to reduce the noise, they’re also making sure nurses have a way to reach physicians quickly when time is of the essence. They’ve developed an escalation process that first delivers an unobtrusive ‘ping’ to the physician. If the physicians doesn’t respond immediately, a text message is delivered at the one minute mark, and then another at 15 minutes. If the physician still hasn’t responded, she or he receives a phone call. By having these kind of protocols in place, Memorial City is balancing the need to cut down on white noise while still giving nurses the ability to sound out a bigger alarm when necessary.

Healthcare organizations need to support clinicians by helping them improve their personal efficiency, develop best practices and offer guidelines to physicians on how to identify the types of communication that are relevant. Doing so creates more effective communications and helps them better coordinated care.

At the end of the day, it isn’t about having all the gadgets that connect you to every update possible – it’s about knowing how to maximize those resources. I consider this topic one of the more important puzzle pieces in achieving successful care coordination. What is your team doing to reduce unnecessary noise?

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