Seamless, Serene and Safe: Enhancing the Patient Experience

By Susan McDonald, MD, VP, Medical Affairs, St. Joseph's Medical Center  /  29 Jul 2013

Any way that health systems can streamline and enhance communications to get the right information to the right clinician at the right time, they’ll do it, because they know the better the care will be. Whether it’s a critical lab value that needs to be communicated, a patient status from the nurse to the physician or a need for a consultation between physicians, enabling direct communications among clinicians has a range of benefits. And at St. Joseph’s, we’ve seen very clearly how this directly impacts the patient experience.

  • Care delivery becomes more seamless with better care transitions– We’ve created a communications system where, in just a few short moments, a physician can securely relay pertinent information in a handoff situation and give another clinician the opportunity to ask a question back. This is much more efficient than the physician going to the chart, finding and trying to decipher a hand-written note, and then maybe finding that the note didn’t contain the information they wanted or they misunderstood what the note stated. Just being able to contact the right physician in less than 30 seconds enables clinicians to more quickly get patients the care they need and move them through the system more efficiently. Because we’ve removed bottlenecks and “middle men” when delivering communication, there’s less risk of misunderstanding or delays.
  • With reduced communications chaos, care environments become more serene – A strategic and comprehensive communications platform means that not only are things less confusing for clinicians, they are also quieter for patients. We’ve reduced both the use overhead paging and the number of overall phone calls that need to be made – and that means less noise on every floor. Quietness is a score that’s being monitored by CMS, and it’s critical when it comes to patient satisfaction. Removing all the overhead pages certainly makes our facility a much more restful place to be.
  • Timely delivery of clinical information improves patient safety– One of the most telling areas of success with our communications system is that we’ve achieved a dramatic reduction in code blue respiratory arrests. With a more rapid, reliable and accurate contact and response process, nurses can notify physicians more quickly and effectively for an immediate reaction – which I believe directly correlates to our reduction of those code blues. In these situations and so many others like it, a matter of minutes can make all the difference.

Tackling the issue of clinician-to-clinician communications at St. Joseph’s means that today, it is far easier for me and my colleagues to reach physicians at any moment, and to find out who’s on call for a particular patient so that I can reach the appropriate person to consult about their care. It has made my job as VP of Medical Affairs far easier than I could have ever anticipated. But most importantly, it’s created a better, safer and more effective care environment for our patients.

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