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March 11, 2015
Improve Communication, Slash Error Rates

It might seem logically intuitive that better communication between clinicians and healthcare organizations would lead to better patient outcomes — such as higher quality of care and lower error rates. Although determination of a causal connection has historically been slow, research in this area has picked up and is beginning to show just how strong the link is.

For example, one study found that the keys to lowering error rates and improving outcomes include (1) the ability of each clinician to ask more complex questions about patients, giving them full attention; (2) sharing of information across “activity systems involved in the knots of activity”; and (3) ensuring that the information is able to be easily relayed, so that it doesn’t become altered or confused.

On the backs of this and similar types of findings, the Joint Commission even created a 2011 National Patient Safety Goal calling for communication that is timely, accurate, completely unambiguous, and understood by the recipient, and saying poor communication of patient information was “the most frequent root cause of sentinel events.” The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality have also reported, to Congress, no less, that communication problems are the most common root cause of medical errors, and that miscommunications arise between providers and organizations, often due to insufficient documentation that is not easily and quickly shared among them.

As a result, healthcare institutions have begun to develop and institute improved communication systems to meet these criteria — and, in turn, research into these communication systems has been able to quantify that longed-for causation. In a new study, published in the December New England Journal of Medicine, researchers conducted a prospective intervention study of a handoff-improvement programs in 9 hospitals, measuring rates of medical errors, preventable adverse events, miscommunications and workflow. The results were astonishing: Over 10,740 patient admissions, the medical-error rate decreased by 23% after implementation, compared to before implementation, and rates of preventable adverse events decreased by 30%. Workflow remained stable.

“Miscommunications and handoff errors are two of the most significant causes of medical errors in hospitals in the U.S.,” said the researchers in a press release. “We recognized that it would take a great deal of work to make the handoff program a sustainable system. Because we know that miscommunications so commonly lead to serious medical errors, and because the frequency of handoffs in the hospital is increasing, there is no question that high-quality handoff improvement programs need to be a top priority for hospitals.”

The lack of a complete patient information record that can be easily communicated between clinicians and healthcare organizations can be easily solved by using scribes. With complete patient and care information recorded in real time, it is easier to share and, more importantly, know information is relevant and complete. A clinician may conduct as many as 150,000 patient interviews during a typical career, according to the Institute for Healthcare Communication, so information is rapid-fire, and scribes can help clinicians get the most out of these interviews to prevent errors down the chain of care.

Care Navigators
As healthcare business models evolve, so should care teams.

Patients who are paired with Care Navigators report feeling less anxiety, and an increased ability to self-manage their conditions between visits. And providers report increased job satisfaction from improved efficiency, and knowing their patients have access to care teams, and strategic support.

Chronic Care Management
With an increased aging population managing two or more chronic illnesses, extending your care teams’ ability to communicate with patients is critical. We take a strategic approach to helping patients chart a path towards their health goals, while self-managing their chronic conditions between clinical visits.

Artificial Intelligence
Our advanced AI solutions tackle complex documentation challenges to reduce the administrative burden preventing doctors from delivering precision care. We'll guide you through the best practices for incorporating AI into your workflow. Gain visibility into your data with enhanced analytics driven by AI and CTAs.

Nurse Care Team Assistants
Adding a qualified Nurse CTA to the care team increases quality of work-life and reduces stress on nurses. The nursing profession is also experiencing an alarming shortage due to increased clerical burdens and burnout.

Scribe Services
There’s a reason why we’re the nation’s most frequently used scribe company: we offer professionally trained in-person and virtual medical scribes to meet the specific needs of our clients. We offer a variety of scribe programs, as well as technology and personnel solutions that address revenue cycle management, the transition to value-based care, and more through our HealthChannels family of companies.