Lost in Translation: The Role of Communication in Patient Engagement

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Poor clinical communications can cost a healthcare system a great deal. According to The Joint Commission, poor communication is a contributing factor in more than 60% of all hospital adverse events they review. 

Moreover, it’s found in many kinds of healthcare settings. It’s especially prominent in patient hand-offs and situations where fast and effective management is essential. Such settings include the perioperative period, the ICU and the emergency department. When incomplete, inaccurate, or ambiguous information is provided at the changeover, the probability of costly medical mistakes increases. And that means quality care is lost along the way. 

Interhospital transfers, which involve sharing information among multiple sites or institutions, are also fraught with opportunity for error. For example, poor communication from one facility to another often impedes access to patient medical files. This can result in duplicate tests and second opinions that wouldn’t otherwise be necessary and drives up costs. A study conducted by the Center for Health Information and Decision Systems (CHIDS) quantified the aftermath: poor interhospital communication costs the industry upwards of $12 billion annually. 

Nonetheless, The Joint Commission believes that all caregivers can make high-quality hand-offs. Use of EHR capabilities and other technologies — such as apps, patient portals and telehealth — can greatly improve the exchange between senders and receivers. 

Poor communication can also lead to patient “no-shows,” which have immediate as well as down- stream economic effects. One study found that no-shows cost the U.S. healthcare system more than 

$150 billion a year, and individual physicians an average of $200 per unused appointment. Digital solutions are a highly effective part of controlling no-shows, but it’s up to providers to ensure that patients feel connected to their treatment teams. Making every interaction personal and meaningful is what matters in patient engagement. 

This excerpt is a part of our healthcare trends brief, Beyond Words: Patient Engagement Makes Dollars and Sense 

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You can download the full brief here, or view other webinars, e-Books, white papers and more in our resource center, including: 


 

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