Simplify hospital communication to improve patient safety


Miscommunication is one of the biggest problems in healthcare, costing $1.7 billion over a four-year period and nearly 2,000 lives. To improve hospital communications and patient safety, providers should take steps to accelerate and streamline the decision-making process, argues a column in Hospitals & Health Networks.

The lengthy review process within hospitals can mean it could take up to a year to approve a new policy or alterations to an existing one. This is due to the unique regulatory and operational structure of healthcare organizations, which must make sure committees and governing boards keep information flowing back and forth, a practice involving quality committees, boards of trustees and medical executive committee. Quality committees are responsible for securing accreditation from agencies such as the Joint Commission, while medical executive committees govern the provider’s medical staff and the board serves as the hospital’s governing body.

These committees typically meet only once a month, meaning the process of securing approval from all three can take at least three months. To reduce these inefficiencies in communication, hospitals should instead establish one day a month for all committees to report at once, writes Sharon L. Kurtz. R.N., an infection preventionist in Allen, Texas. This process could be expedited even further by appointing representatives or subcommittees from the executive committee and board to report any decisions to their respective bodies. Under this arrangement, “if approval was needed for a certain request, all committees would be available to reach a decision on the spot,” she writes. “Once the decision-making process was shortened, the hospital would be able to operate in a more real-time environment.”

Hospital leaders can also make communication more efficient by eliminating waste within the committees throughout the organization, cutting redundancies such as subcommittees of subcommittees. Meanwhile, on a deeper, cultural level, many hospitals allow such inefficiencies to persist, possibly out of a kind of pride in just how busy the organization is, Kurtz writes; this must be set aside in favor of providing the best quality care.

- here’s the article