The findings aren't surprising for anyone who has cared for an elderly parent (as I have). Researchers at University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus identified major communication gaps when a patient is released from the hospital.
According to the study, published in Journal of General Internal Medicine, discrepancies in medication lists and a lack of accountability are key problems that cause issues for patients. Home health care agency workers also report difficulty in contacting physicians. Study authors identify the following solutions:
- Hospitals and primary care physicians could provide HHC agencies direct access to Electronic Medical Records and direct phone lines to doctors.
- Enact laws allowing nurse practitioners and physician's assistants to write HHC orders. A bill was under consideration to do this but was not acted upon by Congress.
- Clearly establishing accountability for hospital clinicians to manage HHC orders until a primary care physician can see a patient and help HHC nurses with questions.
- Create better communication methods with PCPs to ensure safer transitions
A page on the Family Caregiver Alliance website offers advice for patients when preparing for a medical appointment, meeting with a doctor, spending time in emergency rooms, and, as this study focuses on, "Transitions to Home or Facility: Communications at Discharge Time." The site offers good advice, such as keeping a medical notebook and contacting advocacy groups.
An article in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research recommends ways for doctors to improve their communication. The advice will sound very basic to students of business communication, for example, "patient listening, empathy, and paying attention."
- What are your positive and negative experiences when communicating with medical professionals? What improvements would you recommend?
- Communication gaps during transitions are common. What other examples can you identify (for example, transitioning from high school to college)?