What We Have is a Failure to Communicate

For a typical 500 bed acute-care hospital, communication problems between physicians and nurses create an annual $4 million economic burden
Center for Health Information and Decision Systems (CHIDS)

Our clients often tell us that one of their biggest challenges is communicating the vast amount of safety information their clinicians need in an efficient way. The Joint Commission conducted a long-term survey of sentinel events from 2011 through mid-2013 and found that poor communication played a role in 61% (1,584 out of 2,590) of sentinel events over the course of the 2.5 year survey period.

When we talk about improving communication in a hospital system, we have to acknowledge the numerous types of communication physicians, nurses, hospital staff and patients are encountering each day. While there are easy opportunities to improve communication such as speaking up when something doesn’t seem correct, handing off care at shift change, improving teamwork and overcoming language barriers, we’ll focus on the one area that seems to have the biggest impact on patient care – communication of medication safety information to the clinician at the point of care.

Since 1998, we have worked with hospital systems of all sizes across the United States; and have watched how they use medication information in their own facilities. With all these years of observing and working to improve medication safety, we have learned a few things:

  • Make accessible clinical information a priority in your hospital. If you give your clinicians easy access to the information they need to safely and quickly prescribe medicine as part of their workflow, they will use it.
  • Every resource needed should be accessible within two clicks. When you require clinicians to open multiple windows and jump through hoops to get to the information they need, you invite the opportunity for error.
  • Be selective about the information presented. While information is a good thing, too much can be overwhelming and, again, lead to potential error.
  • As more and more health care systems incorporate electronic medical records (EMR) and order entry it is critical to give clinicians quick access to hospital-specific policies and guidelines at the point of care.

Patient safety is one of, if not the most, critical part of what all of us do as health care professionals. Our experience with our own clients tells us that clinicians WANT easy access to medication safety information but are often facing frustration with the process to reach these resources. One physician recently commented to me that he will use the information if it is available but will not go outside the system to seek it.  He, like many other clinicians across the country, is simply stretched too thin to add another five or ten minutes to every order creation.

We have found that once medication safety resources are integrated into the electronic order system through FormWeb, usage of the hospital and referential drug information immediately increases anywhere from 100 to 500 percent!

By creating a system that offers easy access to your hospitals’ clinical information, policies and guidelines, you can vastly improve one of the most difficult parts of the healthcare communications conundrum.

If you’d like more information on how FormWeb can improve your facility’s medication safety, please contact us today.