Healthcare workers communicate for better teamwork.
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May 24, 2018
    Article highlights
  • The importance of communication in healthcare.
  • Types of communication methods for the healthcare organization.
  • How to improve your communication skills.

In healthcare organizations, communication efforts are often aimed at patients and outside partners.

It can be easy to overlook the importance of effective communication among internal team members.

But internal communication in healthcare is just as important – if not more important – than external communication.

Effective communication between team members is essential to making sure operations run smoothly and patients get the care they need.

It’s also key for healthcare organizations to have efficient methods of communication between management and staff.

Leaders must be able to quickly distribute things such as policies, procedures, and compliance regulations and make sure employees read and understand them.

Keeping these lines of communication open will help reduce liability risks and ensure that staff members have the information they need to do their jobs well.

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Importance of Communication in Healthcare

Internal communication in healthcare is a huge factor in shaping an organization’s culture. How staff members communicate shows the organization’s true core values and determine how employees transfer and receive knowledge.

In the healthcare industry, regulations and processes are constantly evolving. Effective internal communication is essential to ensure that every staff member stays up to speed.

Here are just a few of the benefits of improved internal communication in healthcare:

Better collaboration and teamwork

Without effective communication, healthcare workers end up making decisions individually instead of as a team. This can be detrimental.

Studies have shown that roughly 85% of workplace errors are the result of communication failures.

On the other hand, good internal communication in healthcare fosters teamwork and collaboration.

Several studies have shown that good communication increases employee engagement and productivity. Effective internal communication ensures that every employee knows their role and responsibilities.

Improved patient care

Depending on the case and the type of healthcare facility, a patient may interact with many different healthcare professionals in the course of their care.

As one nurse handbook points out:

During the course of a four-day hospital stay, a patient may interact with 50 different employees, including physicians, nurses, technicians, and others. Effective clinical practice thus involves many instances where critical information must be accurately communicated. Team collaboration is essential.

When health care professionals are not communicating effectively, patient safety is at risk for several reasons: lack of critical information, misinterpretation of information, unclear orders over the telephone, and overlooked changes in status.

Effective internal communication is an essential part of high-quality patient care.

Three healthcare workers discuss internal communication needs.

When employees are communicating well and collaborating with their team, every member of the care team will understand the goal of care for each patient.

They will be able to pick up where the last team member left off and create a seamless, consistent experience for the patient.

Improved compliance with changes

In healthcare, things are constantly changing. Healthcare organizations must constantly review and update policies to account for new industry regulations, updated accreditation requirements, or internal process changes.

When changes come, effective internal communication is key to conveying these changes to employees.

Good communication ensures that the changes are implemented quickly and consistently across the organization.

Team communication leads to employee satisfaction

Effective internal communication in healthcare helps employees feel connected to their co-workers and the organization. This sense of connection leads to higher levels of employee satisfaction and engagement.

According to studies by Watson Wyatt Worldwide, “engaged employees are twice as likely to be top performers, miss 20% fewer days of work than their less engaged counterparts, are more supportive of organizational change, and have lower turnover rates.”

Satisfied and engaged employees also improve outcomes. According to a Gallup survey of public companies, organizations with highly engaged employees “outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share.”

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Different Types of Communication Methods for the Healthcare Organization

Healthcare organizations are complex. With many different departments, changing staff shifts, and strict industry regulations, it can be difficult to communicate quickly and effectively.

Healthcare professionals have many different methods of communicating with team members and patients.

Verbal

Verbal communication is perhaps the most common and straightforward method. This can involve things such as staff meetings, performance meetings, and other formal conversations.

But verbal communication also includes the sort of informal conversations that occur when employees are on break or passing one another in the hallway.

It’s important for healthcare organizations to take all forms of verbal communication into account when developing a plan for how to improve communication in healthcare.

How employees talk to each other in both formal and informal settings is an important part of workplace culture. And clear, respectful verbal communication is especially crucial in patient interactions.

Written

Communication in healthcare is not always as simple as just calling a meeting or spreading information by word of mouth.

While verbal communication is important, healthcare organizations must produce formal, written records for many aspects of operations.

Written policies and procedures create a basis for effective operations by ensuring employees know what’s expected of them and understand how to perform essential tasks.

Compiling policies in a formalized employee manual will allow employees to easily refer to correct procedures. And, of course, patient records and charts are vital for effectively transferring information between staff members caring for the patient.

Healthcare organizations must emphasize the importance of accurately and thoroughly documenting patient files. Accurate records impact everything from medicine dosage to patient billing. Thorough patient charts can reduce the risk of medical errors or liability due to billing mistakes.

However, just as with verbal communication, healthcare organizations should also take great care with the less formal aspects of written communication.

Things such as emails and memos are important aspects of workplace communication and culture, as well.

Doctors and administrations work together to ensure teamwork.

Non-verbal

In doctor-patient interactions, how the doctor acts is often more important than what the doctor says.

Things such as facial expressions, body posture, and tone of voice make all the difference in how the patient views the interaction – regardless of what was conveyed verbally.

Non-verbal communication cues are also important in internal communication in healthcare. Employees need to feel accepted and appreciated by their supervisors and co-workers.

Non-verbal cues are a huge part of helping both employees and patients feel comfortable within a healthcare facility.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Healthcare Workers

Even for experienced healthcare workers, good communication skills may not always come easily. Here are some practical ideas for how to improve communication in healthcare:

Practice, practice, practice

Often, the first step in improving internal communication is simply to take a step back and assess the current state of communication.

How do staff members tend to communicate most often? Are there any trends in the type of information or settings where miscommunication happens? How are new regulations and policies communicated?

Organizations should solicit feedback and advice on ways to fix communication issues and improve internal communication overall.

Implementing new methods and patterns of communication will require time and effort, but it will pay off in the end.

Clarity from managers and administrators

Good internal communication starts at the top. When managers and administrators clearly communicate goals and expectations, employees can understand how to work toward those goals.

Effective communication is strategic.

Healthcare leaders should take great care with how they communicate through meetings, emails, memos, and policy manuals.

Software tools can often help with written communications.

Document management software can allow leaders to collaborate on policies and procedures, and communicate about how to implement changes in the facility.

Two doctors collaborate on an internal communication do for their healthcare facility.

Use technology to streamline formal communication

Technology tools can help organizations rethink how to improve communication in healthcare.

With a document management software, managers can set automatic reminders about team meetings and employee performance reviews.

They can distribute new policies and procedures to all staff members with just the click of a button, and track electronic signatures to make sure employees read the updates.

Training software can also help ensure that employees understand and retain the information they need.

Online training content allows leaders to communicate important information in multiple formats, which can be more effective than delivering training via a classroom lecture.

Storing essential policies, procedures, and training in one central location allows employees to easily access the information they need. It provides more opportunities for effective and clear internal communication.

Effective internal communication in healthcare is an essential part of improving operations and increasing the quality of care.

If an organization has healthy internal communication, it will naturally flow over into how staff members communicate with and care for patients.

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