Communication is essential to the delivery of care, as it can help improve healthcare experiences and outcomes for patients. However, effective and timely communication between healthcare professionals can be difficult to achieve.
In a survey of Canadian healthcare facilities, colleges, and associations, 25% of respondents said that communication is a challenge. In addition, the survey revealed that 21% of paper or fax requests for consultation receive no response from specialists. What’s causing these problems, and how can healthcare professionals use technology to overcome them?
Below, we’ll discuss why opening the lines of communication matters and outline what physicians can do to engage with pharmacists and other providers more effectively.
The power of provider-to-provider communication.
When healthcare providers are able to communicate with each other, everyone benefits. For instance, direct communication can ensure that information is shared accurately and completely so that nothing falls through the cracks. This is critical since not all patients have the same level of health literacy, and some may struggle to share their concerns or the results of previous consultations.
Imagine that a patient needs help managing their diabetes. A family physician could let an endocrinologist know that the patient recently lost a family member, which resulted in their diet worsening; with that information, an endocrinologist can make a more informed decision about the patient’s medication and treatment plan. When primary care physicians and specialists communicate directly, continuity of care can improve.
Provider-to-provider communication can also help to promote better health outcomes. By gaining a full picture of a patient’s health — for example, through the sharing of relevant lab results, medical information, relevant photos, or investigations that have been done — physicians are empowered to make more informed decisions. In addition, communication among healthcare teams can help reduce the likelihood of errors and misunderstandings.
Finally, communication is closely intertwined with more efficient care. When primary care physicians and specialists clearly communicate and have a full understanding of a patient’s medical history, they can make the best use of their time and their patient’s time during appointments.
Why communication is a challenge in healthcare.
The healthcare ecosystem is complex, with multiple different stakeholders and different workflows. And historically, communication technology has been limited. While healthcare professionals have made great strides in adopting tools and solutions to help improve communication in recent years — especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic — many barriers remain:
Communication is constantly evolving.
According to Alison Foster, Senior Healthcare Business Consultant at TELUS Health, one of the greatest obstacles is the pace at which our methods of communication are transforming. “It’s becoming more complex. There are so many moving parts, and getting everyone on the same page is very challenging,” she explains.
Healthcare systems are hesitant to change.
At the same time, the healthcare system often tries to maintain the status quo in order to minimize harm to physicians and patients. When it comes to adopting new technologies, this puts everyone in a difficult position.
Tools aren’t interoperable.
With clinics and facilities using different systems, interoperability is another barrier to effective communication. As a result, finding ways to link today’s top solutions and enhance connectivity and communication has become a major focus for healthcare professionals and health technology companies.
How to enhance provider-to-provider communication.
The good news is there is a wealth of digital tools and technologies that physicians and other healthcare professionals can leverage to help improve communication:
- EMR add-ons like MedDialog can streamline communication and increase continuity of care by allowing physicians to exchange unlimited digital and eFax communications. Physicians can send electronic referrals, consultation requests, lab results, treatment plans, and more.
- E-prescription services like PrescribeIT® can be used to send prescriptions from EMRs directly to a pharmacy of a patient’s choice, enhancing communication and preventing the delays associated with faxes. Likewise, eRenewal enables physicians and pharmacists to renew prescriptions electronically, helping to improve efficiency and continuity of care.
- New technologies like the TELUS Collaborative Health Record (CHR) can help physicians manage everything from schedules and bills to prescriptions, lab requests, and encounter notes. It can also help physicians to send standardized data and documents with referrals, reducing back and forth. “The creation of the CHR was all about having a solution that could adapt to how healthcare is being delivered now,” says Foster. “Everything within the tool is focused on increasing communication and collaboration among providers, as well as between patients and providers.” Instant chat capabilities, for instance, allow for real-time communication between physicians, specialists, and other healthcare professionals.
The way forward.
Successful communication among providers can help to enhance patient experiences, quality of care, and health outcomes. By addressing barriers and embracing innovative tools and technologies, healthcare professionals can help improve the lines of communication amongst themselves and help elevate care across the health continuum.