Many involved in healthcare believe patients will receive better care by making the industry more competitive. Some of the problems that healthcare professionals must deal with include rising healthcare costs, increasing patient loads, and inconsistent quality of care. While some believe making healthcare more competitive is the answer, others feel a healthcare platform where healthcare administrators and other healthcare professionals communicate and collaborate might solve some of the issues related to the quality of patient care.
Communication can happen in a few different ways. For instance, verbal (face-to-face oral communication) and non-verbal (body language, facial expressions, and eye contact) are two standard communication modes. However, written communication is still a common form of expression, especially in a day of constant memos and emails. Video conferencing, text messaging, and social media are other electronic forms of communication commonly used in a society where much of communication happens over the digital landscape.
Regardless of the communication style, its use in healthcare is essential for delivering quality care. Below are a few reasons why effective communication among healthcare professionals and their administrators is vital to patients care.
Effective communication prevents caregivers from making mistakes. Administrators who cannot effectively communicate directives to healthcare professionals on the frontline of patient care risk decreasing the quality of care. For one, it can lead to delays in treatment, meaning patients may deal with their conditions for a prolonged time. In a nutshell, a lack of communication or ineffective communication can lead to poor quality patient care.
Set goals and objectives
Every organization must set goals and objectives that lead to accomplishing its mission. Again, healthcare administrators must communicate the organization’s goals and objectives to the healthcare providers who administer care. If the providers do not understand or, for some reason, do not recieve directives from administrators, patient care is impacted. This point is relevant when dealing with federal and state regulations. These guidelines establish benchmarks for patient care. When administrators communicate goals and objectives that align with these standards, the quality of patient care can only improve.
Feeds into positive work environment
Communication is the foundation of relationship building for any organization. In healthcare, effective communication between administrators and providers strengthens relationships within the organization. These relationships build trust among the healthcare team. When coworkers trust one another, they are motivated to work and remain satisfied with their jobs, which improves employee retention for healthcare organizations. Furthermore, communication is an integral part of collaboration among employees.
Communication is also a component of setting the foundation for teamwork. The fast-paced, sometimes hectic environment mandates that healthcare providers work together to achieve the goals and objectives of the organization. Workers who are comfortable communicating with one another develop ways of speaking to each other non-verbally and verbally during times of crisis and of peace. Communication forms the building blocks of creating a rapport with coworkers, encouraging cooperation, and establishing clear communication channels.
Improved patient care
Effective communication translates into quality care for patients throughout the entire healthcare process. When healthcare administrators pass on information to healthcare providers, they follow directions to ensure that treatments are safe for patients. Healthcare administrators should clearly share information about a patient’s condition or care, prognosis, and treatment and help carry out any directives by the way they communicate with clinical workers. Furthermore, this communication allows healthcare providers to carry out comprehensive care for the patient.
Common communication barriers and how to overcome them
Communication barriers can arise from so many different places in the healthcare environment. For instance, miscommunication can come from things as innocuous as healthcare professionals working varied shifts. A nurse coming off a shift must communicate, usually electronically or written, to other healthcare staff coming on shift and onto the floor about the care patients receive that day. Not talking directly to the person presents chances for miscommunication to arise.
Other obstacles to excellent communication include technology. While some might be comfortable with communicating through email and instant messaging, others might only use this mode of communication, which presents problems if professionals do not respond to critical messages. Finally, the hierarchical structure in healthcare makes it rife for miscommunication. Hierarchy can be problematic when the healthcare professional needs to speak with an administrator but must first talk with supervisors under that administrator. Depending on the needs of the professional, the healthcare provider might not get their needs met promptly.
Administrators can address these obstacles in a few ways. Healthcare managers must first review their communication protocols to find communication barriers. This review should focus on strengths and weaknesses to assess how teams and individuals communicate.
Get everyone on board with using technology as a communication tool. For example, in addition to requiring employees to use their professional email accounts, healthcare organizations can set up a digital hub, such as Slack, Teams, etc., where employees communicate regarding personal and professional issues. Also, healthcare organizations should provide professional development on email and instant messaging for employees uncomfortable with technology. This professional development might also cover appropriate and inappropriate uses of tools at work.
Administrators and leaders should also plan to spend one-on-one face time with healthcare providers. These individual meetings are chances to connect with each staff member and also contribute to establishing a positive work culture. These interactions might allow staff members to voice their concerns and engender an open communication environment.
Communication is the grease that makes collaboration work for any organization. Collaboration is a key to problem-solving, peer learning, and innovation for any successful organization. More importantly, the success of the individual in an organization is based primarily on their ability to collaborate with others. Collaboration opens the doors to opportunities and is controlled by every stakeholder in the group.
In healthcare, the collaboration stakes are higher because this industry deals with human health. Collaboration within healthcare has always been essential, but since the Institute of Medicine established team-based care as a component of quality healthcare, collaboration among healthcare professionals, from the very top to the bottom provider, has been a priority. Collaboration’s benefit to healthcare appears in several areas of the industry.
· Collaboration reduces medical errors
Communication gaps that culminate in misdiagnosis, missed symptoms, and medication errors happen when healthcare professionals do not work with one another. Remember, physicians see hundreds of patients, prescribing medications to treat various conditions. Then, nurses must follow the doctor’s orders in delivering those prescriptions to patients. While the physician leaves notes for the nurse, the two healthcare professionals must verbally communicate with one another, connecting with the pharmacist to ensure that everyone is in the loop in helping the patient. Ultimately, collaboration can prevent/reduce adverse reactions, decrease mortality rates, and optimize medication dosages.
· Collaboration reduces treatment delays
Anyone who has visited a hospital/clinic/healthcare center knows that much of healthcare involves waiting. The patient waits to see the physician. If the patient must have a lab, then the patient and physician wait for the lab results. If the patient must consult with another doctor within a specialty, that is more time the patient spends waiting.
Collaboration plays a role in bridging communication gaps within organizations and, in some cases, externally. A healthcare administrator who implements a program that integrates technology makes it possible for healthcare professionals to access information about the patient from an electronic health record if the physician has not left notes in the patient’s file. This technology also becomes helpful when waiting for lab results because the system alerts all providers in the healthcare chain when results are available.
· Collaboration reduces inefficiencies and costs
Reducing errors and improving the patient experience have other outcomes for the healthcare organization that include reducing inefficiencies and costs. Collaboration between physicians and nurses decreases the length of hospital stays and increases the number of discharges before noon. Furthermore, collaboration has impacts on reducing surgical start time delays, and in one instance, it saved the hospital several hundred hours.
The healthcare administrator’s role in communication and collaboration with other healthcare professionals
While collaboration in healthcare is most widely seen on the front lines of team-based, patient-centered care, healthcare administrators play a vital role in communicating and collaborating with these teams. Below are a few ways healthcare administrators might interact with healthcare professionals.
· Team builder
The administrator is, first and foremost, the professional who sets the tone and culture for the organization. In healthcare, the administrator might be in charge of providing structure for how healthcare professionals work and communicate with each other. Not only do they provide this structure, they routinely oversee these teams to make sure they work for the patient and the healthcare organization.
· Problem solver
The healthcare administrator also plays a huge role in solving many of the problems that arise within these teams. Some of the best healthcare administrators collaborate with each other in and outside of the healthcare community to devise long-term solutions to problems their teams might be facing. In addition to reaching out to others to solve problems, these professionals are adept at finding strengths within individual team members to come up with viable solutions to solving problems.
The healthcare administrator is also a resource for team members. When teams need new technology, it is the administrator who has access to the funding and the resources to help providers with deploying care more effectively. This professional is also the head of establishing community-wide programs and serves as a bridge between residents and the healthcare organization.
The healthcare administrator also can be a resource to subordinates. For example, a nurse who wants to move into administration might benefit from a mentoring relationship. Here, the nurse can ask for information about working in the job and steps to take to get into administration.
How healthcare administrators can integrate collaboration in the workplace
As stated previously, healthcare administrators build teams to accomplish the hospital’s mission. Some of the most successful administrators become adept at removing barriers to positive organizational culture. For example, the typical meeting characterizes the business.
At the same time, meetings can be the number one killer of creating a proactive work culture. Yes, discussion is very important, but administrators are deluged by meetings, one meeting turning into many others administrators attend. Administrators do not have to omit meetings from the workday completely, but administrators should sometimes engage with employees using action-oriented activities, such as visiting hospital floors and applying topics in meetings to work done on the ward.
Transparency is another critical tool that forms the bond that collaboration creates. In many instances, departments and teams do not have the opportunity to share what they are doing. For one, if team and department heads are not open about how they provide care, then it makes it difficult for administrators to make appropriate decisions regarding helping teams deliver the best care to patients.
At the same time, administrators must hold their subordinates accountable for the safety and care of patients. This accountability can make it difficult to get information from people who might hesitate to speak up for fear of punishment. However, if done in a way that encourages teams to improve their performance, administrators build the foundation for establishing trust between them and their subordinates. Below is an example of the importance of collaboration for healthcare administrators and how transparency plays a tremendous role in creating hospital organizations that deliver better care and lower costs.
A case study: how collaboration works for healthcare organizations and patients
A case study involving a program that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan deployed illustrates the importance of communication and collaboration between healthcare administrators and other healthcare professionals. The BMC2 Cardiovascular Consortium program set about establishing a way for hospitals to better assist patients with cardiovascular conditions. The Consortium initially deployed the program across five hospitals but expanded the program to over 50 hospitals.
This program involved these hospitals in sharing information regarding treatment methods, the number of patients in each hospital with the condition, and the technology each hospital used to treat the condition (whether it was the best technology). The collaboration brought transparency and an opportunity for the participating organizations to identify performance gaps, devise solutions, and deploy new practices.
Furthermore, an unintended impact, the hospitals began to view other hospitals in the organization as collaborators instead of competitors. If one hospital figured out a strategy for reducing infection rates after surgery, it became a chance to help others do the same. When another hospital deployed a successful smoking cessation program, it was an opportunity to show other hospitals the strategies they used to help smokers quit.
The Consortium saw reductions across the board. Specifically, cardiovascular care reduced bleeding complications by 51 percent, and organizations saw a 23 percent decrease in surgical on-site infections after surgery. Furthermore, the Consortium study saw a reduction in prescribing unnecessary antibiotics, and this particular result led to changes in the national guidelines. The Consortium study found that collaboration culminated in keeping people out of the hospital, preventing complications, and reducing unnecessary care, which saved the hospitals an estimated $1.4 billion in healthcare costs. In fact, a Rand Corporation study found that healthcare costs in Michigan are some of the lowest in the US. Because of these successes, Illinois and Wisconsin have followed the Michigan program and have implemented similar collaborations.
How can you play a role in healthcare administration?
The opportunity is there for both students embarking on a career in health and some business majors to become healthcare administrators. Healthcare administration is also open to career health professionals looking to advance their careers. A few roles in healthcare administration are chief nursing officer, nursing home administrator, health information technology specialist, and hospital administrator, among several others.
The career and educational landscape are such that working in this area of healthcare is accessible to anyone with the drive and desire to receive education and training. Prospective healthcare administrators can attend both online and face-to-face programs that prepare them. For example, healthcare professionals in the Executive Master’s of Health Administration program receive education and training to understand the needs of the healthcare industry but from a business management perspective.
Students and career professionals interested in pursuing this degree should consider their local career center for guidance into what career to choose. Students enrolled in a college or university program should consider visiting the career center, which is typically free to students. Here, students can not only get guidance in choosing an appropriate career, but they can also get assistance with drafting a resume letter and preparing for their interviews.
Communication and collaboration form a formidable team that can transform organizations. While many industries choose to implement them to encourage productivity among colleagues, communication and collaboration are vital components of providing patients quality care, from the minute the patient enters the hospital to when they leave. More than just creating a comfortable company culture for everyone, communication and collaboration reduce inefficiencies. In the long run, making processes and people work more efficiently has cost-saving impacts. More importantly, they make it easier than ever before for healthcare providers to offer quality patient care.