High Mortality Rates Caused by Poor Communication

Posted on December 12, 2012. Filed under: Communication, Post By Christy Whipple |

nurseGood medical care depends upon effective communication between patients and providers.

According to an Institute of Medicine report, an alarming 44,000 to 98,000 patients die each year in the United States as a result of preventable medical errors in the inpatient setting. Unfortunately, patient safety remains at sub-optimal levels, due in large part to ineffective communication between patients and healthcare staff.

Consequences of Poor Communication

Good medical care depends upon effective communication between patients and providers. Ineffective communication can lead to improper diagnosis and delayed or improper medical treatment. In an analysis of more than 3,000 sentinel events, the Joint Commission found that nearly two-thirds (approximately 65 percent) were caused by poor communication.

Solutions for Improving Communication

The Joint Commission recommends developing suitable communication materials, brochures, booklets, and unpretentious consent forms that use simple text, large print, and picture symbols. Translate forms and instructional materials into other languages. The Joint Commission also states that C-level professionals can take the lead in promoting effective communication between patients and hospital staff in meaningful and effective ways that ensure respect for individual differences.

According to the Institute of Medicine, health care organizations need to develop a “culture of safety” so that personnel and processes focus on improving reliability and safety. However, despite good intentions and some improvements, many institutions still do not have a culture of safety.

Effective communication with persons who have limited English proficiency, as well as persons who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, often requires interpreters or other services. Many hospitals are actively taking steps to address these needs. However, hospitals face increasing challenges to meet the communication needs of an increasingly diverse population.

Resources and Implementation

The Joint Commission offers a tool titled Advancing Effective Communication, Cultural Competence, and Patient- and Family-Centered Care: A Roadmap for Hospitals. It is a resource to help health care providers learn to communicate with patients so that each understands the other, regardless of cultural or linguistic differences, sensory impairments, or limitations on ability to communicate via natural speech.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently released the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy, which encourages the government, health care providers, and others to improve how health information is shared and used.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has established health literacy as a universal precaution as a way to minimize risks to patients. The health care reform law includes provisions regarding the use of plain language and culturally appropriate language in health-related information about insurance and other health issues.

Introcomm offers an innovative communication tool designed to connect patients with their healthcare provider. This comprehensive tool kit allows patients to record symptoms, medications and other important information. The solution also guides the patient to ask channeled questions about their care and to provide beneficial information to their medical caregiver.

Regardless of practice setting or client population, clinicians need to improve how they-and their colleagues-communicate with patients. Besides being ethical and appropriate, patient-centered communication is also a requirement under new and pending laws, regulations, and standards

Introcomm provides custom communications solutions for the admissions and discharge processes. To learn more about how Introcomm can assist your hospital with HCAHPS, patient experience, and improved communations (with little to no additional out of pocket expense), please contact us today to schedule our complimentary educational webinar.


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