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Understanding How Transparency and Communication Are Improving The Healthcare Experience

Understanding How Transparency and Communication Are Improving The Healthcare Experience

Tue Feb 14 2017
By: Mike P

About a month ago, I found myself alone in the ER on a Saturday night after an unfortunate encounter between my middle finger and a potato peeler. In reality, my injury was minor in comparison to what you would expect from a typical Saturday in the ER—or so every major medical drama on TV would lead you to believe. I expected some form of orderly chaos, an environment that seemed controlled yet ready to burst with commotion any second. Much to my surprise, the unit felt nothing like that. The emergency room was quite, both the nurses and doctors that attended to my injuries were prepared, etc. Outsiders to the healthcare industry (like myself) are under the impression that there’s supposed to be gunshot wounds and burn victims, turmoil at every corner as nurses and doctors sprint down the hallways—it’s not supposed to be just some 24-year-old guy who doesn’t know how to properly peel a potato! There seemed to be an order to everything, nearly the exact opposite of what you’d see on Greys Anatomy, Scrubs or E.R. Curious to see if this amount of traffic was normal for a Saturday night, I asked my nurse if the ER was usually this quiet. She informed me that they were actually quite busy, with the night’s census being at an all-time high for the week. It wasn’t that this unit was completely devoid of chaos or trauma, but it was clear that staff members knew how to manage their workload properly.

I’ll be the first to attribute the controlled nature of this unit to the hospital’s strategic planning committee. After all, they’re the people that set together plans and strategies to help facilitate leadership, advocacy and quality thought the hospital. It is also worth noting that over the past couple years, a big talking point for the healthcare industry has been the call for greater transparency, which means a collection of different things for different people. For some, this means assuring the best quality care is being provided through referral services and partners, while others seek greater transparency between payers and providers. Accomplishing this satisfactory level of transparency across the board is only possible with the efforts of an entire organization; it has to be a collective effort.

From the few hours I spent in the E.R watching the day-to-day operations of the unit, I noticed many hospital staffers collaborating to resolve and identify patient satisfaction issues. Bedside charts were regularly updated to include a patient’s most recent status, with multiple team members regularly checking-in with patients to ensure nothing had changed. Even the master patient chart—which was located outside the central hub-like office that doctors would regularly retreat to in between patients—was updated after every interaction with a patient. As a result of this enhanced communication, doctors seemed more organized, patients like myself felt prioritized, and the patient flow cycle was (seemingly) reduced. It was as if there was purpose behind every task; there was no such thing as checking in with a patient just because that’s what was expected.

The entire unit functioned like a well-oiled machine, with doctors and nurses briefly communicating in passing, but mostly relying on the help of pre-existing systems—both physical and digital—to lead and guide workflow. While I may have only spent 3-4 hours within the unit, the three way dynamic I observed between doctors, nurses, and patients reminded me of the concept that culture is at the root of an organization’s success.

99.9% of the time, staff behavior can be directly attributed to a business’ preexisting culture—hospitals are no different. Culture has an enormous impact on transparency and how it grows in scope. In order to grow transparency between patients, staff members, and management, you have to start by establishing an open line of communication. Costs, metrics, and procedures should be met with equal levels of clarity, leaving behind any uncertainties that may affect the quality and safety of the care provided.

I can’t help but feel as though transparency was directly addressed within the hospital’s culture based upon my experience from that night. Shortly before my departure, a doctor sat down with me for a considerable amount of time discussing further care and pricing information. My conversation, as with the many additional conversations I observed between the nurses, doctors, and other patients, focused on maintaining transparency was demonstrated at every possible level. The hospital had clearly set standards in place to ensure staff members were both fully enlightened on the situation at hand, and that patient care and comfort were made a priority. While I certainly don’t wish to be returning to an emergency room in the near future, I can only hope that every healthcare facility maintains an equally high level or organization and transparency with their practices.

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