Poor communication between the departments can have drastic effects on any institution. Its magnitude is even more severe in the healthcare system. While miscommunication can cause wrong diagnosis of a patient, in some cases the severity can even lead to accidents such as serious health complications or death. Therefore, it is important to enlarge our viewpoint upon different factors that lead to lack of communication between medical participants in the same hospital or a healthcare institution.

The reality of the healthcare system signifies that the real implication of miscommunication falls on the individual patient, when missing or incomplete information exchanged between different tiers of medical participants may lead to diagnostic errors and serious medical mistakes.

Intrinsically, miscommunication between the medical participants translate to lack of coordination between the workers engaged in heterogeneous objectives, cobbling up dissimilar data and delivering incomplete information to the relevant departments.

Reasons for Poor Communication

The most prominent cause for poor communication between the different medical workers can be attributed to lapse in communication between the patients and the doctors. Other than that, miscommunication occurs when patient records are transferred from one department to another. It has been observed that record handlers and the employees engaged in transfer of information from one department to another can cause this lapse. This fundamental cause leads to incorrect or incomplete transfer of information that eventually results in poor medical treatment of the patient.

Besides, the isolation that exists in every single medical department disintegrates the overall coordination and cooperation in the whole institution. For example, a patient who has to undergo a surgery, requires a recommendation from the specialist who transfers the patient’s record to the particular surgeon. Further, the records are also required by the anaesthesiologist who has to verify if the patient is allergic to any drug for inducing anaesthesia. Due to the complex nature of information exchange in the healthcare system, poor communication can lead to a number of medical errors.

Often, there are some areas where communication lapses are generally not noticed. One such area is the interaction between two physicians, also called as physician-physician interactions. Any communication difference between two physicians diagnosing a same patient can pose a hindrance in the medical progress. The effect of poor physician-physician communication falter even more when one of the physicians fail to analyse the exact reason of referral to other consultants. It has been found that many physicians neglect any direct engagement with the other physicians diagnosing the same patient, which can cause various complications in the patient’s health condition.

Side Effects of Poor Communication

As stated earlier, poor communication between the medical participants can lead to medical errors. Additionally, with the inclusion of extra participants in the communication channel, the risk of error increases. Intrinsically, maximum communication errors take place during the transfer of patient information between different caregivers. Any instance of incomplete exchange of information can lead to: wrong treatment procedure, treatment delays, and delivery of incorrect medication to the patient. Thus, such instances can have grave consequences for the patient which may lead to severe health complications or even death.

Ways to Prevent Poor Communication

The most important step to reduce the instances of poor communication is by increasing the transparency during data sharing between different medical departments. Generally, miscommunication in hospitals occurs during change of shifts, when one caregiver conveys incomplete or partial information about the patient such as: information about allergies, side-effects, and other types of critical information.

To ease up the communication between the medical participants, it must be made sure that different departments are able to collaborate with each other to minimize diagnostic errors. A clear set of objectives must be predetermined to avoid any hindrances in the medical treatment of a patient. This includes setting predetermined roles for each department and ensuring clear channels of communication between them.

By adopting this approach, overall medical costs can be decreased while the patient outcomes with respect to healthcare facilities can be improved. Besides, this approach can also be implemented outside of the healthcare institution as well, to catalyse collaboration between insurance providers and policymakers.

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Dr. Kain is a Chancellor’s Professor, a senior healthcare executive, an anaesthesiologist, and paediatrician who has an extensive background in transformational operations management in hospitals and operating rooms. He previously served as the Associate Dean of Clinical Operations and Chair of Anaesthesiology at UC Irvine Health and Professor and Chief of Children’s Anaesthesia at Yale University.

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