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by Olesya Krystynyak

Patient First: Communication Flow in Healthcare

Communication flow patterns in healthcare should be patient-centered. New models of collaboration may streamline clinical workflows and coordinate care units more efficiently, significantly contributing to in-time notification, more efficient tracking, and prompt responding.

My previous article shed light on medical software and the interface errors in healthcare apps. It also highlighted the role of information flow in the context of entire healthcare system. The article triggered a lot of comments and instigated the current article: Communication Flow in Healthcare.

Communication Flow Models

Healthcare staff spend a great deal of time communicating in a work day/week/month. In order to facilitate the process of data flow, we apply two different models:

The first model is based on communication with healthcare staff. Cases require multi- level contact of healthcare employees. For example: a doctor needs to communicate with the nurses from the previous shift about patient’s condition regarding the medical treatment; or a surgeon needs expert advice from another specialist. Directly contacting the employee is a more efficient method of communication, especially in geographically dispersed facilities and varying shifts.

The second model calls for reconsidering the medical system where a patient is the center of the case. For example, a patient with all the doctors and departments involved in a case with only one person under medical treatment. In this case, it would be smart to create a group chat for each patient where healthcare practitioners are added in order of their involvement in the treatment process. In this case, if there are 4 shifts of nurses taking care of one patient, each of them should be well-informed about the previous day ongoings: dose of medicines assigned and consumed, all the possible analysis results, and details of the surgical procedures. In turn, this chat may serve as a full-fledged medical record for the patient. Additionally, the most critical items such as symptoms, reason of admission, tests results, allergies, and previous treatments could be collected as a separate medical record.

Patient Admission Flow

Taking into account the previous model, here’s how patient admission should look in these communication models. While the patient is still in the ambulance, the following steps should be taken.

  1. Before a patient arrives all the necessary data is already there (e.g., insurance number, symptoms, field tests and observations).
  2. A registered nurse (RN) conducts a prompt assessment of patient’s condition and maps the order of treatment in the file.
  3. In the ER a physician and RN can review and edit information about current medical history (complaints, when it started, how it evolved, etc.)
  4. Add physician orders (fabs, EKG, x-ray, MRI, CT, ultrasound, blood/urine tests, etc.)
  5. Notate physician treatments orders (if the patient’s condition is stable).
  6. If the patient is administrative, a unit clerk files the document for the patient to be transported to the proper department. The transportation team moves the patient to the assigned department, where a RN checks the vital signs and follows physician’s orders in the file.

This is not a guideline, but rather a sample, since healthcare is personal and cases differ.

In general, a properly arranged communication flow saves time, maintains direct contact between specialists, and provides the most up to date information, in turn, making healthcare more professional and collaborative.