How to improve communication in healthcare with technology?

Today, technology plays a vital role in both our personal and work lives. Technology is gradually becoming the foundation of every industry’s core functioning, including healthcare. With the emergence of new technologies in the healthcare industry, more and more lives are being saved. Technology is undoubtedly revolutionizing healthcare. But, is it covering every aspect of this industry?

Even though technology’s assistance benefits doctors and patients in many ways, there are still many significant gaps in the healthcare industry, leading to costly and fatal results. One such considerable gap is in healthcare communication.

In 2019, the World Health Organization stated that the risk of preventable patient deaths is estimated to be 1 in 300.

Poor communication can be a contributing element to poor quality healthcare that leads to preventable patient deaths. According to a study conducted in the late 1990s, poor communication was responsible for 44000 – 98000 patients deaths per year in American hospitals.

Technology can be an absolute solution to the problem of poor communication in healthcare. Various technologies can be implemented with current healthcare practices to achieve effective communication in this industry.

This article will help you understand how technology can improve communication in healthcare sector. But before that, it is crucial to understand the ramifications of poor communication in healthcare and why good communication is important.

We shall answer the following questions in this article:

  1. What are the effects of poor communication in healthcare?
  2. Why is effective communication important in healthcare?
  3. How can technology improve communication in healthcare?

Let’s start by understanding the effects of poor communication in healthcare.

What are the effects of poor communication in healthcare?

Poor communication has adverse effects in all industries. However, unlike other sectors, ineffective communication in healthcare can lead to many patient deaths. 

Whether it is poor communication among healthcare professionals or between patients and doctors, the effects are dreadful. 

The effects of poor communication in healthcare are divided into two categories:

  • Effects of poor communication among healthcare professionals are:
    • Increased casualties
    • Poor organization
    • Low productivity
    • Poor patient care
  • Effects of poor communication between healthcare professionals and patients are:
    • Poor patient experience
    • Irregular follow-ups
    • Wrong diagnoses and prescriptions
    • Incorrect recommendations

Effects of poor communication among healthcare professionals

  1. Increased Casualties

    Poor communication in healthcare has proven to be a major contributor to increased preventable casualties. Miscommunication among nurses or nurses and doctors about specific patient conditions can lead to the patient’s death.

    For example, suppose a nurse forgets to tell the doctor about a patient’s allergic reaction to the medicine during her shift. When the doctor arrives later, he may prescribe the same medication to the patient, which may lead to harsh consequences.

  2. Poor Organization

    When there isn’t regular communication between the healthcare staff, the patient’s records won’t be stored in an organized manner.

    In a healthcare center, medical professionals check up on a patient according to their shifts. Each professional may have a new update, which they pen down on a paper and later forget about, due to a busy schedule. This practice leads to a lot of scattered information instead of storing it in an organized manner. 

  3. Low Productivity

    Poor communication among healthcare professionals will lead to low productivity as:
    1. the information of already performed tests may not be shared. 
    2. reports may not be circulated. 
    3. miscommunication may lead to repetitive tasks.
  4. Poor Patient Care

    All errors that occur in the healthcare system ultimately lead to poor patient care. It is essential for healthcare institutes to ensure good quality care for patients. Healthcare institutes cannot provide good quality patient care as long as they don’t have an efficient communication system. Healthcare professionals need to communicate effectively to decide what’s best for the patient.

Effects of poor communication between healthcare professionals and patients

  1. Poor Patient Experience

    Poor patient experiences are prevalent where the communication between healthcare professionals and patients isn’t proper. Good patient experiences require a system where patients have the freedom to express their concerns and effectively communicate all medical issues, along with receiving top-quality healthcare services. 
  2. Irregular Follow-Ups

    Healthcare professionals have hectic schedules. Hence, they unintentionally forget about maintaining regular follow-ups with their patients.  Irregular follow-ups may lead to unnecessary delays in treatment.
  3. Wrong Diagnoses and Prescriptions

    If the patient and the doctor’s communication isn’t smooth, the doctor may not be fully aware of their medical history. Without an accurate record of the patient’s conditions and problems, the doctor may perform the wrong diagnoses and prescribe the inappropriate medications, which can have profound implications.
  4. Incorrect Recommendations

    Patients’ medical records are vital and need to be securely shared among all healthcare team members. It is crucial to record the latest data correctly to provide exemplary patient care. Inconsistent data sharing can lead to unsuitable recommendations of treatments or medications for the patient, which may have dire implications.

Why is effective communication important in the healthcare sector?

It is essential to have a smooth, systematic and precise way of communication between the doctor and the patients, and among the healthcare professionals as well. 

Effective communication among healthcare professionals is important because of the following reasons:

  1. Patient safety
  2. Team satisfaction and efficiency
  3. Reduced casualties
  4. Good quality patient care
  5. Organized medical records management

Effective communication between healthcare professionals and patients is important because of the following reasons:

  1. Patient satisfaction
  2. Transparency
  3. Patient loyalty
  4. Regular follow-ups
  5. Informed recommendations

Importance of Effective Communication Among Healthcare Professionals

  • Patient Safety
    Patient safety is the topmost concern of a healthcare team. In a healthcare center, patient safety is entirely in the hands of healthcare professionals. Effective communication helps the healthcare team to ensure that the patient is completely safe, medications are being given correctly, and good quality care is provided.
  • Team Satisfaction and Efficiency
    Effective communication among the members of the healthcare team will lead to:
    • Better team relationships
    • Less job turnover
    • Greater work satisfaction
    • Better organization

    All of these factors enhance team satisfaction and efficiency.

  • Reduced Casualties
    As discussed earlier in this article, the rate of preventable casualties due to poor communication skills is very high in the healthcare sector. By improving the communication among healthcare employees, the rate of avoidable deaths can be reduced, more lives can be saved and patient safety can increase.
  • Good Quality Patient Care
    Good quality patient care is a goal that many healthcare institutes fail to achieve. One reason for the inability to provide good quality patient care is a lack of effective communication. The patients should not feel that there are any gaps or holes in their care process. Hence, it is essential for the healthcare team to effectively communicate about all the patient’s issues to achieve the aim of providing good quality patient care.
  • Organized Medical Record Management
    Managing medical records of patients in an organized manner is a task with which most healthcare professionals struggle. There are many stakeholders involved in the healthcare process of a patient. Hence, it is a very tedious yet crucial task to keep the records updated and organized. When there is a lack of effective communication, medical records are not updated regularly or stored securely. Every patient’s medical information is very critical. Hence, it is essential to establish effective communication methods in healthcare teams to facilitate the records’ organized management.

Importance of Effective Communication between Healthcare Professionals and Patients

  1. Patient Satisfaction
    Patient Satisfaction is achieved when everything in the healthcare process is carried out efficiently and up to the patient’s expectations. Patients expect that their healthcare team would:
    • be attentive to problems
    • conduct regular follow-ups
    • provide updated reports on their progress
    • provide proper explanations for every step of the healthcare process
    • regularly update prescriptions
    • securely manage medical records
    • offer good quality care

    It is only possible if the healthcare team regularly communicates with the patient and focuses on their expectations and needs.

  2. Transparency

    People invest a lot of money in the healthcare industry to receive the best quality healthcare services. Hence, they expect that the complete process should be transparent. If a patient knows everything from the pricing structure to the reasons behind their medications, they feel included and satisfied. It generates patient loyalty and a good brand image.

    Transparency can be maintained if healthcare professionals regularly interact with their patients to update them about all the procedures, diagnoses and changes in their treatment routines.

  3. Regular Follow-Ups

    Regular follow-ups are important because:

    • They help to determine if the patient is following the recommended treatment properly.
    • They help to ensure if the patient is taking the prescriptions regularly.
    • They help to find out if the patient is having any adverse reactions to a medication.
    • They help to figure out if a change in the prescription or treatment is required.
  4. Informed Recommendations 

    When the medical team is entirely up to date with the patient’s medical history and the latest medical developments, they can offer better treatment and prescription recommendations. However, staying up-to-date with the patient’s medical condition is only possible when the team regularly communicates with the patient and effectively listen to the patient’s inputs.

How can technology improve communication in the healthcare sector?

Technologies are entering and reforming the healthcare sector continuously. Technologies that are easy to learn, handy and customizable can immensely improve communication in healthcare. 

Six technologies that can ensure effective communication in healthcare sector are:

  1. Electronic Health Records (EHRs)
  2. Telemedicine
  3. Blockchain Technology
  4. Cloud Computing
  5. E-Prescriptions
  6. Remote Patient Monitoring

Electronic Medical Records (EHRs)

Electronic Health Records are digitized records of patients that easily and quickly make their medical data available to the authorized people. Today, electronic health records are a significant part of the healthcare industry. They include the following details about the patient:

  1. Medical history
  2. Diagnoses
  3. Medications
  4. Treatment plans
  5. Immunization dates
  6. Allergies
  7. Radiology images
  8. Test results

What are the key features of Electronic Health Records? 

Three key features of electronic health records are:

  1. They can be updated and managed only by authorized providers.
  2. They are built in a digital format.
  3. They enable the sharing of information across different healthcare organizations.

How do Electronic Health Records improve communication in the healthcare sector? 

Let us understand this with the help of an example.

Suppose there is a diabetic patient named Sasha. Her diabetologist stores all of her medical records, blood sugar levels, medications prescribed, etc. in the format of a digital document on his server. The only people allowed access to the document are the doctor’s team and Sasha herself. It assures her that all her medical data is secure and regular updates are being made by authorized personnel only.

Also, if she wishes to change her doctor in the future, she doesn’t have to go through the tedious task of getting all her medical records from her previous doctor. She has them ready and updated, and she can share them with any doctor she wants.

Electronic health records not only improve the communication between Sasha and her doctor; they also make it easy for her doctor to share and record her reports with lab technicians and other members of his team.

Five benefits of electronic health records which help to improve communication in healthcare are:

  1. They provide correct and updated information about patients in one place.
  2. They enable instant access to a patient’s health records.
  3. They allow patients to share information with different healthcare professionals securely.
  4. They enhance the security and privacy of the patient’s healthcare data.

Telemedicine

What is Telemedicine? 

Telemedicine refers to providing medical or healthcare services by using telecommunication technologies. Telemedicine allows doctors to consult, diagnose and treat patients through telecommunication devices like video calls, phone calls and chats.

Telemedicine allows patients to consult with doctors and get treatments from their homes without waiting for long hours for appointments. 

Telemedicine is an emerging technology. Although it has been around for a long time, healthcare institutions have only recently begun to adopt it.

What are the key features of Telemedicine? 

Three key features of Telemedicine are:

  1. Data exchange by video conferencing in Telemedicine is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). 
  2. It enables easy and quick payments.
  3. It enables easy appointment management by allowing patients to choose free spots in the doctor’s calendar.

How does Telemedicine improve communication in healthcare? 

Healthcare professionals and institutes adopt the telemedicine approach by getting a mobile application built for themselves. There are three stakeholders in the process of healthcare through telemedicine:

  1. Doctors
  2. Patients
  3. Lab Technicians

When healthcare professionals get a telemedicine-based healthcare mobile app for their healthcare institute, they consider the application being used by these three stakeholders.

The application consists of different dashboards for each user.

For the doctor, the dashboard includes the following features:

  • Doctor’s Profile
  • Appointment Schedule Management
  • View EMRs/EHRs
  • Provide Digital Prescriptions
  • Calls
  • Messages
  • View Patient’s Medical History
  • Video Session Recording
  • Notifications

For the patient, the dashboard includes the following features:

  • Profile
  • Find a Doctor
  • Appointment Scheduling
  • Real-time Visits
  • Payments and Billing
  • Messages/Instant Chat
  • Previous Medical Records
  • Notifications
  • Book Lab Test
  • Sharing Records and Reports with Doctors

For the lab technician, the dashboard includes the following features:

  • Lab Technician’s Profile
  • View Requests
  • Assign Tasks to Lab Professionals
  • Share Reports with Doctors and Patients

Telemedicine applications can also integrate Electronic Health Records (EHRs) to improve healthcare communication by allowing instant access to accurate and updated medical records.

Four advantages of telemedicine which improve communication in healthcare are:

  1. It provides convenient access to healthcare facilities.
  2. It enables easy management and sharing of medical records.
  3. It allows quick and easy payments.
  4. It reduces the waiting time for patients.

Blockchain-Based Healthcare Applications

What are Blockchain-based Healthcare Applications?

Healthcare applications that function on blockchain technology are known as blockchain-based healthcare applications. They allow doctors and patients to store medical data most securely. 

Blockchain-based healthcare applications can be understood in detail by learning about their features, working and advantages.

What are the key features of Blockchain-based Healthcare Applications?

Four key features of Blockchain-based Healthcare applications are:

  1. Data is decentralized. No central authority is in control of all the medical information.
  2. Once medical data is saved on the blockchain, it cannot be altered.
  3. Medical information is secured with cryptographic keys, which are only accessible to the stakeholders of the healthcare network.
  4. All medical information is time-stamped and in chronological order.

How do Blockchain-based Healthcare Applications improve communication in healthcare?

Blockchain-based healthcare applications improve communication in healthcare by offering advantages such as:

  1. All medical information is available to the stakeholders on their apps. Hence, it is quickly available whenever needed.
  2. The data is immutable. This feature builds trust among the stakeholders as the patients are sure that the information is authentic and safe.
  3. Smart contracts allow quick and easy payments with time-stamped records; hence all transaction updates are securely given to the stakeholders.

Cloud Computing

What is Cloud Computing?

Using a system of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store and manage data is known as Cloud Computing. A cloud service provider allows companies to rent access to applications and storage.

You can understand cloud computing better by learning about its features, working and advantages.

What are the key features of Cloud Computing?

Four key features of cloud computing are:

  1. Easy maintenance
  2. It is available on-demand.
  3. It offers scalability.
  4. It is available on a subscription basis.

How does cloud computing improve communication in healthcare?

  1. Cloud computing can be integrated with Electronic Health Records to store them in a better manner. It will allow quick access to Electronic Health Records whenever needed by the patient or the doctor.
  2. It allows collaborative patient care. The doctors can collectively view and share medical records of the patient to work on them. This feature leads to better communication among the healthcare team members as they can collaboratively work on the patient’s records.
  3. Also, if a patient wants to change doctors, s/he can directly send the records to the new doctor without having to collect them from the previous doctor.

E-Prescribing

What is E-Prescribing?

E-Prescribing or Electronic Prescribing refers to doctors providing medical prescriptions oan electronic device and forwarding it to pharmacies. 

How does E-Prescribing improve communication in healthcare?

There are many ways in which E-Prescribing improves communication in healthcare:

  1. E-prescribing enhances efficiency, as all medications are prescribed clearly. Hence, healthcare professionals spend a lot less time clarifying patients about medications.
  2. E-prescribing improves accuracy as all medicine requirements are directly sent to the pharmacies. Therefore, it reduces medication errors and the scope of any misunderstandings among the pharmacies and patients.
  3. E-prescribing ensures medication adherence. The doctor mentions the number of dosages of the medications in the prescription. Hence, it ensures that the patient receives only the prescribed amount of medicines, not more and not less.
  4. By integrating E-prescribing with the doctor’s existing EHRs or healthcare applications, the doctors will have access to the patient’s medical insurance records as well. It allows the doctor to prescribe the most cost-effective medications according to the patient’s financial capabilities.
  5. They also improve healthcare quality, hence improving the patient-doctor relationship.

Remote Patient Monitoring

What is Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)?

Remote patient monitoring refers to monitoring patients from a remote location. With digital technologies, health data is collected from the patient’s location and securely transmitted to the doctor’s location.

Remote monitoring of patients has various benefits that can help to improve communication in healthcare.

How does Remote Patient Monitoring improve communication in healthcare?

  1. Remote Patient Monitoring provides a platform with various communication channels, which facilitates collaborative communications.
  2. Remote Patient Monitoring allows doctors to effectively communicate with the patient in case of emergencies without physical visits.
  3. It also allows the doctor to receive all information immediately and adequately deploy a team of healthcare professionals to the patient in case of data discrepancies.
  4. Since the patients are continuously connected with the doctors, they get good support and feedback.

Conclusion

Effective communication in healthcare is a necessity. It is responsible for the smooth functioning of the healthcare industry. Poor communication systems can bring entire healthcare systems to a halt and cost them massive amounts of money and patient lives. 

Technology is assisting every industry in moving towards high efficiency and the healthcare industry is no exception to it. With the help of various technologies, healthcare communication can be immensely improved and made effective.

If you are looking for a software development company to build an application for your healthcare institute, consult our healthcare software development experts at LeewayHertz.

Author’s Bio

Akash Takyar
Akash Takyar
CEO LeewayHertz
Akash Takyar is the founder and CEO at LeewayHertz. With the experience of building over 100+ platforms for startups and enterprise allows Akash to rapidly architect and design solutions that are scalable and beautiful.
Akash's ability to build enterprise-grade technology solutions has attracted over 30 Fortune 500 companies, including Siemens, 3M, P&G and Hershey’s. Akash is an early adopter of new technology, a passionate technology enthusiast, and an investor in AI and IoT startups.