The importance of communication for independent practices

Communication issues in the corporate world can cost a business financially. Communication issues in the healthcare world can lead to much more severe consequences. When a primary care physician does not communicate well with a patient, it can lead to financial costs as well as human costs, including medication errors, medical complications, and even death.

The CRICO insurance program assessed 23,658 medical malpractice cases “where patients suffered some form of harm” between 2009 and 2013 and found that over 7,000 of the lawsuits and claims were a direct result of miscommunication. Financially, the errors cost $1.7 billion. The human costs included severe injuries and deaths.

There is nothing more important in the patient-physician relationship than clear, concise communication. A patient who sees specialty providers in addition to the primary care physician must understand what each provider is saying verbally, in the exam room, as well as follow-up instructions for care and medications. There are multiple opportunities for miscommunication in such instances, not only in the conversations but also in the documentation of the patient’s records.

The time spent in the exam room is crucial for physician-patient communications. The primary care physician must have access to all of the patient’s medical records and then be able to completely and clearly explain diagnoses and care management plans to the patient so there are no misunderstandings. The less time the primary physician has to spend with the patient, the greater the potential for miscommunication.

In addition to taking the time to fully explain instructions and follow-up plans, the primary care physician must be sure the patient understands the information that is being relayed. Using medical terminology or speaking too quickly can also increase the opportunity for miscommunication and therefore the opportunity for errors. A good plan is to have the patient repeat the instructions for care or for a new medication, rather than simply asking if the patient has any questions.

Elation Health is concerned with the quality of healthcare provided to each patient and with the independent physician’s ability to provide that health care seamlessly and securely. We have developed an EHR solution that gives the primary care provider access to a patient’s complete medical profile with just one click, so the provider can spend more time communicating with the patient and less time searching through paperwork.

At Elation, we are focused on improving physician-patient communications and helping to reduce the often devastating errors that can result from miscommunication.