Healthcare News & Insights

Stop communication breakdowns during care transitions

Transitioning a patient from your hospital to their home or another healthcare facility is often a complicated process. And figuring out how to best serve the patient, while avoiding readmissions, depends on good communication. 

When any communication breakdowns do occur, the patient suffers and the care transition becomes bumpier.

The move to digital systems has helped alleviate some of these issues, but there are a few additional steps your hospital can take to improve communication and make sure patients are transitioning properly.

Care transition troubles

Medical Economics brings up five common reasons for communication breakdowns between hospitals and patients’ primary care providers:

  1. Patients don’t understand discharge instructions. When communication isn’t clear, patients get confused about what they need to do after being discharged from the hospital, which can cause them to wait too long to schedule follow-up appointments. Making sure every provider has the most updated information is essential to keeping patients on the right track. A digital contact system allows different providers to interact quickly and clear up any confusion.
  2. Poor admission, discharge and transfer (ATD) sharing. Sometimes primary care providers don’t know a patient’s been hospitalized until long after the fact. Automating ATD alerts ensures every provider has the required info ASAP and can fill in any gaps. Plus, it makes scheduling follow-up appointments easier, since everyone receives the info in real time.
  3. Missing contact info. Your hospital may not have contact details for every patient’s primary care provider in its electronic health record (EHR) system. That can be a major obstacle for coordinating post-discharge care, and it can lead to increased readmissions since there’s confusion about who will provide the needed follow-ups. Have someone review and update this info regularly.
  4. No context in data. Often, the discharge report generated by your organization’s EHR doesn’t have helpful contextual information that can affect the transition. Example: If a patient’s family is struggling to help the person stick to the care plan, that info won’t be included on standard discharge paperwork, even though knowing it is useful for the provider so they can offer the family additional assistance. Encourage your clinicians to pass these details along.
  5. Delayed consults. Providers are busy, and patients don’t always know all the details about the care they’re receiving when they come into the hospital. This can slow down the process of arranging a consult for a patient. Plus, the delay between sending a request for a consult and actually reaching a provider can also have a negative impact on care delivery and increase stress for everyone.

Making care transitions easier goes both ways, and each side of the equation has to streamline communication to provide excellent care to patients. Plugging any communication gaps in the process by avoiding these five pitfalls can improve patients’ experience in your hospital and after discharge.

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