Effective communication between healthcare professionals influences the quality of working relationships, job satisfaction and has a profound impact on patient safety. As the healthcare system has become more complex and patient expectations are fast evolving, medical facilities are facing many challenges posed by the lack of effective communication among staff and patients.

Inefficient communication between a patient’s physicians can result in the sub-par quality of care and poor outcomes for the patient. They are even, according to a study, one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in hospitals.

Impact of Ineffective Communication in Healthcare

The industry works within an intricate network that comprises healthcare providers, patients, third-party service providers, and insurance carriers. At the core, there are many complex relationships between hospitals, researchers, EHR owners, internal tech leaders, and healthcare executives. Subpar communication in Healthcare can result in many adverse effects, including:

  • Medical errors: Mistakes often occur when there's a breakdown in information sharing among the medical staff involved in a patients' treatment. Proper documentation is of course, important. Still, the data also needs to be distributed to the entire team on time, so errors can be identified and corrected before adverse medical events happen.
  • Long waiting time: Waiting even for 10 minutes to access healthcare services or support is considered a deal-breaker. Patients are frustrated by long wait times and often leave before being seen by a physician and tend to correlate wait times with the quality of care received from the medical facility. These delays are usually the result of improper communication and diminish the overall patient experience.
  • Wrong, delayed, or expensive treatment: As a healthcare provider, one of your topmost priorities is to eliminate liabilities. When your patients undergo improper treatment, face procedural delays, or receive an incorrect medication, you end up facing severe financial and reputational consequences.
  • Incomplete follow-ups: The patient journey is not a one-time experience. Physicians and nurses need to ascertain if the patient is following the treatment protocol or is taking the prescribed medication correctly. You risk losing track of your patient inquiries and call statuses, by using cumbersome and inadequate follow-up mechanisms. This could result in poor outcomes for the patient.
  • Lack of outreach to elderly patients: Effective communication is a vital driver of the healthcare experience, especially, when healthcare providers are dealing with isolated individuals who do not maintain consistent contact with family and friends. Lack of communication could result in neglecting health issues in these elderly individuals.
  • Uninformed recommendations: Patient data is crucial information that needs to be managed carefully by healthcare providers. If inconsistently shared among your staff, patients may not receive the most appropriate treatment recommendations. In turn, it could prevent physicians from making the right decisions.
  • Improper handling of private medical data: Incubating a culture of data privacy is a boardroom mandate for healthcare organizations. As healthcare technologies continue to evolve, the threat of security lapses grows too. Without effectively integrating the Electronic Health Records (EHR) into your systems, your patient data is at risk of getting exposed.

5 Major Communication Barriers in Healthcare

The healthcare industry consists of a web of providers, patients, third-party service providers, and insurance carriers. The high level of complexity of interactions between various stakeholders raises barriers to effective communication in healthcare:

  1. Complexity and volume of the service call: Healthcare providers handle hundreds of calls every single day. Without prioritizing & monitoring them, critical service requests can fall through the cracks.
  2. Inability to share information across departments: Healthcare staff across multiple departments often collaborate to improve the quality of care of the patient. Failure to coordinate these collaborative efforts could lead to miscommunication and duplicate work.
  3. Hurdles in upgrading to new communication systems: Many healthcare providers are stuck with outdated legacy tools due to their inability to change without experiencing downtime.
  4. Cost of hardware and infrastructure: While upgrading communication systems, the cost of infrastructure can be very high. In such cases, justifying the ROI of new investments can be hard.
  5. Difficulty in providing clear patient instructions via voice calls: While it has become quite common for doctors and nurses to provide patients with guidance over the phone, it's often hard for patients to fully grasp complicated instructions verbally without the aid of visual demonstration. As a result, patient compliance with follow up care suffers.

Growing Importance of Communication in the Healthcare Industry

Poor communication in Healthcare impacts overall patient experience and harms medical reputation. In today's healthcare market, since patients are paying for a more substantial portion of their medical bills through copays and deductibles, they demand more responsive services from their providers.

Also, patients generally interact with healthcare providers under crisis or high-stress conditions. It may be difficult to sustain a positive mindset while scheduling a doctor's appointment, getting an X-ray or awaiting lab results. Poor services, at stressful times, will negatively impact patient retention and referrals.

There is a great deal of caution to be exercised because the business of taking care of the patient is always personal. It pays to improve levels of clarity, empathy, simplicity, and sophistication of the communication skills of healthcare staff with effective training.

Effective communication in healthcare is the need of the hour and holds the key to unlocking seamless patient experiences.

Research shows that 92% of healthcare consumers think that improving patient experience should be a top priority.

Building a communication ecosystem powered by the latest technologies is another crucial component in establishing a highly efficient communication system. The use of cloud-based communication platforms like UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service), CCaaS (Contact Center as a Service), and VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) is highly effective in breaking down many of the traditional communication barriers.

What are the communication skills for Healthcare professionals required and HIPAA Safeguards?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) has changed the way healthcare professionals deal with Protected Health Information (PHI) to ensure confidentiality, integrity, and security. HIPAA Privacy rules set standards for protecting a patient's medical records and other personal health information. It sets limits on disclosure and use. It also gives patients the right to examine and receive copies of their records as well as request corrections

Facts: Failure to follow the rules can be costly; noncompliance fines range between $100 and $50,000 per violation. The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has levied substantial penalties for failure to safeguard patient information, including a $5.5 million settlement with one major healthcare company for data breaches affecting four million people. Also, organizations and individuals can be held criminally liable for knowingly disclosing PHI or using it for commercial gain. It's more than just the risk of fines or penalties. Your reputation can be damaged quickly in case of a breach or disclosure. There is also the risk of potential lawsuits from affected individuals and the cost to repair the damage. Repairing the damage from a breach in Healthcare typically costs more than in any other industry with an average of $7.35 million for data breaches that resulted in the exposure or theft of more than 5,000 records.

In order to avoid such disastrous security breaches, there are three types of safeguarding measures you can implement to stay compliant with HIPAA regulations.

  • Verifying the identity of the person accessing data
  • Controlling access to data, including tracking users, encryption, and automatic logoffs
  • Auditing control to record activity
  • Implementing policies and procedures to mandate integrity (protecting data from alteration, destruction or dissemination except for approved uses)
  • Limiting access to facilities that store health information
  • Establishing procedures for restoring lost data
  • Implementing security protocols
  • Maintaining maintenance records for repairs and modifications
  • Monitoring workstation usage to grant access to Protected Health Information (PHI) only on systems unexposed to data risks
  • Restricting workstation access, which might include physical barriers, to prevent inadvertent disclosure to public or staff
  • Preventing removal of any electronic media (or hardware) containing PHI from the facility, data backup, or storage
  • Instituting policies to govern the detection and containment of potential breaches and remedial steps for reporting and correcting
  • Planning risk analysis and management
  • Designating security officers to develop and implement plans
  • Ensuring that security procedures specify employee access, authorization, supervision, and termination
  • Promoting security training and awareness for effective communication between healthcare professionals
  • Incident Reporting procedures, in incidences of inappropriate access, disclosure, modification, or destruction of records
  • Establishing contingency plans covering data backup, disaster recovery, and emergencies
  • Implementing compliance reviews, records, and evaluations
  • Reviewing Business Associate Agreements governing third-parties, vendors, contractors, or other organizations that interact with PHI

5 Ways to Ensure Effective Communication in Healthcare

Effective communication between healthcare professionals and patients is a critical factor in improving patient care and outcomes, here are some measures that could help in ensuring effective communication in a healthcare setting:

  1. Go paperless: By using a cloud-enabled communication platform, you can migrate your processes to a paperless environment. It improves your workforce productivity and gives you access to critical healthcare data from a centralized database.
  2. Workflow flexibility and resilience: Effective communication protocols are vital to maximizing the efficiency of new communication methodologies. You must create an access-based system, through which you can better serve patients and staff members.
  3. Timely information delivery: In the healthcare industry, the speed at which information travels is as essential as the level of accuracy. Healthcare providers must communicate in a way that accelerates patient recovery.
  4. Built-in compliance protocols: As a healthcare provider, you need to ensure HIPAA compliance across all forms of communication. In order to auto-comply with stringent regulations, your communication systems must be appropriately designed and deployed.
  5. Go mobile: More patients are pushing healthcare providers to deliver information and accept or fulfill service requests via their handheld devices. Hence, your administrative and assessment workflows must evolve to be device friendly.

Benefits of Effective Communication in Healthcare

According to research, there are definite positive relationships between healthcare professional communication skills and a patient's capacity to follow through with medical recommendations. Studies show that the doctor's ability to explain, listen and empathize can have a profound effect on health outcomes as well as patient experience and satisfaction of care. The benefits of improved communication will show in a number of ways. Some of them are:

  • Improved diagnostic accuracy: patient and provider interviews will be more accurate, useful, and helpful.
  • Better patient follow-through: with effective communication practices in place, you'll make it easier and more likely for patients to follow through with care protocols.
  • Higher patient satisfaction: by reducing the risk of human and system errors, you increase the chances of patients having a positive experience.
  • Greater team satisfaction: effective team communication will enhance relationships, improve job satisfaction, and reduce job turnover

Read this e-book to know more about why cloud communication providers in healthcare must be HIPPA compliant. Download the e-book here.

8x8: Innovation Partner of Choice for Healthcare Providers

The necessity of addressing healthcare communication deficits is of the utmost importance. 8x8, a leading cloud solution provider, empowers healthcare providers to boost their staff and customer experience. We provide a unified system of engagement to leverage voice, video, collaboration, and contact center capabilities. We also help in aligning your communication standards with HIPAA guidelines.


How 8x8 Delivers Future-ready Healthcare Communication

No other VoIP or contact center provider does more to safeguard the security and compliance of mission-critical communications than 8x8. Our 8x8 Virtual Office and Virtual Contact Center solutions are certified ​as ​compliant with the major standards such as HIPAA, FISMA, CPNI, ISO 27001 and many more.

VoIP Business Phone Services

8x8 can free you from the cost and hassle of on-premise hardware by hosting your phone services on the cloud through a Virtual PBX. You can control routing, call waiting, call forwarding, and other system settings from one dashboard accessible at any given time. All you need is an internet connection. What we offer:

Cloud Contact Center

The 8x8 Cloud Contact Center is a first-of-its-kind solution with unprecedented merging collaboration capabilities in a single unified interface. Our suite of products delivers an Omnichannel Routing, Analytics, Quality Management, and Workstream Collaboration on one platform. What we offer:

  • Intelligent interaction routing with self-service options
  • In-depth customer journey analytics
  • Robust quality management with speech analytics
  • One-to-one and team collaboration
  • An extensive list of pre-built integrations

Unified Communications

8x8's Unified Communications Suite is simple to deploy and easy to manage, with customizable communication tools to fit your business processes and delivery models. Our intuitive tools offer a best-in-class patient experience for audio conferencing, web conferencing, virtual meetings, screen sharing, and more in one secure platform. What we offer:

  • X-series: Navigate between communication channels and harness enterprise-class presence and routing tools.
  • Team Messaging: Instantly and naturally communicate with our unified messaging platform.
  • Web Conferencing: Host virtual meetings and HD-quality video conferencing sessions that support up to 100 participants.

When it comes to Healthcare, 8x8 provides reliable and compliant cloud solutions at a superior level rarely seen by other cloud providers. Don't take your chances with a subpar cloud-based telecom system. Call 1-866-422-3807 or fill out the form below to request a no-obligation quote from an 8x8 product specialist.


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