What is wrong with hospital communication?

Posted on Friday June 21, 2019

The language of healthcare. Wait. No. Longer. 

Communication comes in various forms. In De Bono’s famous work The Mechanism of the Mind, he talks of:-

  1. Communication by transfer
  2. Communication by confusion
  3. Communication by trigger

Transfer offers passage of clear information, requiring little assumption. A shopping list with specific items written offers clear objectives to the shopper, for example.

Communication by confusion by comparison offers information that is less clear and open to individual interpretation. Abstract art can be interpreted differently by observers. A car flashing its headlights might incorrectly be interpreted as a well meaning give way rather than a warning, misinterpretation potentially yielding dangerous consequence.

Triggers offer prompts to indicate that there is information to be found. Voicemail prompting indicates that information is available but must now be sought. Text messaging and email have superseded that by giving immediate context, communication by transfer.

A) bleeps

The bleep carried by tens of thousands of doctors, nurses and managers in hospitals is a trigger and continues to be used despite being the bane of their working lives. Hours are wasted chasing this trigger, unknowing any importance or urgency at the end of it. Worse still messaging is by ‘phone extension number, so the recipient must find a vacant ‘phone to use, hoping that the receiving extension (and indeed the sender of the trigger) is not engaged. Hours chasing, indeed hours cumulatively waiting for responses to truly urgent important matters. In other words, a bleep is defined as a trigger without appreciable definition, a mix of communications by trigger and confusion.

B) paper

Hospitals across the country rely on patient records. Unavailability, poor filing and illegibility create ambiguity and risk, slowing process of healthcare deterring discharges and increasing length of stay and costs associated, bed blocking, and incurring clinic delays. A system of digital capture is a necessary and ambitious project.

Process within the hospital environment seems still to entertain paper despite moves to build digital patient health records. Internal referrals, incoming referrals, assessment forms are often still on paper. Worse still is clinic pathway management, patients are sent to unfamiliar clinical areas with paper requests to deliver them to busy staff members, further slowing them down. In a nutshell, this is a system of communication by confusion, by means of the carrier pigeon.

C) digital

Enterprising hospitals understand that data is key. Where is my patient? Look on the patient location software program. What are the results of tests? Check another program. Can we look at a digital Xray? Another program. Dictate a letter? You guessed it. Approve a letter? Check a referral? Schedule an appointment? Prescribe a drug? Write a discharge summary? Yes, all different. All require logins, all require training, all different from hospital to hospital. New members of staff require lengthy training on these systems. A one off locum at huge expense to cover clinical requirements? Redundant for most of the day through lack of training on software.

Data is key, but digital is rarely intuitive and straightforward and invariably slower than paper. Communication by confusion, confused by process.

It is for this reason that healthcare sees glacial shifts from archaic bleep systems and carrier pigeons to digital. The system needs a shake-up.

DASHmed® aims to provide smart mobile solutions to healthcare through intuitive design, saving time. Communication is by clear transfer.

Wait no longer.