Time to Review Your Physician-Nurse Communication Policy

Time to Review Your Physician-Nurse Communication PolicyDecember 18, 2014 by Vickie Anenberg

A periodic review of your hospital’s policy for physician-nurse communication can help mitigate risk and prevent a potential crisis situation. The most glaring recent breakdown in such communication occurred when Thomas Eric Duncan became ill after returning from Africa, but was discharged by Texas Resources Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas in spite of a note entered into its EMR pertaining to his recent travel.

Despite following hospital policy, the note proved insufficient with regards to warning that the patient might have been infected with Ebola. Although readmitted for treatment, Duncan died shortly thereafter – causing a wave of fear in the general population, questions about hospital preparedness nationwide, and new guidance from the CDC.  

Milisa Manojlovich, PhD, RN, CCRN, a University of Michigan School of Nursing (UMSN) associate professor said, “(C)ommunication failures are one of the most common causes of adverse events for hospitalized patients, so it is very important to understand how communication technology is being used and how it can be improved.” Dr. Manojlovich is leading a team of healthcare professionals to research how hospitals use IT for clinicians to communicate. The four-year investigation has received a $1.6 million federal grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The research will include compiling data “to learn how communication technologies, communication practices, and work relationships affect communication.” Results will then be used to develop the team’s recommendations aimed at improving the functionality of healthcare IT through new design configurations. Further details are available in a UMSN press release.

The question is, can your hospital wait four years for the results of this research? In light of the events last October in Dallas, the logical response is no. The critical role physician-nurse communications plays in healthcare requires periodic if not ongoing policy review. Ensuring the well-being of clinicians and staff, patients and the general public is something every healthcare leader takes seriously.

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