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Healthcare Hiring: Research Shows that Better Communication Equals Better Care

December 17, 2015


It’s a bit ironic. Research confirms this week that the quality of communication between providers influences patient safety. Meanwhile we saw the end (not really, if you saw the final episode) of House, MD, the least collaborative, least communicative, least patient-focused, brilliant TV physician we’ve ever known. Sure, if I have some strange, rare, difficult to diagnose, deadly disease, I want House in a room somewhere trying to solve the mystery, but I don’t want him talking to me or collaborating with the nurses and other physicians on how to manage my care. Plus, did you ever notice how many tests they do and how the patient always comes THIS close to dying?!

Anyone in a hospital knows intuitively that communication impacts patient care. Research now confirms that it’s not a “nice to have” but rather it has a real impact on patient safety: From a summary in FierceHealthcare:

Providers who communicate well also do a better job at keeping their patients safe, suggests
new research from HealthGrades. Researchers found that hospitals with the highest patient
ratings in physician and nursing communications have fewer patient safety events, such as surgical inpatient deaths with treatable complications, pressure ulcers and post-operative respiratory failure and sepsis.

Conversely, hospitals that perform in the bottom 10 percent for physician communication saw 15 percent more patient safety events, compared to the top 10 percent. The risk in patient safety events was even higher with poor nurse communication. Twenty-seven percent more overall patient safety events occurred in hospitals performing in the bottom 10 percent for nursing communication, compared to the top 10 percentile.

Great. So how do we improve the quality of communication? Like every industry, we first look to overcome challenges with technology and process: New communication technology and new uses of EMRs and new processes to ensure that information is shared between providers. What’s missing? As always, it’s the human element. Some people are better communicators, better collaborators and better able to adopt, and adapt to, these new tools. We all know physicians and nurses who are good communicators, and those that aren’t. The primary function and goal of the hospital is to care for patients. Communication ability impacts safety and the quality of care. It would seem, then, that the ability to effectively communicate is an essential job function? Then, obviously, as we train and develop caregivers, and as we add people to our team, we consider communication (and all of the behaviors that make up communication skills), right? Think about your selection processes. Where do you evaluate this essential function – this function that directly impacts patient safety? Or you can just hope to find a bunch of brilliant, abrasive, non-communicative nurses and physicians like House? Let me know how that works out for you.

Interested in learning how to transform your healthcare hiring strategy? Read our whitepaper on Evidence-Based Hiring.

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Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.