Bridging Communication Gaps in Healthcare

Working as a healthcare practitioner, whether as a physician, nurse, therapist or some other professional, one would most likely have observed some form of a gap between senior management and staff, or among different healthcare professionals.

By gap, we mean having an atmosphere of an awkward and indecisive pattern of communication. This is something not tangible. Most times the uneasy feeling is only felt. There is an air of disconnection wherein we work on one goal, but employ a “mind your own” kind of attitude. Any institution or organization, big or small, is not immune to this problem.

It is quite common in the workplace to see staff nurses hesitant to approach a head nurse on a seemingly unimportant consult. It is also not unusual to find a nurse who is meticulously trying to decipher a doctor’s handwritten order rather than making a phone call to the physician to seek for clarification. There are times that we see a therapist accidentally disregarding protocol because he is unaware that the management has recently instituted changes.

We hear the staff complain about over fatigue due to understaffing. They talk about pay-cuts, diminishing benefits and lack of opportunities for skill enhancement. On the other hand, the senior management wants the staff to understand that they are challenged by limited human resources, budget limits, regulatory mandates and dictates of consumer satisfaction. Both the levels of hierarchy experience difficulties in their positions. With these challenges, the divide just widens even more.

What happens when a gap exists among practitioners, staff, and leaders?

When disconnect is apparent in an organization, reaching institutional goals is like traveling by train on a wrecked track where there are jolts, delayed arrivals, and unnecessary detours and stops. The working environment is heavy with discontent and undercurrents. Workers feel like they are dragging their own feet to work. There is much confusion, error, and indecisiveness, much to the detriment of client care and employee satisfaction.

What to do to bridge the gap

Closing the gap is never an easy task. Since it is not tangible, the results are hard to measure. But there is a way to make this job a lot easier. 

1.    Employee Engagement

The employees become pro-active in pursuing organizational goals because they become fully-absorbed in their assigned task. This is made possible by clearly defining performance objectives, rewarding staff for their timely work completion, and ensuring that the management is made aware of their advancements and achievements.

2.    Collaboration and closed-loop communication 

There is more appreciation of the hierarchy when there is collaboration and closed-loop communication in every step of reaching organizational goals. Make use of disseminated information through a common portal, and then provide real-time feedback to the management.

3.    Process improvement tools and techniques.

Streamlining workflows gets a lot of things done for clients. This process is called process improvement. This is because clear-cut objectives are set, time for task completion is reasonable and definite, and information needed to complete the job is available and accessible. These may seem like simple things but they exert a high impact on client health outcome and employee satisfaction. 

4.    Automation

Finally, any process of automation, such as information dissemination, license renewals, and centralized document managing and tracking provide a common ground for understanding between practitioners, whether they are from up in the hierarchy, or from a co-worker. 

With these strategies for closing the gap, we get the best of all worlds: better patient outcomes, more employee satisfaction, more shared leadership from the senior management and a supportive workplace culture.