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Dialing Up Internal Communication

March 2015
Author: Lisa Ellis

Life in most healthcare organizations passes at a rapid pace. Sounds familiar, right? And in the frenzy of the moment, you probably find that opportunities for your staff to communicate with one another are often overlooked. Yet such internal communication is essential for efficiency, safety, and consistency in patient care. So how do you find that balance without tipping the scale?

For some facilities, how they arrange their space can hold the answer, making it easier for staff members to communicate efficiently and create a more unified team. For instance, one health clinic took a very strategic approach to addressing this issue by creating open workspaces to allow clinical and support staff to stay in close touch throughout the course of the day. In the past, physicians used to have separate offices away from the nurses and administrators, which meant there weren’t many opportunities for the physicians and nurses to talk when they weren’t seeing patients.

Communication happened more naturally and spontaneously as issues arose.

By eliminating this division and creating work zones geared for collaboration, the practice management improved communication among the different disciplines and helped create more of a team approach. In addition, the new spacing increased efficiency and time management, since nurses and support staff didn’t have to walk down the hallway to the physicians’ offices every time they wanted to ask questions. Instead, communication happened more naturally and spontaneously as issues arose. (For issues where physicians might need privacy, the clinic incorporated some shared cubicles in the back of the space.) Further, the clinic found that this more close-knit design also lent itself to casual daily meetings or “check-ins” where the staff could talk about pressing issues and plan for the day ahead. This added level of communication helped everyone stay on the same page.

An added bonus was that the space that was saved by eliminating private offices also allowed the clinic to upgrade their patient waiting areas, add spacious conference rooms, and include some teaching areas to accommodate medical students.

Initially, some of the staff members were resistant to these changes, but once they saw how the new design improved communication and efficiency, they came around and embraced the benefits.

The takeaway is that as the concepts of patient-centered care and patient-centered medical homes become more mainstream, one message is clear: it will become increasingly important for you to find the best configuration for you and your staff members to communicate most effectively as a team.

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