TigerConnect released its annual “State of Healthcare Communications” report, a survey of healthcare leaders and patients detailing the pervasive challenges in healthcare communications. The survey confirmed the fragmented state of communication in healthcare – with many organizations still heavily reliant on landline phones, fax machines, and pagers, and the adoption of modern communication technology often happening in silos.
“Adoption of modern communication solutions has occurred in every other industry but healthcare,” said Brad Brooks, chief executive officer and co-founder of TigerConnect. “Despite the fact that quality healthcare is vital to the well-being and functioning of a society, the shocking lack of communication innovation comes at a steep price, resulting in chronic delays, increased operational costs that are often passed down to the public, preventable medical errors, physician burnout, and in the worst cases, can even lead to death.”
In fact, industry research shows that communication inefficiencies cost a single 500-bed hospital more than $4 million annually (NCBI) and worst case, can lead to death, with communication breakdowns estimated to be a factor in 70% of medical error deaths (JMIR).
Our latest research sought to better understand the state of healthcare communication today and how technology solutions can foster better communication and collaboration in healthcare. Specifically, the survey found 90% of organizations are still using fax machines and 39% are still using pagers. Additionally, nearly 40% of healthcare professionals say that it is difficult to communicate with care team members, contributing to bottlenecks at various touchpoints when moving patients through the healthcare system.
Moreover, the majority of healthcare organizations – 52% – experience communication disconnects that impact patients daily or multiple times a week. It is also worth noting that non-clinical staff greatly underestimate the frequency of communication disconnects that impact patients. Clinical staff members were nearly three times more likely than non-clinical staff to say communication disconnects impact patients on a daily basis.
Survey findings include:
Communication in Healthcare is Broken:
- The healthcare industry is still heavily reliant on 1970’s technology, with 89% using fax machines and 39% using pagers among some departments or roles, or even organization-wide.
- Communication channels are badly fragmented in healthcare, with groups across the health system all using different tools to communicate.
- Despite a growing mobile workforce in healthcare, landlines are still heavily relied on. Landline communication is the top choice of communication when secure messaging is not available – used 29% of the time. Among organizations using secure messaging it still ranks number two – used 25% of the time.
Impacts of Broken Communication:
Healthcare Organizations Operate Inefficiently
- Care coordination is difficult, with 39% of healthcare professionals saying it is difficult or very difficult to communicate with one or more groups of care team members.
- Lapses in care are more common when secure messaging is not used organization-wide – with a 50% greater likelihood of daily communication disconnects that impact patients.
- Throughput challenges are present throughout the care continuum due to poor communication – the most problematic causes of delay in moving patients through the system include: delayed discharge (50%), followed by consult delays (40%) and emergency department wait times (38%).
Clinical and Non-Clinical Staff Are Not Aligned
- Non-clinical staff members underestimate communication difficulties. Non-clinical staff are 68% less likely to say communication disconnects impact patients on a daily basis
- Non-clinical staff members underestimate the impact communication disconnects have on throughput. Clinical respondents selected 3.2 out of five possible bottlenecks, while non-clinical respondents limited their concerns to 2.4 out of five on average.
Patients Are Taking Notice
- Most patients were frustrated by a recent hospital stay. In a separate survey of consumers conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of TigerConnect in August, 74% of U.S. adults who spent time in a hospital in the past two years because they or an immediate family member were admitted for at least one night, indicated being frustrated by one or more inefficient processes listed.
- Patients’ preferred method of communication doesn’t match what is actually being used. Patient portals saw the widest gap with 51% of healthcare organizations indicating they use patient portals to communicate with patients, yet only 20% of patients actually prefer this method of communication.
- Patient portals are linked to inefficient patient communication. Those using patient portals as a top method of communication were 29% less likely to rate their communication with patients as effective or very effective when compared to those using text/SMS as a top method of communication.
The TigerConnect State of Healthcare Communications 2019 report offers detailed recommendations to address these issues and modernize healthcare communications. To download the full report, visit https://pages.tigerconnect.com/State-of-Healthcare-Comms-Report-LP.html.
To better understand healthcare organizations’ opinions on the state of healthcare communications, TigerConnect conducted an online survey from July 15 through 31, 2019 with nearly 200 respondents who work in the healthcare industry. Healthcare employees were surveyed from a wide range of roles including 28% clinical workers (nurses/doctors/ ancillary providers), 22% C-level participants, 19% IT professionals, 18% administrative staff, 11% operations, and 2% other.
Harris Poll Consumer Survey
In addition, to better understand patient preferences and expectations around communication, a survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of TigerConnect from August 26-28, 2019 among 2,014 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, of whom 870 have spent time in a hospital in the past two years because they or an immediate family member had been admitted and stayed at least one night. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Alyssa Trenkamp at firstname.lastname@example.org.