Improving Patient Safety – Communication

Angie Szumlinski
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April 6, 2021
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Despite the challenges faced this year and an emphasis on promoting physical distance, publications in 2020 have demonstrated that persistent efforts continue to evaluate and improve health care communication. Some of these efforts have been in direct response to changes imposed by the COVID pandemic. Moving forward, specific areas and considerations identified in the literature underscore the need for future research:

  1. The need for better tools and approaches for communicating medication safety with patients. Success will likely rely on using a combination of patient/family-centered HIT and pharmacist-led counseling, coaching and follow-up.
  2. The need to develop effective transition tools that align with the requirements of the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act, in particular, noting information about the patient’s family members and communicating with them prior to patient discharge back to the community.
  3. Research is needed to better understand communication approaches applied during the COVID-19 pandemic and test them as part of usual care.

Looking ahead, as health care delivery seeks a better “new normal”, we need to learn more about communication practices and their feasibility, efficiency, and impact on safety outcomes. While the pandemic inflicted catastrophic consequences on victims and those who care for them, lessons learned about optimal communication during the pandemic hold promise for improvements in the future. Advances in Health Information Technology (HIT) will certainly be part of a successful strategy, but only if it is well-designed with the awareness that it is not a panacea. Research findings suggest that well-informed solutions that effectively combine both “high-touch” and “high-tech” are needed to address the pervasive, complex communication challenges still facing healthcare.


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