Can the Inpatient Communication Gap Be Bridged?

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media , August 12, 2010

Getting more involvement with a patient's family also could help greatly when it comes to communication, says Windish, who is also an assistant professor of medicine at Yale, but that has it's own challenges as well in today's medical environment.

In the past, for instance, the hospital residents were likely to be with their patients day and night. But with new work hour limitations coming into place, this is less likely to occur. Similarly, hospitalists have shifts as well. "They are only here for a limited amount of time," she says.

"The problem is that the people who are primarily responsible for taking care of patients are here during the day time—the same time when families are working. So that also limits the communication—particularly if someone is sick and many of the patients in the hospital today have more than one medical issue," she says.

"I think in medical education we're going to need to rethink how to communicate with patients based on more of a team approach," she says. "We need to rethink how inpatient care is given."

With patients admitted to the hospital now being sicker and in for shorter time periods, communication between physicians and patients will remain a challenge, Olson says. "If anything, our results show that we're doing things well, but there's a lot of room for improvement. But as more minds that come to the table about how to improve it, hopefully we'll come out with better solutions."

Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at
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