When I asked Mary Anne Vincent, vice president of performance improvement at St. Joseph Hospital, in Orange, CA, she said those results are disappointing.
"Communication is a barrier in healthcare. So many times I see issues that could have been avoided or minimized with an extra minute or so of 'one-on-one Communications," Vincent says. In many systems, communication is broken down between nurses and physicians by merely the manner in which they forward their information, she says.
During shift changes, for instance, for some healthcare workers "it's hard to let go of that control," says Shelby Harrington, outcomes specialist for Carolinas Health System, who examined the survey results. But letting go is what needs to be done, she says.
Intelligence Report: The Drive to Patient Safety: Free Download.
An important element in improving communication specifically related to shift changes involves patients themselves, Harrington says. "Giving (patients) a sense of ownership of their own care of what is happening." she said.
"We should be communicating to the patient exactly what we are doing and why we are doing it," Harrington says, "telling that patient, 'I know you've been asked this question, but to ensure your safety, we want to go through your allergy list again.'''
Communication is one thing – between staff and patients. And then there is another level of communication, among hospital staff themselves, and that also appears lacking, the survey shows. Healthleaders are uncertain as to the ultimate responsibility within an organization of who should oversee patient safety initiatives and monitor them.
The survey showed a wide variability of potential leadership for patient safety, ranging from: 25% for executive leadership collectively; 15% for a chief patient safety officer; 14% for a special patient safety committee; 11% for a CEO personally and a designated vice president, and 10% for a chief medical officer.