Five-Minute Consult: Focus on Physician, Specialist Communication

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media , August 16, 2010
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Joseph W. Gross 
President and CEO
St. Elizabeth Healthcare
Edgewood, KY

St. Elizabeth Healthcare is a five-hospital system in northern Kentucky. Joseph W. Gross, its president and CEO, found that communication was a big problem between primary care physicians in the community and the specialists working on their patients in the hospital. Nurses were often put in the middle, playing telephone tag between the doctors, which caused them to spend time on tasks that didn’t take advantage of their high-dollar skills. So Gross went hunting for a solution. He found it in a communication system called PerfectServe, which automatically puts doctors in touch with one another in the communication medium they most prefer.

“We found that the nurse on the floor was often being placed in the middle—being told by one doc or another to get ahold of the other one. As a result, nurses were spending an inordinate amount of time trying to communicate with the doctors. This is a [HealthGrades] Top 50 hospital and a Magnet? hospital. We didn’t get there by spending a lot of time on the telephone. We got there because we have very good clinical staff. We wanted to streamline the process so nurses would spend as little time as possible doing this kind of stuff. Each physician on the system identifies up front how he or she wants to be contacted at different times. So that physician is contacted in the way he or she has self-designated. Second, the system has voice recognition. So if you pick up the phone and say, “Dr. Smith,” or “Dr. Jones,” the system contacts them in the manner in they have asked us to communicate. The doc can touch one button and that’ll get back to the caller. It’s ease of use. You’ve got to convince the docs to train on the new system and how to use it, but it only takes about 15 minutes to learn. Once they’re educated, most of them really like it.” 

Philip Betbeze is senior leadership editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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