Listen. It’s a Key to Better Patient Outcomes
Posted On: February 23rd, 2016
Vice President and General Manager Change Healthcare Capacity Management and Extended Care
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Think about that quote from the late Stephen R. Covey, best known as author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
While listening to patients, how often as caregivers are we already formulating a measured response, a teachable moment or a gentle admonishment to what’s being said? How often are we really just thinking about the next step or how to get everything accomplished in a visit? We’re busy and accustomed to being in charge and having people listen to us. But do we actually listen – really listen – to what other people are saying?
It’s a critical but oft-overlooked skill, as a new report about communication failures in hospitals clearly illustrates. The report shows that communication breakdowns in hospitals contributed to 30% of medical malpractice claims filed between 2009 and 2013. Those cases resulted in more than 1,700 deaths and $1.7 billion in costs to health systems. Communication failures also contributed to 37% of injury cases of high severity, the report from a research/analysis firm shows.
We know hospital spending dwarfs that of the home care industry, but think about what a communication failure could mean for your organization and your patients. In many instances, patients have just experienced a hospital stay. Any communication breakdown at this stage could trigger a readmission, which is costly to the hospital but even more so to the patient.
Innovative home health organizations are actively working with health systems on such home care safety issues as successfully transitioning patients from acute to post-acute care settings. Doing that effectively requires robust communications not only from the hospital to the home care organization, but also between home health and the patient and the family.
How are you supporting effective communications within your organization? I’m referring to the conversations between your clinical staff with patients but also among your team members. Are you involving all the right constituents in planning and decision-making?
You can’t study for a certificate in listening, but we should all remember we have two ears and just one mouth. And listening, truly listening in a way that brings deeper understanding and ultimately improved patient care, is a skill we all need to be effective leaders.