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New ways to talk the talk

February 2009

Published in the February 2009 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

WHAT’S THE STATE OF THE UNION when it comes to communication in U.S. hospitals? If this month’s issue is any indication, hospitals “and hospitalists “have their work cut out for them.

A good example can be found in our cover story, which looks at the impact that high-tech systems like computer physician order entry and electronic medical records are having on communications. While a lot of attention is being paid to the technical logistics of how these systems work, the impact that they have on the more subtle aspects of clinician communication seems to be an afterthought.

Few would argue that high-tech solutions make communication among physicians and nurses more efficient. But when physicians submit orders via computer without ever having to talk to a nurse or other physician, there will be fewer phone calls and face-to-face conversations.

It’s interesting to consider how CPOE and other high-tech systems may affect collegiality among physicians, nurses and other staff. But the reality is that even in low-tech settings, communication often leaves much to be desired.

For evidence, take a look at our profile of a study that targeted how physicians communicate “or not “with one another when patients are readmitted. The story explains how the failure of physicians to talk to each other, via electronic or any other means of communication, is a missed opportunity to improve care and perhaps prevent more readmissions.

You’ll find plenty of examples throughout this issue of strategies hospitalists are using to keep the lines of communication open, not only between physicians and nurses, but with patients and family members. (See the article on family rounds.) While some of these strategies take some planning to implement, the good news is that they work.

edoyleEdward Doyle
Editor and Publisher