Communication matters, a lot

It is a striking realization the number of health care’s problems related to communication, or the blatant lack there of.  Most recent example from Press Ganey (pdf) (oft-inflated, high 5s!, another argument for another day) patient satisfaction data:

…patients’ top priorities are how well they were kept informed about delays, how well the staff cared about them as people and how well their pain was controlled. It also mattered if the waiting room was comfortable.

Patient experience matters more every day.

Twitter, bellyflopping, and the heretical hospital

So hospitals are finding Twitter (for the uninitiated).  Thanks to Ed Bennett you can find which organizations have (and YouTube, Facebook, and blogs).  Polite golf clap, please.

Okay, that’s it.  Because it has been more of a “dip the toe to test the water” effort than a fearless jump into the cold swimming pool.  That is to be expected.  It might even be a good thing.  But using Twitter as another medium to push press releases will not lead to brand engagement (brands as Twitterers is a completely different conversation).  Remember, social media is about the conversation.  It takes two+ to tango.  Until hospitals engage in conversations (individual to individual) the effort will be largely unsuccessful.

But Twitter-like white-label internal applications hold potential to help health care personnel.  It could provide quick answers to questions that may, without such an application, go unasked.  Nurses asking nurses.  Physicians asking physicians.  Managers asking managers.  Managers managing employees.  Alerts.  Updates.  Internal news.  Nurses asking physicians asking managers asking nurses.  Or encouraging.  Or correcting.  Or improving quality and processes and collaboration.  You get the idea.  That rant could go on.

Skepticism abounds.  Expected.  It’s much easier to find reasons not to use such technology than to find reasons for its use.

Be assured there is some serious opportunity here for the heretical hospital.  An organization must allow and encourage (and implement) such technology for communication to take place.  A Toronto Globe and Mail column offers advice from Don Tapscott:

Twitter has emerged as a “powerful tool that can speed up the metabolism of an organization, keep everyone better informed and enable greater agility and responsiveness to changing conditions.”

He encourages people to experiment with it. Managers should try it out – at least to understand how it works – and give employees a chance “to self-organize and collaborate using these tools.”

Steve Prentice, president of consulting firm Bristall Morgan in Toronto adds his two cents in the same column:

He suggests companies start trying it out on an internal basis – starting from the top, with CEOs, to boost communication with staff. And companies should have a policy in place so workers understand perimeters.

Here’s to bellyflopping into the pool.  Adjusting to the coldish water happens quickly.  Though the red skin may linger for a while, the pain recedes in time.

In: What’s old is new again…

From Dr. Ted Eytan on this article from the late Larry Ragan published in 1980 :

When you read this, it seems like everyone is trapped in a system that they are powerless to change. Patients probably wouldn’t have it work this way.

Mesmerizing how some of these opinions still ring true in 2008.

As we search for ways to make our health care system better, wouldn’t it be appropriate to ask patients what they wanted, what they see as areas of needed improvement? In fact, I’ll argue improvement efforts should start with the voices of patients.