The Top 6 Communication Challenges of the Healthcare Industry and How to Overcome Them

A crisis communication plan ensures employees and other key stakeholders receive timely information for their safety.

Mass notification technology has improved communication with patients, employees, media, and other stakeholders which enriches morale and boosts engagement.

Though this technology exists, hospitals and others in the healthcare industry still face communication challenges that can cause operational, reputational, financial, and strategic risk. Read on to learn the top six communication challenges facing the healthcare industry and how to overcome them.

1. Outdated or antiquated technology

Pagers, faxes, radios, and telephones have their place, but they don’t provide quick, effective information to large groups. These tools work as one-to-one communication requiring manual replication to escalate the information to involved parties (i.e. you have to call everyone on the phone list to tell them what’s happening).

The Fix: Use a mass notification service that allows the facility to send template messages (or custom ones) to entire groups such as all nursing staff or target a specific segment, such as nurses with a specific certification.

2. Manual alert delivery increases facility exposure and vulnerability

Printed notices can cause serious reputational and technological risks if they are misplaced, lost, stolen, or thrown away. This exposes your facility to vulnerabilities. The notice could get into the wrong hands creating an information security breach or the spread of misinformation. Consider the top ways patient records are accessed by unauthorized parties. Mishandling of protected information is an ongoing concern.

The Fix: Automated alert delivery can help avoid this issue by sending the messages to secure emails and specific groups instead of printing paperwork that could be left around and fall into the wrong hands.

3. Shifts are not filled in a timely manner

Patients never stop needing medical supervision when they are in a hospital. If you are left shorthanded, you will need to quickly fill the shift. Making manual calls to off-duty employees is an ineffective, slow process. Further, there are often multiple people working to fill shifts, calling lists of people. Some may be called more than once while others are not called at all. Or the shift may be filled but slow communication means calls continue until word of the filled shift is received which wastes manpower and time.

The Fix: Mass notification tools allow organizations to automatically call, text or email through a pre-sequenced list one at a time in order to quickly and efficiently fill staff vacancies. Call outcomes are documented to provide critical information such as when calls are answered, which shifts are declined and who is declining and accepting shifts. Calls automatically stop when the shift is filled, sparing additional employees unnecessary calls.

Where does your organization stand with the new CMS Emergency Communication guidelines? 

4. Timely delivery of information to the right people, at the right time

When there is a change in policy or an escalated situation that needs attention quickly, printed notices are not the best way to relay details. Healthcare employees work varying shifts and alternating hours, so engaging them on a regular basis is difficult. Even if you provide lockers or on-site mailboxes that provide a static means of sharing printed information, it does not guarantee that it was received or read by the recipient. There is a high probability of employees saying they never saw the information with the flyer system which could cause liability issues. Having the ability to report on who received or did not receive an alert can help you take the right after-action steps to save time and resources.

The Fix: Mass notification tools send alerts to employees’ preferred method of contact and reports on if/when the message was received.

5. Quickly alerting employees and key stakeholders of infectious disease outbreaks, medical lockdown, evacuation, missing patients and more is difficult

Notifying a wide group of people of dangerous situations is a difficult task. It requires a very detailed communication plan that has contingencies and legacy planning (i.e. who will manage the plan if the original person is unavailable?). Alerting must happen immediately for the safety of patients and employees. It’s also important to consider notifying the media as it allows your facility to relay accurate and timely information to avoid public panic.

The Fix: Setting up groups in your mass notification system allows you to send targeted messages to those specific people.

6. Lack of incident response to dangerous situations like impending natural disasters, bomb threats, active shooters and more

You are required to have evacuation plans in case of natural disasters, bomb threats, and active shooters, but do you or your employees know what the plan is? How will you notify them when things are in the “all clear”? Not knowing how to deliver information in these extremely dangerous situations can cause injuries or loss of life.

The Fix: Opt for an emergency notification system that can assist you in getting the word out right away – ensuring staff receive the alerts at a moment’s notice.