Patient care is under intense scrutiny, particularly in emergency departments across the U.S. As the Medicare/Medicaid guidelines tighten, hospital leaders are looking at ways to improve patient care and outcomes.  One of the key findings in a recent survey is that clinical communications can improve results.

The survey reached over 158 emergency department leaders for an in-depth review of clinical communications from patient handoffs, calling in consults, and routine communications such as ordering labs/tests and working with pharmacies.  The survey focused on U.S. hospitals with a minimum of 200 beds.

Patient Care and Communication Errors

The Joint Commission reported 37 percent of unexpected events causing injury or death in the hospital (sentinel events) are due to communication and assessment errors, highlighting the impact of communication on patient care.  The survey emphasized this as well — over half of respondents reported communication errors occur in more than 10% of Emergency Department hand offs.  They partly contributed the problem to the myriad of communication tools used during a hand off, everything from face-to-face conversations to fax machines.

Top Communication Challenges

The respondents broke down their biggest concerns about top communication challenges.  As the chart below shows, response from a specialist, poor handwriting, and response from a physician are the three top concerns. There are a number of technology tools to address this now.  To speed specialist response you can use multiple-modals to reach them.  A specialist, can pre-select the best ways to reach them — perhaps via mobile, then email, then pager as an example.  If the specialist doesn’t respond with a certain time limit, the message can be escalated to a new modal or to a supervisor to speed response.

patient care, patient care communications

Where Patient Care Communications Break Down

Respondents identified three key areas where communication breaks happen that can affect patient care.  The most likely mistakes occur during the initial intake process:  EMS/ambulance to triage, registration to triage, and triage to charge nurse.  Having clear communication flow during intake assessment can be the difference in getting optimal patient care during a critical event such as a heart attack.  Sometimes seconds and minutes do matter and delays during intake can greatly impact patient outcomes.

For a more detailed look at our survey Download the Full Survey Results now. 

Secure Messaging

Eighty percent of respondents found secure messaging to be the most effective form of communication after face-to-face conversations (82%). Yet, just under 50 percent of hospitals used secure messaging. At Everbridge, we believe this is a hidden opportunity to improve patient care and patient outcomes.  Since secure messaging is mobile, respondents can discuss patient care from anywhere speeding response times and communication flow.

The ED Survey covers several areas of communication in and around hospital emergency departments. We invite you to download the full report and see if there are areas where you hospital could improve.  If you’d like to see how our clinical communications platform can benefit your business please contact for a demo inside our “Everbridge General Hospital” a test site that let’s you launch clinical templates or clinical incidents, and see responses in real-time.