Communication

September 1, 2007 | Aging Services Risk Management

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Communication is the crux of healthcare. The ability to transmit information between residents and providers and among caregivers is central to the provision of safe, quality care. However, the increasingly complex continuing care environment can complicate the communication process and hinder information exchanges necessary for optimum care.

Communication breakdowns in long-term care can occur in various ways. For example, there can be communication failures during the transfer of responsibility for a resident between caregivers, such as during a change of shift, or when a resident is transferred between care sites (e.g., nursing home and hospital, assisted-living facility and skilled nursing environment). Communication breakdowns can also occur within the team of caregivers treating a resident in a particular setting, between a resident’s attending physician and staff at the long-term care facility, or between caregivers and the resident. Sometimes, these communication lapses include the family members of the resident, especially when family members do not live near the facility and cannot visit easily.

Communication breakdowns may negatively affect resident care and may also be a leading cause of professional liability and lawsuits (Woods). Caregivers should effectively communicate a resident’s plan of care, discuss adverse and unanticipated outcomes, disclose errors, and apologize to residents and families, if appropriate under the circumstances. Risk managers, resident safety officers, and healthcare leaders have recognized the need to improve communication among caregivers and between caregivers and residents in their organizations as a key risk management strategy.

This Guidance Article provides examples of communication breakdowns that can affect resident outcomes or safety or result in liability claims and other potential losses for continuing care organizations. It reviews strategies for and provides action recommendations on improving...

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