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Three Steps to Improving Departmental Communication

Posted by Bill Nussdorfer on Mar 6, 2014 12:03:00 PM

In Transparency, Departmental Communication, ServiceLink, Accountability


As I was flipping through my copy of OR Today this morning, I stumbled upon an article that caught my eye. Written by Don Sadler, the article Communication Vital in OR: CSP, OR Departments Must Team up for Positive Outcomes establishes several great points about how important it is for the Sterile Processing Department (SPD) and the OR to communicate. To improve patient satisfaction, it is critically important to increase equipment availability, which is an enormous challenge for most organizations. Yes, this starts by improving communication and building a healthy relationship between the OR and SPD, however, a conversation about process is rarely enough to make a lasting impact. There are three more steps required in order to solidify departmental communication and prevent future breakdowns:

  1.        Add constraints to enforce workflow
  2.        Provide transparency and accountability
  3.        Continuously improve your process

Enforcing Process

As difficult as it is to collect the initial buy-in from nursing and central sterile, it is even more difficult to ensure everyone commits to the new workflow.  Why?  As Sadler states, “we’re all human”.  People are naturally averse to change, so as soon as a new process appears faulty or broken, we revert back to old habits.  For this reason, it is essential that nursing and SPD ditch the one-directional communication platforms like voicemails and pages for closed-loop systems that provide clear two-way communication. With Mainspring Health’s ServiceLink, for example, nursing staff can generate tickets by filling out a simple form. This operational workflow software automatically assigns, escalates and closes tickets as necessary, and provides status updates back to nursing in real time.  With a system like this in place, it becomes impossible to ignore a request.


Transparency and Accountability

There is no better way to build trust across departments than by lying your cards on the table, face-up.  Unfortunately, this isn’t reasonable with old-fashioned clipboards and sticky notes.  Introduce standardized data entry forms and documentation of every step in the fulfilment process, and voilà; direct access to useful data.  That means no more “he said, she said”.  No more finger-pointing.  No more “Where’s my pump?” and “Sorry, I never got your message.”  Instead, you are provided with visible, reliable and measurable data. 


Improve, improve, and improve.  Then Improve again.

It is unlikely that a new process is flawless the first time around, but with the right workflow software you now have the data to know for sure.  Use this data to dive in and find bottlenecks or opportunities to apply your new workflow to other areas of your organization.  Maybe the OR isn’t the only department looking to improve equipment availability and communication. And maybe improvement means that you can avoid that planned pump purchase, reduce rentals, or even sell off some of your excess equipment.


Final Thoughts          

So, how do you turn OR Today’s recommended communication into a sustainable new process?  Define your business rules and lock them down with the right workflow management software.  Doing so will build a culture of transparency, accountability and trust across your organization.

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