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5 Steps to Building an Effective Clinical Communication Plan

Communication Plan

Organizations require a well-crafted clinical communication plan to streamline workflows across care teams. The communication plan must include processes, hardware and software that improves how providers perform. An effective communication plan eliminates barriers across departments and ensures that all providers are informed of patient-related incidents.

High-level healthcare administrators are responsible for designing, managing and launching the clinical communication plan. These executives must participate in frequent, productive discussions to build a plan that can be easily adopted by medical personnel. 

Building the plan does not have to be a strenuous, tiring task for executives. By following the five steps discussed in this post, administrators can adopt a stress-free process for developing and executing a communication plan.

What Is a Clinical Communication Plan?

The clinical communication plan is a collection of procedures, policies and technology used to improve care team performance. Healthcare executives spearhead the design of new communication programs and are responsible for deploying the latest plans. When building the communication plan, executives must regularly meet with colleagues and document viable strategies. 

Five Steps Are Required to Build a Communication Plan

Executives fail when they accelerate the development of new communication plans. When administrators speed up the process, they often disregard crucial elements of a well-designed plan, allowing for fragmented care team communications. 

Poorly developed plans create security vulnerabilities. For instance, some executives may include legacy communication technology in their plans. However, antiquated medical systems, such as insecure pagers, are highly susceptible to data breaches. 

An effective plan is comprised of five critical steps including:

  1. Analyzing current communication plans
  2. Encouraging proactive management and internal discussions
  3. Adopting transformative communication technology
  4. Training staff on new communication strategies 
  5. Using reports to view the efficacy of new communication strategies.

Success is measured by how well administrators follow the five steps to a clinical communication plan. All elements are dependent on each other, and executives cannot omit specific steps. Following all five steps allows for durable, well-built communication programs for healthcare facilities.

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Step 1: Analyzing Current Communication Plans

Executives must assess their current plans and determine what elements can be retained or eliminated from the programs. The objective is to pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of a program, and determine what resources are required to build the new communication plan.

However, some executives deny the flaws of their current plans and hamper the development of new communication programs. Executives must be honest about their current plans and accept that they require a complete overhaul. Administrators cannot let denial get in the way of much-needed progress.

List of questions that executives must consider when crafting a clinical communication plan include:

  • What critical elements are missing from the current program?
  • What is the overarching goal of the new plan? 
  • What resources are needed to design and execute the new plan?
  • What are the timelines of the new plan? 
  • What employee training methods are needed to implement the new plan?
  • What is needed to measure the success of the new plan?

Step 2: Encouraging Proactive Management and Internal Discussions

C-suite officials, such as chief information officers (CIOs) and chief medical officers (CMOs), must participate in recurring, productive meetings to design the new clinical communication plan. 

Executive-level managers are expected to contribute to meetings and engage with colleagues. They must enter “divergent thinking” sessions to generate ideas for the new plan. Executives will then participate in “convergent thinking” to narrow down the options and select from the most viable ideas. Leadership and vision are crucial during these internal discussions.

When building the new communication plan, administrators must: 

  1. Analyze the current communication program.
  2. Meet with colleagues to generate new ideas.
  3. Accept different ways of thinking.
  4. Assess the options and add critical elements to the new program.
  5. Review the new program and make final refinements. 

Step 3: Adopting Transformative Communication Technology

Administrators must assess the current technology used in their healthcare facilities. Costly, ineffective and legacy communication systems must be excluded from new programs. Refined plans require modern technology that streamlines workflows and enhances care team communication. 

Many organizations are replacing traditional pagers with advanced, HIPAA-compliant mobile paging services. According to a recent healthcare IT survey, “90 [percent] noted that their healthcare organization was implementing or is planning to implement a mobile device initiative … the use of mobile devices has increased patient satisfaction and staff productivity.” Organizations that invest in transformative IT, such as mobile paging software, can perfect their new communication initiatives.

List of questions that administrators must consider when adopting new communication technology include:

  • How will modern systems improve communication across departments?
  • What are the benefits and capabilities of modern systems?
  • How much do modern systems cost? 
  • What is needed to train employees on new technology? 

Step 4: Training Staff on New Communication Strategies 

Care staff working with protected health information (PHI) should be trained on new communication policies. They require regular training to gain insight into recently adopted systems and communication strategies. 

Employees have the power to ask questions and state their concerns during training sessions. Administrators must address all inquiries and practice transparency to shrink employee stress levels. Training sessions create a welcoming environment for staff and are designed to educate, inform and motivate.

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Step 5: Using Reports to View the Efficiency of New Communication Strategies

Executives can access reports to view the performance of their new communication programs. For instance, a Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey collects data on patient satisfaction and treatment experience. Organizations can attribute their HCAHPS scores to the design and efficiency of their latest clinical communication plans. 

Additionally, the performance of new plans can be measured by:

  • Patients’ average length of stay (ALOS) in a hospital
  • Care team performance and critical incident response time
  • Hospital readmission rates (i.e., patients that receive poor care and return to the healthcare facility)

Conclusion

An effective clinical communication plan simplifies workplace processes and ensures that medical personnel respond to incidents promptly. The plan must clearly define roles and set up expectations for all departments. By simply following the five steps above, healthcare executives can successfully develop and launch new communication plans.

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