The Real Cost of Healthcare Miscommunication

OnPage Introduction

Miscommunication isn’t just about the frustration that ensues when direction isn’t followed or understood by colleagues. For the healthcare industry, miscommunication could mean the loss of billions of dollars and the endangerment of patients.

That’s why physicians must implement a clinical communication solution to avoid the risks associated with poor, care team collaboration methods.

The Objective of This Blog

The goal of this blog is to provide examples of how communication inefficiencies have contributed to costly repercussions for organizations. For healthcare professionals, this piece will:

  • Emphasize the costs associated with poor communication
  • Highlight how healthcare miscommunication puts patients at risk
  • Indicate how clinical communication solutions streamline and improve medical workflows

Example 1. Putting Lives at Risk

Medical personnel are always at the forefront of advances in medical technology, but for some reason, the tools used to communicate within a healthcare facility are the last to see any improvement. How can a physician provide quality treatment to patients when his or her facility’s communications haven’t changed since the early ‘90s?

According to a CRICO Strategies study, inadequate healthcare communications have cost the lives of 2,000 patients. From those 2,000 patients, 37 percent of severe injury cases led to patient deaths due to communication inadequacies.

It was also reported that healthcare miscommunication contributed to nearly 7,150 cases where a patient’s status worsened.

Example 2. Issues Receiving Critical Files

The collaboration between primary care physicians (PCPs) and specialists is suffering due to communication inadequacies. This leads to consultations or referrals not being received in a timely manner, which affects a physician’s ability to provide care for patients.

Within PCP communication, it’s reported that 69 percent of PCPs frequently send notifications of a patient’s medical history to specialists. Unsurprisingly, due to poor communication, only 35 percent of specialists reported receiving those critical documents or medical images.

Of course, the negative impacts of healthcare miscommunication aren’t limited to the sharing of patient history. As an alarming example, 81 percent of specialists reported that they typically send consultation results to PCPs. But, only 62 percent of those PCPs stated that they received such results.

Example 3. Unavoidable Monetary Losses

Poor communication will cost health organizations much more than pocket change. In the case of 7,000 facilities in the U.S. healthcare system, they could’ve avoided $1.7 billion in malpractice costs if they invested in a clinical communication solution to prevent message failures.

Within the 7,000 facilities affected, 48 percent of communication failures occurred within ambulatory care, as well as the inpatient setting at 44 percent. This indicates that communication failures aren’t restricted to one clinical department.

Example 4. Patient Delays and Wasted Expenditures

Patients tend to experience prolonged stays at health facilities or treatment centers due to poor communication. This creates frustration for the patient, and it also increases the cost for facilities to provide the necessary and extensive treatment.

According to a U.S. National Library of Medicine study of 14,000 healthcare cases, communication inefficiencies that increase the length of stay for patients could cost U.S. hospitals $12 billion on an annual basis.

Furthermore, in a study conducted by Columbia University, it’s also suggested that healthcare facilities spent $765 billion on services in 2010. While not all of this waste can be ascribed to ineffective or non-existent communication, the data indicates that poor communication played a key role.

Example 5. Inadequate Communications and HIPAA Fines

Commonly used platforms such as paging systems, prevent healthcare professionals from receiving communications if they’re away from their facility or out of signal range.

Furthermore, the pager only allows for one-way communication and its transmissions can be intercepted and viewed by malicious parties. Consequently, facilities are then set to pay hefty HIPAA fines for failing to keep medical data protected and secure.

Also, pagers don’t escalate critical alerts. This means that if a physician can’t be reached, the alert won’t move forward to the next qualified person in line. The alert is then often missed or lost, which affects a patient’s ability to receive treatment.


Modernizing clinical communications is no longer a luxury, but a requirement. It improves care team collaboration, messaging and accountability. By implementing a clinical communications solution, facilities can:

  • Slash doctor response times
  • Evade communication failures
  • Forgo costly risks and improve workflows
  • Increase patient satisfaction
  • Ensure that doctors provide the appropriate treatment, at the appropriate time

As the healthcare industry continues to advance, it’s an organization’s duty to adopt a clinical communication solution, all with the power of heightened security and encrypted care team messaging. This allows organizations to decrease errors caused by miscommunication and human inefficiencies by 30 percent.

Also, investing in a clinical communication solution allows facilities to report 27 percent fewer patient safety incidents, and reduce procedure and test complications by 25 percent. It’s a sure way to solidify patient safety and ensure improved clinical workflows.

About OnPage

OnPage is a cloud-based, enterprise grade communication platform. We provide HIPAA-compliant clinical communications that connect healthcare personnel through two-way messaging and critical alerting. Enhance clinical workflow through automated alert escalation and the digital scheduler that manages alerting during on-call shifts. OnPage helps improve patient care through better, intelligent communications.

Slide2 7