Doctor talking to team gathered in hospital meeting room
HealthFebruary 22, 2021

What should nurse leaders know about communication overhauls?

By: Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN
Many research studies show that the patient experience is enhanced by effective communication from healthcare providers.

When communication helps the development of strong, positive relationships, patients are more likely to self-manage chronic conditions, adhere to medical recommendations, and practice preventative health behaviors.1 But communication is also an essential skill that physicians, nurses, and others must practice among their own ranks to provide competent healthcare.

According to the author of a recent article in the healthcare journal Nursing Management, nurses shoulder the burden of fostering and maintaining effective communication among healthcare workers.2 Each nursing shift requires nurses of all practice and experience levels to convey vital healthcare information to a large and complex care team. But in many cases, modern healthcare communication methods, such as pagers and on-call services, are slow and don’t provide the accuracy necessary to make important patient care decisions.

Clinical communication and collaboration platforms

Communication problems aren’t new to nurse leaders but finding ways to bridge communication gaps can be challenging. When searching for technological solutions, many nurse leaders find that the integration of new software tools with existing clinical systems is essential for enhancing communication and workflows among all healthcare providers. Known as clinical communication and collaboration platforms (CC&C), these tools represent an evolution from older secure messaging systems focused on HIPAA-compliant text messaging.3

For nurse leaders, the process of selecting, implementing, and integrating these new software platforms can be arduous. But following a simple, 8-step checklist can help nurse leaders find and start using CC&Cs that will benefit not only patients, but the entire healthcare organization.

CC&C checklist for nurse leaders

The article’s author interviewed two nurse innovators who helped their organizations overhaul their communications platforms. Together, these innovators created a checklist to help other leaders evaluate their communication needs, plan to make the change, and eventually implement a CC&C within their own healthcare systems:2

  1. Understand the problem from two points of view. First, it’s important to get clinicians and technologists on the same page regarding a new CC&C. The information technology (IT) team will probably be heavily involved in the process, but they likely speak in an entirely different language compared to clinical staff. Therefore, clinicians should be forthcoming about clinical workflows that influence decision-making, and IT professionals should help translate those clinical needs into technical requirements.
  2. Calculate the financial impact. Vetting different CC&C solutions will always involve a discussion about cost—finance will want to make sure expenses for software, hardware, and integration are estimated correctly. However, finance can also help find ways to lower or even eliminate certain costs associated with a CC&C, such as money spent on transcription services.
  3. Keep HIPAA in mind. Each vendor offering a CC&C solution must adhere to specific requirements that help protect secure patient information, including HIPAA. Nurse leaders should automatically rule out any vendor that won’t certify and sign necessary business associate agreements. Also, CC&C tools should be able to:
    • Filter protected health information (PHI) from nonsecure messages sent to email accounts or pagers
    • Prevents caching of PHI on mobile devices
    • Encrypt data in both transmission and storage
  4. Edit existing institutional policies. The adoption of a CC&C will almost certainly impact some existing organizational policies, such as those preventing staff nurses from using work-issued mobile phones in front of patients. As such, nurse leaders should involve human resources and quality improvement groups to help modify and update existing policies to reflect the shift to a new CC&C.
  5. Get physicians onboard. In many cases, new CC&Cs replace existing processes that have been used for effective nurse-to-physician communication. Because of this, it’s important for nurse leaders to get physicians onboard with change. Physicians can be instrumental in advocating for the adoption of a new CC&C among their own ranks, which can help ensure more of their peers take steps to learn the new system.
  6. Work through communication workflows. Nurse leaders should consider conducting a pilot before a broad rollout of a new CC&C. This allows leaders to learn from mistakes made during the testing phase so they can make necessary changes to workflows which prevent these mistakes from occurring again.
  7. Consider the hardware. It can be difficult for nurse leaders to know which hardware options, such as bring your own device (BYOD) programs or work-issued devices, will be best for use with the new CC&C platform. As such, decisions should be based on existing electronic health record software and mobility management policies.
  8. Make continued improvement a closed loop. Implementing a new CC&C is the ultimate goal, but leaders shouldn’t assume that the solution is set in stone. Technology continuously improves and changing healthcare needs mean that leaders must continually reevaluate the effectiveness of their CC&C solutions.

Following this roadmap can help nurse leaders align clinical communication plans across an entire healthcare organization. With the right technology, leaders can find a solution that will evolve along with ever-changing clinical needs.

Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN
Freelance Health and Medical Content Writer, Wolters Kluwer Health
Sarah has over nine years’ experience in various clinical areas, including surgery, endocrinology, family practice, and pharmaceuticals. She began writing professionally in 2016 as a way to use her medical knowledge beyond the bedside to help educate and inform healthcare consumers and providers.
  1. “Impact of Communication in Healthcare.” IHC, 2011, healthcarecomm.org/about-us/impact-of-communication-in-healthcare.
  2. Mills, Julie MBA, RNC-OB, C-EFM. “Checklist for a Successful Clinical Communication Overhaul.” NursingCenter, Jan. 2021, nursingcenter.com/journalarticle?Article_ID=5742748&Journal_ID=54013&Issue_ID=5742731.
  3. Telmediq. “What Is a Clinical Communication and Collaboration Platform?” TELMEDIQ, 2018, telmediq.com/what-is-a-clinical-communication-and-collaboration-platform.