Aims and objectives: The purpose of this study was to identify day-to-day communication problems between healthcare professionals (HCPs) within secondary care and to investigate ways to improve communication: an area identified by the Trust’s board that needed improvement.
Setting: The study was undertaken at a London Teaching Hospital on a General Emergency Medical ward and all stages of the study involved representatives from medicine, nursing, pharmacy and therapy.
Methods: Communication between HCPs was recorded using a standard pro-forma to provide insights into staff communication, interactions and failures, and ways to improve communication. The perceptions of the HCPs were explored and compared through one-to-one interviews and a focus group identified ways to overcome these communication problems. The HCPs identified the need for a specific place to communicate, to be able to request comments and decisions from fellow HCPs, and to follow up on monitoring. They described this as a joint communication note (JCN).
Results: A total of 29 HCPs participated in the study (8 doctors, 12 nurses, 4 pharmacists and 5 therapists). All HCPs were involved in the observation phase, 8 were interviewed and 8 took part in the focus group. Communication problems included incomplete documentation; difficulties contacting other HCPs; no formal methods or places to provide information or ways to follow up if it had been actioned.
Conclusions: The HCPs felt that the JCN would be beneficial and would make communication easier long term and
definitely highlighted existing problems with communication. The differences between the professions highlighted the need to account for professional and behavioural differences when implementing any future developments in communication.