Are Hospitals our new Killing Grounds?

Killing Grounds? Lack of Communication Skills can Kill

As the country continually debates the healthcare issue my concern is that our hospitals are becoming a new killing ground. Let me state at the onset that my few personal hospital stays have been positive and flawless. It is a result of my experience as a strong and knowledgeable patient advocate for three different family memdoctorpatientbers – for my uncle for 15 years before he died at the age of 97 – for my father for seven years prior to his death at the age of 94 – and recently for a week for my 46-year-old son. The Massachusetts hospital for my uncle and the Florida hospital for my father are both notorious for poor patient care.

Lack of face-to-face, interpersonal communication skills between doctors to doctors, nurses to nurses, and staff to staff – if any communications takes place at all – surfaces as the prime disconnect for quality and medically safe patient care. Sloppy, undecipherable handwritten notes and/or shorthand computer entered notes are an additional gap for quality medically safe patient care even with the growth of EHR (Electronic Health Records). And finally alarm fatigue is the scapegoat for patient deaths in the hospital.

There is little question that the nurse to patient ratio, and in many cases the doctor the patient ratio are key factors in determining the level of quality patient care. I can’t tell you how often I heard “I have a number of other patients I have to care for so I can’t talk to you right now.” I was continually appalled by the lack of communications between a primary care doctor and the hospital doctors. Particularly detrimental if the primary care doctor did not have hospital privileges where my relatives had been admitted.

Through my work as a communications professional I become increasingly aware of the lack of interpersonal face-to-face communication skills of medical students who grow up in a digital world. These lacks of face-to-face communication skills are very evident to the medical schools as students arrive with their smart phones, iPads and computers. Not enough is being done to provide the medical students with the communication skill sets necessary. In fact some successful experimental programs have been killed because the “establishment doctors” don’t believe communications and observation skills are as critical as medical skills. I can’t think of a more important medical skill than the ability for medical professionals to communicate with each other and with their patients.

To come home healed healthy and alive, take control of your hospital stay. Have an advocate with you and involved at all levels. Insist on informed consent for every interaction and procedure. Review your records and charts while in the hospital. Be in charge.

Blumsack Brown BackgroundAs a coach, trainer and consultant, Larry Blumsack partners with people and organizations on the move and those already there to accelerate their communication, presentation and speaking skills to be on par with their ambition. Through one-on-one coaching and group training Larry helps leaders and aspiring leaders elevate their presence and communication skills to influence more people, sell more products-services-ideas and inspire others more successfully than they ever imagined.

Larry is the bestselling author of Face-to-Face is The Ultimate Social Media and founder of Zoka Institute and Zoka Training®. Zoka Training® — Mind/Voice/Body/Mindfulness in sync — is the result of Larry’s 45 years as a coach, acting teacher, actor, voice-over artist, theater and TV director/producer, radio & TV commentator and show host, speaker, trainer, serial entrepreneur, and syndicated columnist. Larry was a founding member of the theater department at Northeastern University.

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