Poor communication has been a factor in 1,744 patient deaths and over $1.7 billion in malpractice costs nationally in the past five years.

Communication is a crucial component in every step of the healthcare process. Whether it is a clinic sharing patient information with another facility, or a group of clinicians and staff at a hospital discussing how to treat current and incoming patients, the need for concise, effective communication is always present. Handoffs of information between healthcare providers happen with high frequency, often in settings that are not optimized for effective communication. The frequency of these handoffs increases the chance of losing a critical piece of information during transition. In fact, poor quality and incomplete handoffs play a role in 80% of preventable adverse events. The Joint Commission (TJC) responded to these statistics by requiring healthcare organizations to implement a standardized approach to handoff communications, including a face-to-face report that allows an opportunity to ask and respond to questions and minimize interruptions, along with a verification process.

The design of healthcare spaces can have a significant impact on how communication and handoffs occur. Solutions for improving healthcare worker communication and handoffs through space design include:

  1. Design spaces for collaboration: Healthcare spaces should be designed to facilitate collaboration among healthcare workers. Open workspaces, communal break areas, and shared conference rooms can promote communication and teamwork.
  2. Ensure clear sightlines: Visibility is essential for effective communication and supervision. Healthcare spaces should have clear sightlines to all patient areas, staff workstations, and common spaces.
  3. Use technology: Technology can enhance communication and handoffs. Electronic health records (EHRs) can help providers share patient information, and real-time location systems (RTLS) can help staff quickly locate each other when necessary.
  4. Support handoff protocols: Standardized handoff protocols can help ensure that all necessary information is communicated during shift changes or patient transfers. Facility design can support the use of these protocols by providing private areas for handoffs or incorporating technology like whiteboards or electronic tools to facilitate handoff communication.
  5. Minimize distractions: Distractions can disrupt communication and handoffs, which can lead to errors or miscommunication. Using sound-absorbing materials, avoiding clutter, and providing quiet spaces for important tasks and conversations can help minimize this risk.
  6. Use visual, auditory, and physical cues: An array of cues with inclusive design considerations can help healthcare workers quickly identify important information or locate essential equipment. By incorporating cues, such as color coding, signage with ADA considerations, and labeling, the facility design can help make this information easily accessible.
  7. Provide adequate space: Crowded or cramped spaces can make communication and handoffs more difficult. Providing adequate space for healthcare workers to move around, access equipment, and collaborate with their colleagues is essential to effective communication and quality patient care.

Consider these facility solutions to support effective communication and handoffs, and ultimately improve patient safety and quality of care.



Meet The Expert

Rhonda Malone Wyskiel, RN, MSN, joins HCM from the Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC) where she served as the Senior Director, Performance Improvement & Innovation. Additionally, she previously served as the Patient Safety and Healthcare Innovation Lead at the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety & Quality.





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