Industry Trends

Grant to Fund Study of Physician-Nurse Communications

Doctor with Digital Tablet

Doctor with Digital TabletAs reported by Health Data Management, a $1.6 million grant has been awarded to researchers at the University of Michigan (U-M) to examine communication technologies—like pagers, email, and electronic health records—between healthcare providers, how they are used, and where regular challenges arise.

Consistent with an item published by U-M’s School of Information (UMSI), Milisa Manojlovich, PhD, RN, CCRN—a U-M School of Nursing associate professor and member of the University’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation—will lead the project. Julia Adler-Milstein, assistant professor, UMSI and U-M’s School of Public Health, will serve as a co-investigator.

“In general, as electronic communication has increased, the face-to-face communication between practitioners has decreased, and that has created occasions for crucial information to be passed incorrectly or not at all,” says Manojlovich.

According to the Health Data Management article, Manojlovich and her team will employ a sequential mixed methods design—including surveys, phone interviews, observations, shadowing, and focus groups at hospitals throughout the country—to ascertain how communication is influenced by communication technologies and practices, as well as work relationships. Based on their findings, researchers intend to make recommendations for design structures that will improve the functionality of health IT.

“The work environment and policies are often not conducive to effective communication,” Manojlovich states in the UMSI article. “For example, in a previous study, we observed physicians place a STAT order, meaning immediately, in the computer. However, they would not notify the nurse in any other way. The physicians were not aware that by hospital policy, nurses were only required to check the computer for orders every two hours.

“That meant that a STAT order sometimes went almost two hours before it was acknowledged and acted upon by the nurse,” she adds. “It is not about blame because both the doctor and nurse did their job properly according to policy, but this communication failure can have serious implications for the patient.”

Funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality—which is part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services—the study will distinguish communication technologies that promote a shared understanding of information between nurses and physicians. Researchers will also explore how faster, more accurate problem identification and resolution can occur in the hopes of ultimately improving patient safety.

About the author

Bobbi Harrison

Bobbi Harrison is the communications manager at Weatherby Healthcare. She is the former editor of LocumLife and Healthcare Traveler magazines, and also served as the managing editor of Healthcare Staffing and Management Solutions. A recipient of the American Society of Business Publication Editors’ prestigious gold award, she has more than a decade of publishing experience in the staffing industry.

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