Communication Challenges in Complex Medical Environments

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The provision of health care is becoming increasingly complex and can involve multiple providers and care setting transitions, particularly as the population is living longer, and often with chronic disease. The Electronic Health Record (EHR) was intended to provide a comprehensive documentation of a patient’s health-related information; however, health care systems often function in isolation with EHRs that are unique only to that system. The EHR may also limit face-to-face communication between treating physicians within the same system. It is only with diligent effort that changes in medical management plans are conveyed among providers. When multiple providers are involved in a patient’s care, physician-to-patient communication may also suffer, which can impact patient satisfaction and outcome. This article describes a scenario in which several lapses in communication occurred, and it outlines other common pitfalls while providing possible solutions for improving communication across the health care spectrum.

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