Addressing the key communication barriers between microbiology laboratories and clinical units: a qualitative study

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Abstract

Background:

Many countries are on the brink of establishing antibiotic stewardship programmes in hospitals nationwide. In a previous study we found that communication between microbiology laboratories and clinical units is a barrier to implementing efficient antibiotic stewardship programmes in Norway. We have now addressed the key communication barriers between microbiology laboratories and clinical units from a laboratory point of view.

Methods:

Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with 18 employees (managers, doctors and technicians) from six diverse Norwegian microbiological laboratories, representing all four regional health authorities. Interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis was applied, identifying emergent themes, subthemes and corresponding descriptions.

Results:

The main barrier to communication is disruption involving specimen logistics, information on request forms, verbal reporting of test results and information transfer between poorly integrated IT systems. Furthermore, communication is challenged by lack of insight into each other's area of expertise and limited provision of laboratory services, leading to prolonged turnaround time, limited advisory services and restricted opening hours.

Conclusions:

Communication between microbiology laboratories and clinical units can be improved by a review of testing processes, educational programmes to increase insights into the other's area of expertise, an evaluation of work tasks and expansion of rapid and point-of-care test services. Antibiotic stewardship programmes may serve as a valuable framework to establish these measures.

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