Patient Support & Advocacy

Improve communication, save time in practice with these methods

Improving care quality and efficiency can be completed through implementation of evidence-based methods. These efforts include the use of daily huddles, redesigning patient registration and listening to patient concerns with empathy. Read this year’s top five AMA Wire® stories on ways physicians, clinics and hospitals can improve communication in practice.

When acrimony arises with patients, listen with empathy. An internist gets an email from a patient’s wife, who is deeply frustrated and complains that the practice’s off-hours care is “lousy.” To respond, the physician requested a face-to-face meeting and made use of empathetic-listening skills to defuse a tense situation.

Oregon clinic redesigns patient registration to save clicks, time. When a practice ditches paper registration forms and designates a team member to orally collect information prior to the visit, patients spend less time trying to understand the process and they answer questions pertinent to their visit more accurately. As a result, physicians and others on the care team are freed up to spend more time on the patient’s visit. Physicians also are more likely to begin the visit with the patient’s complete medical history, which is essential to efficient, accurate and effective care.

To find fixes, Virginia health system asks, “What’s working?” Leaders of the inpatient psychiatric unit in the University of Virginia Health System—a large academic medical center with about 7,500 faculty and staff—recognized that too many of their patients had psychiatric deterioration after being discharged and ultimately were readmitted. Those inpatient leaders also believed better communication and collaboration with community service professionals who took care of patients after they were discharged could improve the situation.

San Francisco clinic’s daily huddles make efficiency a team sport. Huddle sessions didn’t take off quickly at Maxine Hall Health Center, a public health primary care clinic in San Francisco. The early gatherings were chaotic, but practice leaders regrouped and revitalized the effort. They worked to identify the best huddle format and the ideal time for the staff to meet. The payoff: improved teamwork, better preparation and a greater ability to coordinate care for patients.

Seattle health system peeks behind requests for unneeded care. Direct-to-consumer advertising and readily available medical information online has led to more patients asking for a specific medication or treatment. Echoing the sentiments of physicians nationwide, clinicians at Group Health Cooperative, an integrated health system headquartered in Seattle, worried they would disappoint patients if they didn’t give them the tests or treatments they wanted. But when leaders at Group Health took a closer look at patient requests, they found there was more to the story.

The AMA’s STEPS Forward™ collection offers free online modules that help physicians and system leaders improve patient care, including learning about daily huddles, redesigning patient registration and listening with empathy.

Several modules have been developed from the generous grant funding of the federal Transforming Clinical Practices Initiative (TCPI), an effort designed to help clinicians achieve large-scale health transformation through TCPI’s Practice Transformation Networks. The AMA, in collaboration with TCPI, is providing technical assistance and peer-level support by way of STEPS Forward resources to enrolled practices. The AMA is also engaging the national physician community in health care transformation through network projects, change packages, success stories and training modules.