Having effective communication strategies in place is essential if you want to share both critical and time-sensitive information about your healthcare organization with others, both internally and externally.
Your organization’s internal communications will reflect on its external communications, that is the information that you share with patients, families and the community, so it is important to get it right. Well-informed staff can help keep your stakeholders well-informed.
Some common communication errors in healthcare are:
1. Sending too many emails
In the 21st century, many people have email fatigue. If you are relying on emails or you send too many emails, it is easy for your message to get lost. It’s also likely it may not even be read, and be buried under an avalanche of other emails in someone’s inbox.
2. Not communicating in a timely manner
No matter what the issue – if you have a crisis you are responding to or you want to communicate new procedures that are being implemented, timing is everything. For a issue or a crisis you need to be on the front-foot and ensure that staff are hearing from management first, before they hear rumors from elsewhere.
3. Not communicating with the right people
Understanding the audience for your communications is key. Who needs to know the information? Don’t take a scatter-gun approach – be strategic. In addition to this, take into account how different audiences like to be communicated with. For example elderly patients will want to receive information in more traditional ways than your Millennial employees.
4. Sending complex information
All communications, whether communication in the hospital or externally, should be in plain, easy to understand language. Your external audiences need to be able to understand the information you are sharing with them, and they are not experts in medicine or the health system.
Similarly, employees find it difficult to understand bureaucratic jargon, so when you are communicating with them you need to do so in a way that will engage them and not cause them to tune out.
5. Sending vague information
This is the opposite of complex information, but if you don’t clearly spell out what it is that you want to let people know about, and what action they need to take, you will get a poor outcome. Don’t assume that everyone you are communicating with knows the background to a particular issue. Also be sure to let them know why they need to know what you are communicating with them. Avoid acronyms and slang – again, this assumes a level of familiarity the audience may not have.
6. Not having clearly defined goals
What is the purpose of your communication? Is there a call to action or do you simply want to share information? Having goals leads to better outcomes.
7. Only having a one-way flow of communication
Communication shouldn’t just come from management to employees and stakeholders – they should also have a way of being able to share their thoughts and ideas as well.
8. Not evaluating your communications
If you don’t evaluate your communication strategies in healthcare, you won’t know if you have been successful or not, and you are likely to keep making the same mistakes.