Effects of Ineffective Communication in Medical Offices

There are several indicators that your medical office has ineffective communication. Incomplete or inaccurate patient records and communication breakdowns can have serious consequences for the medical office staff and patients. One vital piece of information not communicated can have disastrous results. Although some mishaps are unavoidable, effective communication can result in better outcomes for patients and the overall success of the medical office.

There are five side effects of ineffective communication in the medical office:

  1. Medical errors
  2. Long wait times
  3. Workplace conflict
  4. Poor decision-making
  5. Increased stress

Medical Errors

Medical Office.
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There are many reasons why medical errors occur in the medical office. Most practices have (or should have) a system for preventing errors from occurring. Poor communication is the number one reason that medical errors occur when there is a system in place. Medical office staff, nurses, and physicians need to understand the importance of documentation, which is the best way to communicate patient events.

Documentation, including symptoms, diagnosis, care, treatment, medication, problems, risks to health, and safety information can be effective in preventing medical errors. Remember to document prior mistakes and even the patient's concerns. Not all errors are avoidable, but when information is documented accurately, healthcare professionals are able to identify and correct mistakes before an adverse medical event occurs.


Long Wait Times

The number one patient complaint that a medical office receives is of long wait times. These are often made worse by a breakdown of communication. Patients aren't informed of how long the wait will be or what is causing the delay. Patients should not have to wait longer than 15 minutes for their scheduled appointment.

Considering how unpredictable health care can be, it is understandable that there may be times when patients will have a longer wait. Sometimes it may be unavoidable, but as a general guide, patient appointments should be scheduled far enough apart so that small delays don't start adding up to long delays.

Communication among patients, staff, and physicians can prevent scheduling conflicts or overbooking, which is the biggest reason for long wait times.


Workplace Conflict

Disagreements and differences of opinion can escalate to serious conflict in the workplace. Many times this occurs when communication is avoided with the hope that it will just go away. Avoidance only makes matters worse. Some people feel as though they are always walking on eggshells and others build resentment against those who they consider the cause of the conflict.

Communication allows misunderstandings to be worked out and problems to be resolved. Many times all parties have made a bigger deal in their own mind than it really is. Workplace conflict is a leading symptom of a declining practice.


Poor Decision-Making

Sometimes poor decision-making is a result of not having all the details needed to make a sound and rational decision. The decision-making process requires a clear vision of the organization's mission, goals, and values in order to accurately identify:

  • the problem, issue or need for improvement
  • possible solutions
  • alternatives and consequences
  • strengths and weakness

Managers can rarely identify this information alone. They rely on communication from the entire staff in order to make effective decisions. Encouraging staff to speak up about concerns by providing feedback in a positive and productive way can help to make decisions that result in the improvement of the medical office.


Increased Stress

Stress is a normal response to daily events in the workplace. However, lack of communication can increase stress due to unnecessary worry and concern over workplace issues, real or perceived.

Increased stress may come in the inability to anticipate outcomes due to poor communication. Poor coordination, unknown expectations, and lack of direction are unnecessary causes of stress. Effective communication skills training has been shown to be beneficial in reducing stress in the burnout of nurses.

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