30H-813732-edited-510495-edited.jpgWhen it comes to communication in healthcare, do you ever feel like you're playing a game of "telephone?"

One of the most challenging aspects of living in the technological age is the speed of change. There was once a day when the person armed with the most knowledge and information had the upper hand. That's not the case in today's world. Instead, the person or company that can rapidly learn and adjust to changing trends, information, and technology will now lead the pack. Your ability to adapt to a rapidly changing world will be the one skill that separates you from your competition.

That sounds easy enough right? Unfortunately, it's easier said than done. Woodrow T. Wilson once said, "If you want to make enemies, try to change something."  Especially in the world of medicine, it seems, this quote rings true despite constant advances in technology that can benefit both providers and patients. BUT, change is scary, and especially when lives are on the line, it can be tempting to stick to what you know (kind of) works. 

I have the privilege of working for an amazing company, Pulsara, and we are one such technology that is trying to change healthcare for the better. What exactly are we trying to change about healthcare? The way people communicate. As our marketing team has so eloquently said, "It's About Time!" Here’s why...

80% of serious medical errors are the result of miscommunication between caregivers during transitions of care. When I worked at the hospital, sitting in on an RCA (Root Cause Analysis) was a key part of the job. When a patient safety situation presented itself, the RCA was a way of finding the cause of the problem. Without fail, in every RCA I participated in, communication was considered to be the problem. One would think that with such overwhelming evidence of system-wide miscommunication, a change to the existing process would be welcomed, but unfortunately, that's hardly the case.

I love clinicians - remember, I used to be one! But clinicians more than any other group, it seems, are especially reluctant to change their processes even when they have evidence that those processes are problematic. Recently in a demo, a physician held his pager up as if it were the holy grail and said, "This is all I need, it works every time." Yet I am 100% confident that if his wife needs to contact him, he doesn't tell her to page him. If I looked up his LinkedIn or Facebook profile, I would not find his pager number on there to reach out to him. We all know that pagers, fax machines, and land line phones have gone the way of dinosaurs - in every industry except healthcare. Yet some people are still very attached to them. Why is that? If I focus all my efforts on selling against the pager, I will miss the bigger issue: If we performed our own RCA on this issue, we would discover CHANGE (or a reluctance to accept it) to be the problem.

But don't think that because I'm writing this, I've always been a perfect, go-with-the-flow acceptor of all change. Oh no:

I was test driving a car a couple of years ago, and I had an experience that I will never forget. The salesman was an older, seasoned gentleman, and it was August in Texas. I was in a new Ford Explorer, and the temperature controls were all digital. The task of turning on the A/C and cooling the vehicle off was such a simple task just a few short years ago. Now I couldn't even figure out how to do that and it was 115 degrees in the car. In anger and frustration, I said "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" The wiser older man told me about a feature that Ford came out with several years before, and he had a similar response to this "upgrade" that was, in his mind, completely unnecessary. He told me that he was convinced that nobody would ever want this particular feature in their vehicle.  It would create new problems and at the end of the day was more of a security risk than anything. He then stopped his story and I could tell that he was going to make me ask what the feature was. In complete embarrassment, he sheepishly said, "power locks."

If we want to succeed in business and in life, we need to reshape the way we think about change. Fight as much as you want; change is inevitable. You will not slow it down, and you certainly will not prevent it. You and the people around you (and if you're in healthcare those people could be your patients) will ultimately pay the price for your unwillingness to change.

Here is a mindset that I adopted a few years ago; keep in mind that the more competent and intelligent you are, the more difficulty you will have with what I'm about to say: You, my friend, are a novice. Now and always. The technology we will be using tomorrow hasn't even been invented yet, and you will have to learn to use it or be left behind. As soon as you figure that technology out, there will be an update that will rock your world. You (like all of us) are a novice, and a lifelong learner. The sooner you acknowledge that, the more easily you will adapt, and the better the outcome will be for all those you touch in your personal and professional life.


Shane Elmore, RN

Written by Shane Elmore, RN

Shane is Pulsara's Vice President of Clinical Innovation, and is certified in CCRN, CEN, and CFRN. Shane is a former Chest Pain Coordinator at Trinity Mother Frances Health System.