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Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Communication in Healthcare: Lessons from Decades of Marriage.

By Scott Stanley

The secret to effective communication is knowing how and when to share your message. This is something that, after 20 years of marriage, I am finally starting to grasp the concept of.

Let me explain: When we communicate with others, we can do so in two ways -- in real-time (synchronously), or we can deliver a message that can be consumed by the recipient when it is convenient for them, (asynchronously).

For instance, I have found that when communicating with my wife about an injury to one of my children, a phone call, no matter what time of day or night, is warranted. Information is shared between us that is used to make decisions in the care and treatment of those injuries, and an action plan is set in place quickly. This real-time, synchronous communication lets us be as efficient as possible under time-sensitive conditions. 

Equally important though, is my expression of love for my wife. When I wake up to go on a run before she is awake, making my side of the bed with a note left on the pillow letting her know how much I love her means the world to her and lets her know where I am. This is definitely important information that I want to share with her, but it is not time sensitive. She can read that when she wakes up and has the information that she needs to start her day.

These same concepts can be applied to healthcare. The hospital has a close relationship with their EMS agencies and shares important information daily that benefits patient care. As in marriage, there is time-sensitive information that needs to be passed along in real time in order to take the next steps in patient care. Pulsara provides synchronous communication options through the phone and video icons. The medic can speak directly with the physician and course of treatment can be determined the INSTANT it's needed.

Just like my love note in the example above, in less critical patients, important information can be passed along for consumption at the convenience of the rest of the team. EMS simply records a patient report using the audio clip feature and passes that along to the hospital when the alert is sent. The emergency department nurse can at her next available time open the new patient alert, listen to the audio clip, find out when the patient will be arriving based on the ETA, and then mobilize resources at her convenience rather than having to drop everything she's doing at any given moment to speak to the EMS provider.

Traditional radio reports and phone calls to the emergency department can be time-consuming, disruptive, and are not always necessary. Utilizing Pulsara to communicate patient information can free emergency department staff from having to walk to a stationary point to pick up the radio mic for information that was not vital to patient care. Knowing how and when to communicate will create a more efficient process and free up time when minutes matter.

While I have definitely not perfected all communication in my marriage (who has?), I have learned that, like healthcare, there are times when sending a message or leaving a note makes more sense and provides more flexibility than real-time, synchronous methods. Another major plus I've discovered over the last twenty years of marriage, is that my wife is much more forgiving than a STEMI!

ARTICLE CATEGORIES: EMS, Healthcare, Communication, Technology
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Scott Stanley

Scott Stanley

Scott has served as a Combat Medic, as a corpsman with the Naval Reserves Marine Unit, as a Firefighter, EMT, and paramedic, as a nurse, and most recently as the EMS coordinator at St. Elizabeth Healthcare.

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