Last Month, EMS1.com published an eBook titled "Examine Your EMS Agency's Safety Culture to Improve Patient Outcomes." In it, Pulsara's Founder and CEO, Dr. James Woodson, was featured for one of the articles about how technology is not a magic bullet that can fix an inefficient EMS culture. Instead, technology must be supplemented with good processes, and most importantly, with the right people. Below is the full article featuring Dr. Woodson. The entire eBook can be downloaded here!
As an emergency physician, Dr. James Woodson was used to seeing patients during their biggest time of need. Sometimes that meant racing against the clock to save the lives of patients dealing with life-threatening conditions like stroke or cardiac arrest.
Effective communication is a key ingredient to patient safety in any situation, emergency or otherwise. The importance of communication among EMS providers sounds like it should be a no-brainer.
But is it really?
Over the years, Woodson has learned that communicating well in a hectic emergency care setting is more difficult than we think. It’s actually very common for miscommunication to happen, especially within the walls of an emergency department.
“Many patient-centered care providers often fall into these negative cycles of communication and forget that what we do for a patient together as a team is more important than what we do for our patient in our own individual silos,” said Woodson.
Identify Gaps in the Process
A breakdown in communication is especially troublesome during moments of transition when a patient is handed off to a new care team.
Many studies have shown that patient handoff is an active process that’s prone to medical errors. It’s a widely known phenomenon in emergency medicine, so it’s not uncommon to see healthcare workers from different disciplines, such as emergency radiologists, stroke specialists, neurologists, cardiologists, cath lab teams and prehospital providers from the same region, to meet for the purpose of understanding how these teams could work better together.
That often raises the question: Where, how and why are these communication issues emerging?
Adopting Tools to Bridge the Gaps
Woodson was a part of meetings that attempted to address this complex problem in the system where he worked. After many lengthy conversations and years of preparation, Woodson entered the healthcare market with an app called Pulsara that was specifically designed to keep EMS providers, emergency department staff and specialty care teams all on the same page by providing a dedicated patient information channel for all providers involved.
“We’re led by our vision to become the accepted evidence-based standard of care and our purpose to improve the lives of patients and caregivers through innovative communication,” said Woodson. “While understanding the problem and selecting the right technical solution is critical, we know that successful implementation of technology hinges on uniting people and process around the tool.”
EMS agencies should turn towards solutions that put patient safety first. Woodson also urged EMS providers to revisit their perspective on what patient-centric care actually entails.
“Patient-centric healthcare has been misinterpreted and often applied incorrectly over the years. Clinicians often focus so much on their interaction with the patient, they often lose sight of other care team members – especially the ones they don’t see,” said Woodson. “If a medic is so focused on his or her interaction with the patient, they may not take the time to communicate appropriately with downstream team members which can negatively impact overall treatment times, patient outcomes, and patient safety.”
Creating Organizational Change
There are many pieces to the patient safety puzzle. As technological advancements offer agencies more options than ever before, it can be challenging to navigate a sea of constant change. Woodson cites the Center for Patient Safety as a good starting point for reshaping culture to achieve more open communication and improved accountability.
“I think the Center for Patient Safety is really starting the conversation on how organizations can focus on what it means to work together, incorporate different process and systems and leverage the right tools and resources to evolve and grow to find better ways to keep patients safe,” he said.
When an agency’s systems, processes and people are aligned and support our No. 1 goal as healthcare workers to protect our patients, instigating new cultural shifts and behaviors will become much easier.