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Role of Communication in Healthcare Setting

Role of Communication in Healthcare Setting

Over the years, medicine has evolved a great deal. As such, there has been an increase in the number of patients, especially those with chronic illnesses, that need treatment from various healthcare givers in various disciplines (Vermeir et al., 2015). As medicine continues to evolve, there have been two major trends. First, the diagnostics workups and treatments have been highly organized on an outpatient basis. Second, the treatment of most patients has been shifted towards primary care. Due to such trends, the need for sharing information between healthcare workers like general practitioners and specialists must be initiated to enhance the safety of every patient. Practicing and delivery of healthcare services must be based and be critically dependent on efficient and effective communication (Vermeir et al., 2015). By initiating this approach, any given healthcare system can be run smoothly and help increase the care provided to patients. As such, it is essential to look at various approaches to communication and the role that communication has in improving patient safety.

Standardized Communication Approach

Several communication approaches can be used by healthcare providers to increase the safety of a patient. An excellent example of this is the Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation (SBAR) (Shahid & Thomas, 2018). This approach was originally used during submarine duty handoff by the US Navy. The SBAR encompasses several factors. These factors include Situation: a healthcare worker has to ask themselves what is the situation? Why should one call the physician? Background: what background information is present? Assessment: how can one assess the problem at hand? Recommendation: what approaches can one use to try and provide solutions to the problem that they have? (Shahid & Thomas, 2018).

In the healthcare setting, the SBAR was initially introduced at Kaiser Permanente in 2003. It was used as a framework that helped in structuring conversations between nurses and doctors regarding scenarios that needed instant attention (Shahid & Thomas, 2018). In its first introduction to the healthcare setting, its main goal was helping facilitate nurse-physician communication, especially in acute situations. Nonetheless, the tool has shown an increment in communication satisfaction among healthcare workers and even their point of view that communication has become much more precise (Shahid & Thomas, 2018). The purpose of this tool, especially in handoff, has been highlighted and supported by various specialists like anesthesia pre- and postoperative medicine, emergency medicine, obstetrics, acute care medicine, neonatology, and pediatrics.

SBAR Communication Tool for Handoff

Various medical associations and leading healthcare organizations like the Australian Commission for Safety and Quality in Healthcare (ACSQHC), are some of the associations that have endorsed the SBAR tool as the standard communication tool that can be used during handoff among care givers (Shahid & Thomas, 2018). In handoff situations, mnemonics can easily increase the memory of essential steps and help in the provision of a structured and standardized process to follow. Through the SBAR format, one can easily provide a structured format that they can use in presenting medical information in a logical and succinct sequence. Additionally, healthcare providers can concisely and easily use the tool.

Communication handoff is vitally essential when it comes to the creation of a shared mental model around a patient's condition (Shahid & Thomas, 2018). In instances where there is no good shared model or there is a flaw in the shared mental model, there could be catastrophic medical outcomes. According to Shahid & Thomas (2018), they indicate that the daily experience of healthcare providers in a healthcare setting has enabled most of them to learn of the existence of many opportunities that may help them improve information transfer during handoff. In their research (Shahid & Thomas, 2018), they talk of how Haig and colleagues executed a quality improvement project that had mainly focused on sharing a common mental model in communication among healthcare providers. It was determined that there was a significant increase in the utilization of SBAR as a tool. There was also an improvement in medication reconciliation and a reduction in instances of adverse events (Shahid & Thomas, 2018). Thus, it was concluded that the SBAR tool was highly effective in bridging various communication styles within an organization.

Whenever there is a communication breakdown, collaboration failure, and inability to recognize the clinical deterioration of patients can be considered as the main reasons for the occurrence of serious events in healthcare facilities (Shahid & Thomas, 2018). Studies conducted on the significance of the SBAR have shown an increase in unplanned ICU admissions and a substantial decrease in unexpected patient deaths among patients. Through these outcomes, one can conclude that there has been a shift in direction towards detecting complications much early, triggering the alarm regarding these conditions, and have effective responses through better communication while using the SBAR as an essential communication tool (Shahid & Thomas, 2018). Through the tool, patients' lives can be greatly saved, and the reputation of a given healthcare facility can be enhanced.

Role of Communication in Patient Safety

Communication plays various roles in ensuring that the safety of all patients is paramount. For instance, through effective communication, a healthcare facility will experience a decrease in conflicts within the working environment (Rosenberg, 2019). This helps in preventing a build-up of tensions among healthcare workers which, when left unaddressed, the patients may pay the consequences with their health. Communication helps avoid conflict through the provision of clear and concise information throughout the facility. As such, harmony and tranquility prevail in the entire institution, thus favoring professional interactions that help in ensuring the safety of all patients (Rosenberg, 2019). Thus, whenever effective communication has been affected in a healthcare facility, drastic actions must be taken to help diffuse the situation because patient safety depends on this.

Another role that effective communication plays in patient safety is that it helps in sharing research findings (Manojlovich et al., 2018). The healthcare industry heavily relies on research so that it can create and improve the tools and procedures it uses in providing services. As such, it is essential for all stakeholders in this industry to effectively share information through communication so that the safety of patients can be improved. However, in various instances, other players in this industry like third-party researchers may not communicate their findings with providers (Manojlovich et al., 2018). When this happens, medical advancements are stalled and even if a certain procedure or treatment is dangerous to a patient, healthcare workers may not know on time, thus putting the safety of the patient in jeopardy.

Effective communication helps in collaborating with colleagues to increase patient safety. Any healthcare facility is dependent on collaboration among all individuals (Rosenberg, 2019). For instance, collaboration must exist among patients who provide information about themselves, lab technicians who give their findings to doctors, doctors who use the information to come up with diagnosis and treatment methods. In short, patient safety is reliant on a collaborative approach than an individualistic approach. Whenever information is withheld by any essential stakeholder in the facility, the safety of a patient is endangered. Therefore, collaboration establishes a system that operates as smoothly as possible. Collaboration may also mean that every stakeholder must enter accurate information in databases, especially those that are shared by several members within the facility (Rosenberg, 2019). If the essential information is not entered accurately in these databases, major errors can easily occur, which in turn can potentially harm the safety of a patient.


The healthcare sector is one of the most essential sectors in society, and it keeps evolving every year. In recent years, healthcare services have been shifting towards primary care. This has been particularly driven by the ever-growing number of chronically ill patients. Furthermore, most practitioners in healthcare are becoming more specialized, and thus, communication between specialists and primary care providers is of paramount significance. Poor communication can certainly lead to a host of negative results. For instance, there can be a discontinuity of care, inefficient use of valuable resources, compromise of patient safety, overworked physicians, and patient dissatisfaction. Thus, healthcare providers must appreciate the use of communication as one of the best ways to ensure that they provide adequate services to their patients. A clear structure must be provided to help in addressing both the content and timeliness of the care provided to patients.


Manojlovich, M., Hofer, T. P., & Krein, S. L. (2018). Advancing Patient Safety Through the Clinical Application of a Framework Focused on Communication. Journal of Patient Safety, 1.

Rosenberg, K. (2019). Communication Intervention Improves Patient Safety. AJN, American Journal of Nursing, 119(3), 51.

Shahid, S., & Thomas, S. (2018). Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation (SBAR) Communication Tool for Handoff in Health Care – A Narrative Review. Safety in Health, 4(1).

Vermeir, P., Vandijck, D., Degroote, S., Peleman, R., Verhaeghe, R., Mortier, E., Hallaert, G., Van Daele, S., Buylaert, W., & Vogelaers, D. (2015). Communication in healthcare: a narrative review of the literature and practical recommendations. International Journal of Clinical Practice, 69(11), 1257–1267.