Communication in Health-Care Organizations
I t is particularly useful to consider the role of communication in healthcare organizations from a systems perspective. The input is the patient (and to some extent, his or her family), the throughput is the health care received while the patient is a member of the organization (which may range from aggressive preventive treatment to palliative care), and the output is the result of that care (the patient gets well and leaves the hospital; the patient's final days are made comfortable and dignified; the patient dies but the family feels positive about the care received, etc.). The components within the health-care organization are all the people who have some impact on the care the patient receives. These may include the custodians who keep the facility sanitary, the person who initially interviews the patient when he or she is admitted, orderlies, pharmacists, nurses, doctors, and administrators. Depending on the type of health-care organization, the nature of the task, and other factors, the degree of interdependency among these components will vary. What is critical is that relevant information can be shared quickly and accurately among those who need it. For example, effective communication from a nurse to the pharmacist regarding type and dosage of medication is critical for patient care. If a mistake is made, the patient's life may be jeopardized. The dyadic relationships can also serve a cybernetic function. They may act to amplify or counteract deviations in the health-care process. A doctor may write a prescription order on a patient's chart. The nurse relays that order to the pharmacist. The pharmacist questions the request so the nurse contacts the doctor
for clarification. Each dyadic link provides necessary feedback so that the health care system can make adjustments. Thus, a systems framework provides a useful way to think about the role of communication within a health-care organization context.