Communication Channels Team A conducted an inventory of various communication channels used within the organizations with which the team members were affiliated. A large community health corporation, a small medical billing office, an Alzheimer’s clinic for the elderly, and two households were surveyed. Despite the diversity in size and scope of the organizations reviewed, Team A identified several common communication channels and shared communication challenges within the group. Messages sent using facsimile machines, faxes, were used in each of the organizations reviewed.
Faxes presented an easy and efficient way to exchange information to external and internal medical offices, insurance companies, pharmacies, and other receivers as appropriate. In the case of the smaller organizations faxes were an external channel of communications. However, for the larger corporation, the fax was used as an external and internal option. Although faxing is popular, it is not used as a main means of communication with most companies. E-mail, video conferencing, and telephone conversation have proved to be more reliable.
The large community health clinic did report frequent use of all of the above-mentioned communication channels. The drawbacks cited by the smaller organizations in using the fax were the very reason that the larger organization had opted to use alternative communication channels. Specifically, the transfer of information from a fax is totally dependent on a fax machine functioning and most offices have one fax machine. If the machine malfunctions, there is no way to transfer data. In addition, the quality of some transmissions may make some messages unreadable.
Further, delays because of telephone line limitations or simply system capacity issues were also noted. Electronic mail or e-mail transmitted via computers was popular among all organizations because of its ease in use, historic record it provided, and a growing number of potential receivers who also have e-mail capabilities. 80% of business people today consider e-mail to be more vital to business communications than the phone. A study revealed that 74% of the businesses polled losing access to e-mail would be more detrimental than going without phone service (METG, 2009).
The study also found that e-mail was more adaptive to a changing business climate. In addition, e-mail more effectively met the need for efficient information distribution and reusable business records (METG, 2009). Although e-mail is popular, there is definitely a need for safe, secure, and stable mail systems. Electronic security is particularly important to health care organizations as these businesses strive to protect personal health information (duPre, 2005). To avoid a potential electronic security breach, the large health care organization reviewed encrypts all external messages containing personal health information.
In addition, as a result of the growing popularity of e-mail, many users experience a hard time keeping up with abilities and capabilities of using e-mail as a means of communication. The tidal wave of message volume demands hours of managing the mailbox each day. Users need to be more adept at handling large amounts of messages. Other shortcomings of e-mail included that many people choose the phone because it is more personal, it creates better context for communication, and it helps clarify the tone of the message (METG, 2009).
The telephone, also serves as a primary channel of communications both external and internal to most of the organizations reviewed. However, specific personal health information that can be provided by telephone is limited. The large community clinic indicated information regarding appointments, billing, and information necessary to treat the patient are all allowable under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and are conveyed in a manner in compliance with the law (duPre, 2005).
Some information is better communicated in-person. Therefore, a telephone call would not be appropriate. The smaller organizations employed very few written forms of communication. Most other communications used were one-on-one communications or group settings. However, in the larger community health clinic as well as the Alzheimer’s Clinic noted that a number of documents were conveyed to patients and caregivers in multiple forms including written form. Patient Privacy statements and consent to treat forms are among many written documents used.
In the larger community health clinic, policies and procedures have been developed for virtually every circumstance that may arise and are available to all staff in written and electronic form. The corporate internet also includes templates for requesting specific information or writing letters and memos. Given the huge capacity to generate large amounts of information directed at individual with very busy work schedules, there is some danger of information overflow. Also within the larger organization, regular staff meetings are conducted that include: department, division, management, and corporate-wide meetings.
These meetings are held at regular intervals and are used to provide training and convey vital health care information to staff throughout the organization. Although the organization makes almost heroic efforts to inform staff regarding developments, the diversity of the organization cause some staff difficulty in identifying with the message. The Chief Executive Officer, of the large community health clinic posts regular state of the corporation addresses in video and in written form on the intranet. Changes in policy, new programs or new benefits, and good news are posted on the internet as well.
Bad news is restricted to smaller more intimate meetings followed by formal written letters. Some of the keys to conveying bad news are to be clear and let it sink in (2006). The individual health clinics of the large community health clinic have implemented electronic medical records in all of the 20 clinic locations. Components within the medical records system include medical history notes, diagnostic test results, and prescription medication. The pharmacies are also a part of the electronic medical system and fill prescriptions using a robotic dispensing system.
The robotic system does not take the place of the pharmacist, but does aid in more rapid and precise medication dispensing as well as accurate inventory control. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the large community health clinic is an extremely charismatic with an entrepreneurial spirit. His unique talents and tireless efforts have resulted in a very rapid growth of the organization. A large part of his time is spent on marketing the organization and cultivating relationships to various stakeholders within the communities he serves.
His primary approach is developing relationships is providing information about how the organization positively affects healthcare outcomes in those communities. He uses formal presentations, video presentations, letters, status reports, corporate web page information, telephone calls, and one-on-one meetings. As a result of his efforts, the CEO has cultivated support from a broad base of funders and allies to form a very effective and powerful mechanism to posture the organization in highly advantageous and positive light.
All the businesses reported advertising in Yellow pages and Internet. The large community health clinic advertises on television, radio, and in newspapers, as well as online, and in professional journals. However, all advertising was confined to three main areas. First, ads and radio spots are used to notify the public of a new provider establishing practice in a clinic. Radio, television, newspaper and professional journal ads, and internet used to recruit qualified health practitioners. Finally, television, radio, newspapers and the internet are used to promote positive health behaviors.
In addition, the large corporate clinic also used health fairs to convey health information to the community. An entire department is dedicated to outreach and health education to the community. Communication is critical to the success of an organization (Alt? noz, 2009). As coauthors, we contrast small and large organizations, it is apparent that resources play a significant role in the variety of communication methods used. However, small and large health care businesses employ many of the same techniques and face much of the same communication challenges.
In our evaluation we found that listening to one’s audience, observing the situation, soliciting feedback, and communicating in a manner respectful to the situation is essential to effective communication (duPre, 2005). With increasing reliance on electronic communication and increased capacity to send and receive message, special care must be made to avoid information overload. Too much information can become a barrier rather than a resource to effective communication. No one communication channel is right for all circumstances therefore, the best approach is to effectively and appropriately use the communication channels available.
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