Face-to-face communication is critical


Electronic medical records do not negate the need for regular face-to-face and telephone communication between hospital staff. Following a switch to a new IT system it is particularly important for risk managers to be visible in their hospitals so that staff can verbally report any problems.

That is the view of Dann Brown, immediate past president of the North Texas Society for Healthcare Risk Management.

“We tend to think computers communicate as well as a phone call and it’s not even close,” he said. “As humans we tend to believe that everything we put in the computer is known by everybody else who uses the program. The fact that somebody puts something in the computer tends to cut down on the amount of face to face communication and sometimes a phone call is much more necessary than just putting the information in.”
Brown said that staff do not all look for patient information in the same place: a nurse might put information in one part of the IT system, and a doctor might look for information in another. Therefore, face-to-face communication should be an important strategy for ensuring information gets shared is between staff.

“A morning huddle where the entire group gets together and talks about the patient for just a few minutes puts everybody on the same page – physical therapy, nurses, case workers. All of the people get a chance to sit and listen and I think that helps make up for putting information into a computer system and forgetting about it.”

He believes that risk managers need to employ similar techniques to ensure the early reporting of any potential usability problems.

“The risk managers need to go out and be visible,” he said. “I’ve learnt more going out and talking to staff on a daily basis than I ever would through voluntary reporting because if something’s on their mind they pull me to one side and show me – and that’s so much more effective. It is especially important when you first change a system.”


Face-to-face communication, electronic medical records, IT systems, healthcare