Tips to Improve Acute to Post-Acute Communication

The US healthcare system employs astonishing technology to improve patient outcomes. Innovations so crazy they sound like science fiction—surgical robots, genome editing, artificial pancreases, and the list goes on. However, arguably the most critical healthcare function, communication, has been left unimproved in a staggering amount of care delivery environments.

In our work enabling greater collaboration between acute and post-acute healthcare providers, we’ve seen first-hand a significant dependence on the fax machine, an outdated and inefficient communication method. Fax communication is especially prevalent between acute and post-acute providers. Recently, the ineffectiveness of therapy fax templates came up in a discussion with an orthopedic navigator at a Midwest hospital. She shared that in many cases, if she or members of her team even see a faxed therapy log, it’s often several days to weeks after the post-acute care provider completed the therapy.

Simply put, better communication between acute and post-acute providers leads to better patient outcomes. Communication is the core function required to enable collaboration between caregivers and is essential in effectively coordinating care delivery. Healthcare providers—especially those who share in care delivery to the same patients in the same episode, but across different care environments—need to effectively communicate to deliver the best patient outcomes.

Regardless of the tool and process you put in place, these tips will help you establish a communication channel that enables the best patient care.

Real-time – Not all healthcare communications require immediate review and response, however some do. Build your communication strategy around a channel that allows for instantaneous dialogue when the situation requires it.

Escalations – Some communications are more critical than others and require immediate attention from physicians and/or advanced practice providers. Ensure the system you put in place has the capability of escalating communications when appropriate.

Keep a history – Dialogue resulting from the collaboration of care contains valuable insights for future care delivery. Ensure communications are saved and bonded to patients so they can be referenced at any point in the episode of care.

Ensure the whole care team is looped in – The care team, especially for a patient receiving acute care and then therapy/rehab post-acute care, can be quite large. Ensure all the stakeholders in that patient’s care journey are kept in the loop.

HIPAA compliant – Respect patient privacy and keep PHI (protected health information) secure to avoid costly HIPAA violations.