Primary Care Physicians: Strategy for Closing Communications Gap

Primary Care Physicians: Strategy for Closing Communications Gap

About 30 years ago, the World Wide Web was developed. About 15 years ago, researchers cracked the human genome. About 10 years ago, the first iPhone was rolled out. Yet, in the year 2018, at the height of the digital age, why is it so difficult to visualize a scenario where every single patient’s primary care physician (PCP) is notified once they are admitted to the emergency room?

Technological and medical breakthroughs have revolutionized how health care is delivered. But massive inefficiencies related to how health care professionals interact with patients and between themselves continue to plague the US health system.

There is, in fact, no more glaring example of the gaps in healthcare communications than the modern emergency room. But, the ER is a chaotic place. Patients come and go – and too often, come back again. A steady rotation of physicians, nurses, mental health professionals and other caregivers with varying levels of experience come through, treat patients, adhere to different protocols, fill out mountains of paperwork, and of course, change shifts throughout the day. With the sheer amount of moving parts, it’s entirely understandable why communications problems persist.

With that, a more holistic approach is needed. And it starts by simply picking up the phone or sending a text message.

For some hospitals, reaching out to the PCPs is already standard procedure. But for the vast majority, particularly those serving low-income communities, it isn’t.

Imagine the efficiencies that could be realized with ER staffers reaching out to PCPs. Medical histories, genetic factors, care strategies, chronic conditions, medication, allergies – all in reach with a single call or text.

Is it a foolproof strategy? Of course not.

Not every ER patient has a PCP, and for those that do, it may have been years since their last appointment. What about the mentally ill? Non-English/Spanish speakers? The list goes on and on.

Also, PCPs are human beings with their own lives and simply not available 24/7 to respond to inquiries about the hundreds/thousands of patients under their care.

While it’s not the perfect way to close communication gaps between the ER and PCPs, it’s a start. An extra little step between these two care settings could result in dramatic changes. So the sooner that all ERs make it standard procedure to reach out to PCPs, the better.