Medical Staff

Pros and cons of communication methods with healthcare practitioners

Hospitalist Leadership Connection, June 15, 2010

The advantages and disadvantages of the primary modes of communication that hospitalists use to communicate with providers are outlined below:

1. Telephone

  • Advantages:
    • Enables real-time interaction
    • Is amenable to in-depth discussions
    • Provides collegial interface between providers
  • Disadvantages:
    • May decrease efficiency by disrupting patient flow (pulls the referring physician from the exam room and pulls the hospitalist off the floor or out of a patient’s exam room)
    • Busy telephone lines may be a hindrance

2. Voicemail

  • Advantages:
    • Is easily accessible for both hospitalists and PCPs
    • Providers often prefer it
    • Is non-intrusive (providers can check in at their own convenience)
  • Disadvantages:
    • Fosters less direct collegial contact
    • May contribute to loss of information
    • HIPAA considerations (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act monitors the privacy and security of patient information and requires organizations to maintain documentation for a minimum of six years)

3. Fax

  • Advantages:
    • Providers provide a direct copy of the record, discharge summary, etc.
    • Leaves a paper trail
  • Disadvantages:
    • HIPAA considerations
    • Blocked transmission may be a hindrance
    • Misdirection to the wrong provider may occur, jeopardizing patient privacy

4. E-mail

  • Advantages:
    • Is easy and convenient for both hospitalists and PCPs
    • Is readily accessible in most offices
    • Does not require an intermediary (i.e., office staff member)
  • Disadvantages:
    • HIPAA consideration
    • Lacks the human touch

5. Electronic medical record

  • Advantages:
    • Provides excellent access for both hospitalists and PCPs
    • Fosters decreased redundancy in reports
  • Disadvantages:
    • May cause a voltage drop of information when the system is down
    • Decreases efficiency in time that it takes to enter data
    • Lacks the human touch


The above excerpt is adapted from Tools and Strategies for an Effective Hospitalist Program, published by HCPro, Inc.

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