Why You Need a Communication Go Team

March 19, 2021
A diagnosis delay causes permanent injuries and angry feelings

A mother took her 17-month-old child to the emergency department (ED), an urgent care center and back to the ED over the span of three days for a fever, skin and respiratory symptoms. A delayed diagnosis of meningitis resulted in sepsis, multisystem organ failure and permanent kidney damage. Her family was devastated by these resultant injuries and frustrated that no one listened to their repeated complaints that their daughter was “really sick.” They were angered by the poor communication and lack of apology from the providers following the delay in diagnosis. The clinicians and care team members involved in this case felt bad that the diagnostic care processes had failed and resulted in permanent injuries to this child.

Why you need a Communication Go Team

We know that adverse outcomes, mistakes and harm events happen in the course of providing health care. It’s certainly not intended. We also know that when things go wrong, emotions are high and easy answers are scarce. How care teams react in the first crucial moments after a harm event determines whether we preserve trust, communicate, learn and improve.

After a harm event, patients/residents and families need immediate, accurate, and empathetic communication. According to Jeff Bone, Early Intervention Consultant at Constellation, “Good care after a harm event is to communicate with the patient/resident and family to let them know what happened. Care teams must be ready to communicate in those crucial first minutes after an event, and then in follow-up conversations over days, weeks, or even months.”

  • Do your care team members have the skills and experience to communicate with the patient or resident’s best interest in mind?
  • Do they know how to show empathy, compassion and caring while acknowledging the feelings of the patient/resident and family?
  • Do they know how to share objective facts of what’s known, focus on on-going care and apologize if appropriate?
Establishing a Communication Go Team

“A Communication Go Team is a trained, internal team who is ready at a moment’s notice to initiate communication with a patient/resident and family following a harm event. The goal is a coordinated, immediate, accurate and compassionate response to the harm event,” says Traci Poore, Senior Risk Consultant with Constellation. Ensure your Communication Go Team can be alerted of harm events 24/7 and is empowered to call together key individuals for initial communication with the patient/resident and family within a set goal time. Be sure to include involved provider(s) whenever possible. Train your team using Constellation’s tools, webinars and best practices for communicating effectively, showing empathy and using de-escalation techniques.

“A Communication Go Team is a trained, internal team who is ready at a moment’s notice  to initiate communication with a patient/resident and family following a harm event. The goal is a coordinated, immediate, accurate and compassionate response to the harm event”

Traci Poore, Senior Risk Consultant at Constellation
Doing better after a harm event: The HEAL Prepare Toolkit

Our HEAL Prepare Toolkit will help assess your team’s readiness and then help you get to best practices. The Toolkit has a unit on communication and includes assessments, best practices, sample tools and coaching. Start your journey by taking the HEAL Assessment and then the Action Plan will guide you through the Toolkit’s four units: (1) culture, (2) event response, (3) communicating after a harm event, and (4) moving forward. Sign in to ConstellationMutual.com to access the HEAL Prepare Toolkit found in Risk Resources.

“It’s important to debrief the Communication Go Team after every conversation following a harm event to identify what went well and what could improve in the process,” says Karie Minaga-Miya, Constellation Senior Risk Consultant . Another method to improve is to establish a patient/resident and family advisory council. Our Constellation resource, The Case for Patient/Resident and Family Councils, can be downloaded from Unit One of the HEAL Prepare Toolkit, available to policyholders after signing in at ConstellationMutual.com

Opening an honest dialogue with patients/residents and families after a harm event has multiple benefits—maintaining trust, giving care teams peace of mind and the possibility of resolving the event more quickly.

Constellation’s HEAL program provides healing benefits for care teams and their organizations because we truly believe that what’s good for care teams is good for business.

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