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While it’s no secret that effective communication is essential for healthcare teams to provide high-quality care to patients, it’s also the backbone of an efficient hospital management team.

“Communication goes to the heart of a hospital’s culture, creating a space where information is free-flowing in all directions” says John Coldsmith, clinical consultant for HealthTechS3. “I remember as a hospital director, one could feel the pulse of the C-Suite where there wasn’t much by way of communication or teamwork. That’s changed with our ideas on patient safety, especially in the last ten years.”

Meanwhile, the challenges of effective communication among hospital staff and leadership has been thrown into stark relief in recent months, as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has placed a stress on hospitals in affected areas.

“With the pandemic, it’s paramount that leaders are front-and-center with their staff—reassuring them, offering guidance, responding to various issues,” Coldsmith says.

On Aug. 14 2020, Coldsmith shared his experience and strategies around improving communication in a HealthTechS3 webinar, “Effective Communication in Healthcare.”

The webinar will highlight strategies for improving staff and leadership communication skills to improve patient safety and care quality, introduce tactics to ensure effective communication across departments, and share tips to improve communication between hospital staff and supervisors.

Coldsmith says effective communication in healthcare begins with listening. When a leader takes the time and effort to listen to the concerns of the staff, they are more likely to get at the root of the issue, improving workplace culture along the way.

“During crises, especially, staff looks to its leaders for calmness during the storm,” he says. “That can be communicated when you really listen to your staff about the struggles and challenges they face every day, whether they have to do with supplies and equipment, employee assistance programs, workplace burnout, what have you. Leadership must perfect the technique of listening to understand, rather than just listening to respond.”

Listening also lends a nurturing aspect to the relationship between leadership and staff, ensuring that the hospital staff views leadership as a helpful, more integrated part of the team.

That said, getting staff to freely voice their concerns isn’t always easy. Coldsmith recommends asking slightly more open-ended questions, and welcoming expansive answers.

“By asking the right questions in the right way, we actually gather more information, because the questions are of a more inquisitive nature,” Coldsmith says. “Inquisitive questions also tend to put the other party at ease, because they start a conversation rather than an interrogation.”

Coldsmith cites the OZ Principle, part of which calls on business leaders to gather feedback from employees and staff in order to improve outcomes.

“One of the tactics of OZ is about feedback,” he says. “When we look at improving our organizations it’s really about asking for feedback from and giving feedback to every member of the organization. By having that type of feedback you can start to have those honest conversations that will give someone a different view than what they might have.”

These tactics—projecting calm, listening actively, and gathering feedback—should be practiced whenever and wherever possible, including in one-on-one meetings with the people reporting directly to you, larger staff meetings, and daily leadership huddles.

“There was a time when hospital leadership maintained a very hush-hush, finger-pointing environment,” he says. “It’s exciting for me to have lived and experienced organizations transitioning to, when there’s an adverse event, it’s about getting to the core of what can be improved so that it doesn’t happen again. It’s been a journey.”

Click here to watch Coldsmith’s past webinar on effective communication.