What Is Interdisciplinary Communication And Why Is It Essential For Your Physical Therapy Practice?

Joseph Elevado

Sep 20, 2023

A 2018 study on communication challenges in healthcare revealed that 80% of serious medical errors are put down to poor communication between providers. To avoid a crisis in your physical therapy (PT) practice, it is worth focusing on effective interdisciplinary communication and improving interdepartmental communication.

But what is interdisciplinary communication, and why is it important in PT? 

What Is Interdisciplinary Communication?

Interdisciplinary communication refers to the continuous exchange of information among clinical staff from various disciplines to facilitate holistic patient care.

In a PT practice, interdisciplinary communication doesn’t just include the providers but all staff who have direct involvement with patients, such as:

  • Physical therapists
  • Physician assistants
  • Nurses
  • Front office staff
  • Care coordinators

Effective interdisciplinary communication involves aligning several operational components. These include:

  • Collaboration - Where separate departments coordinate seamlessly to ensure that the correct information is successfully passed along;
  • Information - Documents such as treatment plans, diagnostic tests, and patient histories should be accurate and up-to-date;
  • Goals - Each staff member must know both long-term and short-term objectives and their role in achieving each one;
  • Decision-making - Clinical staff can only make appropriate decisions if they collaborate effectively and adopt a patient-centered approach.

Why Is Interdisciplinary Communication Important For Your Physical Therapy Practice?

Interdisciplinary communication has a significant impact on patient outcomes. In order for your practice operations to be patient-led, your practice workers need to collaborate with each other by relaying information accurately, embedding workflow protocols, and having a clear understanding of treatment goals.

Here are four key reasons why your PT practice should prioritize interdisciplinary communication:

1. More accurate documentation

With effective interdisciplinary communication, healthcare staff are enabled to work together, ensuring that medical documents are updated efficiently. Coupled with training in medical documentation, this can lead to a decline in data errors and duplications. In the long run, accurate documentation also results in less frustration and more efficient workflows. Your staff can get through their day without worrying about the accuracy of practice documents.

2. Improved treatment planning

To achieve targeted care plans for patients, enable your clinical staff to set out their expertise on a shared platform which enables administrative staff to align scheduling with patient treatment goals. PTs, occupational therapists, and nurses have diverse skillsets which, if captured accurately on a database, will enable your administrative staff to streamline appointments and insurance verification, all enhancing the patients’ care experience.

Effective interdisciplinary communication can also prevent patients from receiving the wrong treatment or experiencing service delays. A 2016 investigation of 23,000 medical malpractice lawsuits found that about 30% of those lawsuits were due to miscommunication. With effective communication procedures in place, the right treatments can be identified for patients, avoiding medical errors and, even worse, litigation.

3. Higher patient satisfaction

It’s imperative that patient concerns and complaints are clearly relayed between departments so that effective solutions can be easily identified. Open communication channels result in better patient outcomes. Patients will also have far more confidence in your clinic if they see that practice staff communicate medical needs, complaints, and scheduling questions effectively.

4. Increased morale

If your staff communicates effectively through a clearly defined infrastructure, they will be far more motivated to go the extra mile for your practice and work as a team. This also reduces stress and burnout and increases job satisfaction.

How To Achieve Effective Interdisciplinary Communication

There are various strategies for achieving seamless communication within your practice. Here are some effective strategies:

  • Clarify staff roles. Clearly define the responsibilities of every staff member to prevent confusion and clarify their part in facilitating patient care. For example, determine who is responsible for creating and updating EMRs and other documentation.
  • Provide cross-discipline training. Offer workshops, seminars, shadowing, and other training opportunities to enrich the knowledge and familiarity of staff with other departments in the practice. Foster recognition and appreciation for the role of every employee.
  • Implement communication protocols. Standardize document formats to avoid below-standard documentation and ensure consistency in sharing and storage. Provide forms and templates for EMRs, progress notes, consultation requests, and other processes to prevent inaccurate medical documentation.
  • Hold regular team meetings. Align updates in clinical goals and communication protocols. Provide an open forum for staff to share their feedback and concerns about current workflows.
  • Adopt active listening. Enforce standards of clear communication and encourage staff to voice feedback whenever possible.

Interdisciplinary communication varies based on the team dynamic of your practice. Not every approach is effective in fostering clear communication between departments. Nevertheless, it’s vital to build rapport among your staff and set a solid foundation for improved teamwork and improved service levels.

Communication Is The Key To Patient Loyalty

In the long run, PT practices can only thrive when staff work and support each other. In this way, no matter how heavy the workload or patient volume becomes, clinical staff collaborate to deliver patient-driven solutions, an excellent standard of care, and patient loyalty.

Technology can play a vital role in interdisciplinary communication by standardizing and streamlining the documentation process. Learn how ScribePT can improve your clinic’s documentation and improve staff collaboration through revolutionary medical speech recognition solutions. Avail of ScribePT's 30-day free trial or request a demo today!

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