New grant will study health communication technologies and practices

Julia Adler-Milstein

Julia Adler-Milstein, assistant professor in the Schools of Information and Public Health, received a $120,556 grant to explore how communication technologies help or hinder communication between nurses and physicians.

This award is a sub-grant of a larger Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) award given to the U-M School of Nursing and principal investigator Milisa Manojlovich. The goal of the study will be to identify the best practices in supporting effective communication in healthcare settings.

Electronic medical records, computerized provider order entries, emails, pagers and other forms of communication technology can help to reduce some communication failures, but also lead to a greater frequency of other failures when users are unfamiliar with how the technology should be properly utilized. 

As electronic communication has increased, face-to-face interactions between practitioners has decreased, which has led to crucial information being passed along incorrectly or not at all. Communication failures between physicians and nurses are one of the most common causes of negative incidents for hospitalized patients. 

Researchers will conduct telephone interviews with personnel from up to eight hospitals and select four of those hospitals to collect data via observation, shadowing, focus groups and artifacts. 

The study will seek to identify the range of communication technologies used in a national sample of medical-surgical acute care units and describe communication practices and work relationships that may be influenced by technology in these settings. Researchers will also explore how different technologies, practices and relationships between physicians and nurses can influence communication. 

With current communication technologies based on models of individual decision-making, they can be insufficient for, or interfere with, decision that require input from multiple perspectives. As American hospitals move forward to fully implement health information technology, the implications from this study could help to shape the future development and implementation of health communication technologies.

Posted December 11, 2014