PERSONAL POV: THE TRUE COST OF POOR COMMUNICATION
In this blog series, our ResMed SaaS employees share personal stories about their experiences having family members and loved ones in home-based and post-acute care—and how technology could have led to more positive outcomes.
In January 2021, my mother was diagnosed with COVID-19. After showing signs of low oxygen levels at urgent care, she was referred to the local ER, where her breathing worsened. She was admitted immediately, put on a ventilator within 24 hours, and placed in the ICU of the COVID floor.
As many people know, this was a scary time, especially with family members in the hospital. Visitors weren’t allowed and communication was never guaranteed. My experiences with the nurses in this facility, however, were wonderful. They were happy to update me during my multiple daily calls, even with a busy floor maxed out with COVID-19 patients. But my mother’s story does not have a happy ending and I learned the dire consequences of poor communication and a failed system.
Poor communication puts stress on family members
After almost two weeks, she was brought out of a medically induced coma, they lowered oxygen in her vent, and she was officially declared a non-COVID patient. This was great news. And while she still wasn’t 100% herself, I was grateful to finally be able to visit her in person (for a very short amount of time) and report the positive outcome to the rest of our family.
The lack of technology that could allow all family members in on this communication added stress to an already emotional time for me. And as the point person for my entire family, I had to ask the hard questions, get the right answers, and communicate all of it again to my mother’s loved ones.
The road to recovery lacked the right technology
Still on a ventilator in the ICU, her physician wanted to get her transferred to a facility where she could get off the vent, receive dedicated physical therapy, and get home. The hospital soon found a bed available at a long-term acute care hospital (LTACH), so we got her transferred right away with a positive outlook from her referring physician. What I didn’t think to ask was—does this facility have an EHR, any patient/family engagement tools, or any kind of digital portal? They did not.
Instead, families got phone calls on Mondays to follow up on rounds that were made the previous Friday. When I called on my own, I could never get through to care teams and when I did reach a human, I got vague and sometimes incorrect updates on her status. The facility used paper charts, lacked the ability to collaborate, and relied on completely manual communication processes.
A couple of days later, during what was meant to be a FaceTime update to finally see my mom’s progress, what we saw were clear signs of decline. She had a fever, was in pain, and was in a distressed state. What happened to the positive outlook after being transferred from the ICU?
The true cost of manual processes
We found out that my mother had been diagnosed with a different infection before her transfer out of the ICU. The referring physician prescribed two antibiotics, but the LTACH messed up. Since their files were not digital, those prescriptions slipped through the paper-based cracks and the medications were never given.
I’m sad to say that my mom’s health went downhill quickly. After many phone calls, and pulling of strings on my part, the referring hospital was able to get her transferred back to the ICU within 48 hours, and they could not believe the drastic decline of someone they considered to be one of their few successful COVID patients.
Unfortunately, my mother was unable to overcome the infection. Our family was able to be with her in the final moments, and we were grateful to the referring hospital for doing everything they could to reverse the damage done by the LTACH facility’s oversight.
Looking to the future, innovative technologies gives me hope that my mom’s experience can be avoided—that real-time communication for both us, as caregivers, and the clinical teams, can keep care connected and ultimately lead to better patient outcomes. I am thankful to now work for a company who is driving to provide these technologies across various care settings and into the hands of patients, their families, and their broader care teams.
I miss my mom every day, but I optimistically look forward to a healthcare industry that utilizes innovative technologies to support the teams that tirelessly work to take care of our loved ones and allow families to stay engaged.
A digital approach to healthcare
When care teams fail to communicate and there is a lack of collaboration with referral partners, patients suffer. Even the smallest details, like a missed prescription, can make a significant and in some cases detrimental or fatal impact.
With an all-in-one digital platform, forms and documentation are electronic, signatures can be made electronically, care notes are easily accessible, and chat threads allow for real-time communication between staff and families. This approach leads to a more positive experience for family members, more efficient operations, and more time spent on what matters most—patient care.