By Dr. Sean Spina, pharmacy clinical coordinator at Island Health, BC, Canada
As I was going through the metal detector at the airport, I tossed my pager in the bin. The security official looked at me and said, “You work in healthcare, don’t you?”
I asked, “Why do you say that?”
She said, “No one else uses pagers except for people in healthcare.”
Her comment struck me; I thought, Wow. She is totally right.
This seemingly small exchange back in 2008 turned out to be the stimulus that pushed us down the path of transforming the way clinicians and pharmacists communicate at Island Health.
The Need: Effective Communication for Quality Care
At Island Health, our pharmacists are in both high demand and short supply. It was frustrating for me when a staff pharmacist would page a physician and then have to wait by a landline – a corded phone – for a return call.
The pharmacist would always be waiting a long while. This is because physicians are busy, and there was no way for the physician to know the urgency of the page. At some point the pharmacist would turn to a unit clerk or someone else and say, “Hey, when Dr. ABC calls back, can you tell them about this important drug issue we have with this patient.”
I thought this whole indirect approach to communicating such critical information was inappropriate and could be detrimental to the quality and safety of patient care.