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Requests to do so should be addressed to the Editor. Abstract Health care communications paper care of patients now almost inevitably seems to involve many different individuals, all needing to share patient information and discuss their management.
As a consequence there is increasing interest in, and use of, information and communication technologies to support health services. Yet, while there is significant discussion of, and investment in, information technologies, communication systems receive much less attention and the clinical adoption of even simpler services like voice-mail or electronic mail is still not commonplace in many health services.
There remain enormous gaps in our broad understanding of the role of communication services in health care delivery.
Laboratory medicine is perhaps even more poorly studied than many other areas, such as the interface between primary care and hospital services.
Given this lack of specific information about laboratory communication services, this paper will step back and generally review the components of a communication system, including the basic concepts of a communication channel, service, device and interaction mode.
The review will then try and summarise some of what is known about specific communication problems that arise across health services in the main, including the community and hospital service delivery.
Introduction The care of patients now almost inevitably seems to involve many different individuals, all needing to share patient information and discuss their management. Indeed, if information is the lifeblood of healthcare then communication systems are the heart that pumps it.
Whilst there is some significant advanced research in highly specific areas like telemedicine, the clinical adoption of even simpler services like voice-mail or electronic mail is still not commonplace in many health services. Much of this would change if it were more widely realised that the biggest information repository in healthcare sits in the heads of the people working within it, and the biggest information network is the complex web of conversations that link the actions of these individuals.
Yet clinical laboratories in many ways are message-processing enterprises, receiving messages containing information requests, and generating results that are sent as messages back to clinical services.
While there is much current focus on improving laboratory turn around times and internal efficiencies, little is really known about the broader communication processes within the healthcare system, of which clinical laboratories are but one link in the chain.
Yet without this broader view, there is an ever-present risk that local systems within laboratories are optimised and over-engineered, but that the global performance of health services remain relatively unchanged.
For example, face-to-face conversations, telephone calls, letters and e-mail all generate transactions that would fall into the communication space. Even small clinical teams have the capacity to generate large and complex communication spaces.
Theoretically, the number of different conversations that could take place at any one time is determined by the number of individuals who may have a need to communicate.
If we increase the size of the team to five individuals, the number of possible conversations increases to 10, and for a team of 10 the number of possible conversations blows out to 45 Figure 1.
This is because the number of possible conversations is determined by a combinatorial formula:Universal health care (also called universal health coverage, universal coverage, universal care, or socialized health care) is a health care system that provides health care and financial protection to all citizens of a particular country.
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