Christopher P. Nemeth
Health-care activities rely on the acquisition, portrayal, and analysis of diagnostic and therapeutic information as an integral part of patient care. As a service provided by multiple participants, the communication of information is embedded in nearly every aspect of health care. There is much talk of communication as an issue that needs to be improved. This is often because other issues such as equipment research and development and government policy are outside care providers’ immediate range of influence. A good deal of the discussion about communication is uninformed by any real understanding of communication as a field. It is also based on certain presumptions such as more data equal greater understanding, or completeness (rather than salience) equates to quality, or changing the medium (e.g., from face-to-face to e-mail) does not affect message. In fact, changes to communication may not yield direct benefits because other stronger forces such as economic, social, organizational, and legal influences make health care what it is. This chapter invites attention to the nature of the health care work setting, the communication of information through verbal exchanges and artifacts, and efforts that have the potential to improve team communication and care.