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Importance of Communication in Health Settings

Employee and leader communication skills and best practices are vital to the success of healthcare organizations. A key emphasis of the Southern Oregon University (SOU) Master of Business Administration with a Concentration in Healthcare Administration online program is communications in these settings, and this is driven by input and demand from top employers in Oregon and across the country.

Students learn skills for engaging and communicating clearly with other administrators, staff, patients, their families and the communities, particularly in these three courses:

In the Advanced Health Communication course, students learn about the variety of communication best practices in different healthcare settings, including communicating with stakeholders, supervisors and patients. Dealing with patient emotions compassionately, crisis communications, technologies for communications and ethics are all explored in this fascinating and consequential course.

Why this course matters: According to Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare, "Communication is the cornerstone of healthcare. … To facilitate meaningful improvement, the road to healthcare transformation must be paved with good communication — vertically from the top down and the bottom up, and horizontally across the continuum of care delivery." This implies organizational commitments to best practices through patient and workforce surveys and a system-wide understanding of the complexities through which patients are handed off between providers. From a leadership perspective, Keri Gardner, CMO of Alaska Regional Hospital, says, "When staff see leaders rounding in a companionable spirit, there is a level of support and collaboration that is greater than could ever be achieved by leaders rounding separately."

Studies have shown the positive effects of strong organizational communication on patient outcomes, such as shorter stays and decreased adverse events. Strong communication has also been shown to reduce workforce turnover, which makes organizations more cost-effective, and that trickles down to patient costs for care.

In the Marketing Management and Strategies course, students learn how to communicate to prospects and patients by implementing effective marketing strategies. These strategies employ best practices across a variety of digital and traditional channels.

Just as important from an internal management perspective, students learn to make a case for their marketing strategies and to communicate progress and results to leadership. They also learn how to communicate brand-building and organization-improving strategies throughout the chain of command, essentially marketing their visions for change within the organization.

Why this course matters: If "perception is everything," then the ability to create, influence and change the perceptions of the community, patients, the workforce, leaders and stakeholders is essential to healthcare organizations, their missions and their patients.

"Trust and responsiveness are essential for communicating with other executives as well as with your own team," says Manny Rodriguez, chief marketing and experience officer at UC Health in Aurora, CO. "Developing trust and building rapport may take some time, but once in place, executives recognize you as a valued partner."

Advanced Organizational Behavior also explores a variety of communication practices in the context of organizational systems, group behavior and individual behavior. Students gain a foundation of knowledge in group dynamics, communication, leadership, power, politics, conflict, diversity, culture, decision-making, change and organizational structure.

Why this course matters: Making leadership support for communications initiatives highly visible is an evidence-based best practice. According to the PSQH, "Leaders must create an environment of open communication by modeling appropriate behavior, setting expectations, and investing in support systems within the structure of the organization." At every organizational level, a chief imperative is promoting patient-centered communications; training future leaders with this focus is essential to the future of high-quality care.

Though these courses have the greatest focus on communications, you will find this discipline taught across the curriculum in courses on information systems, accounting for decision-making, legal and ethical issues, process improvement and financial management practices. Indeed, communications is a central theme in the program, just as it is in the industry it prepares graduates to enter.

Learn more about SOU's online MBA program with a Concentration in Healthcare Administration.


PSQH: Communication: A Critical Healthcare Competency

Becker's Hospital Review: Healthcare Leaders on Communicating Effectively with Other C-Suite Executives

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