Effective Communication: A Shared Illusion

Shaw_George-001I wrote last week in my post, Mental Illness Is A Community Disease that I was planning to participate in today’s public listening session held in connection with the development of new criteria that will impact Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC). Mandated under Section 223 of the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014, the intent is to strengthen community mental health systems by establishing higher standards of care and better coordination and communication across individuals, organizations and agencies that provide assistance and care to individuals in their communities.

Among the five topic areas discussed today (see previous post), not surprisingly I found Care Coordination to be the most interesting because of the parallels I recognized between mental/behavioral health and post-acute/long-term care. These include:

both groups of individuals typically require help from both community-based services and supports, as well as healthcare providers, and the lack of sharing of timely information across those entities in both instances is a challenging obstacle to managing care;

both groups rely heavily on Medicaid to fund needed services and care – and so both are likely to increasingly have to navigate the world of managed care – which doesn’t bode well in light of the point above;

both groups have evidentially achieved significant benefit from taking a holistic approach to care;

there is a need with both groups to understand and address the impact that varying levels of cognitive awareness can have on patient activation; and

the ability to achieve sustainable wellness in both groups is often primarily dependent upon the ability to maintain meaningful, long-term connectivity with care providers (in particular where medication management is concerned).

Most importantly however, germane to – yet beyond just – the importance of care coordination, a key take away from today’s sharing of thoughts, insights and the occasional organizational promotion and positioning was the shared impact that ineffective communication has in mental/behavioral health as it does in post-acute/long-term care. And really, across all of healthcare as has been discussed here before.

Effective communication is an art form, but it’s an art that can be taught and learned among willing participants. All too often, however, that willingness comes from a desire to be heard rather than to be understood – and to understand. George Bernard Shaw (pictured above) once wrote that, “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Despite, or perhaps in good measure because of, all the technological advancements that have achieved miraculous achievements in healthcare we still fall well short of our potential to reduce human suffering because of a basic inability to communicate effectively.

I would like to see more sharing of experiences and best practices in care integration between mental and behavioral health and post-acute/long-term care: each probably could learn a lot from the other. But that would involve effective communication . . .


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