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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 45-46

Missing the human element of collaboration in critical patient care

The Reading Enterprise Centre, Earley Gate, Whiteknights Road, Reading, RG6 6BU, United Kingdom

Date of Web Publication19-Jun-2017

Correspondence Address:
Jocelyn Lomer
CEng MIET, Reading Enterprise Centre, Earley Gate, Whiteknights Road, Reading, RG6 6BU
United Kingdom
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/digm.digm_10_17

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How to cite this article:
Lomer J. Missing the human element of collaboration in critical patient care. Digit Med 2017;3:45-6

How to cite this URL:
Lomer J. Missing the human element of collaboration in critical patient care. Digit Med [serial online] 2017 [cited 2023 Mar 29];3:45-6. Available from: http://www.digitmedicine.com/text.asp?2017/3/1/45/208444

Dear Editor,

Today's organization requires efficient utilization of in-house and external experts to remain innovative and improve patient care. Whether it is a new medical innovation, a multidisciplinary team (MDT) diagnosis, or an improvement of existing processes, there is a need for ever quicker implementation of change. The process of change is heavily dependent on optimal knowledge exchange and high-quality collaboration between all team members if the outcome is to fulfill cost, schedule, and quality targets.

Going back to ancient times, collaboration took place at gatherings around a campfire and by drawing pictures in the sand. Moving forward to the 21stcentury, the same human behaviors pertain and have led to what we call a “natural meeting.” With advances in technology, deeply collaborative near-natural meetings can now be delivered at a distance among geographically dispersed teams.

Of course, collaboration is not a technology, it is a human activity and the most essential elements are human behavior and mutual understanding (“meeting of the minds”). When addressing human behavior in the context of effective project management research by Govindarajan and Gupta,[1] it was found that trust, communication barriers, overall goals, individual goals, and knowledge are the most important attributes. This research also showed that over 82% of global business teams did not feel that they had achieved their project goals.

The communication medium or the interface to the communications machine, for example, the internet or the telephone system, often has the effect of constraining cognition due to the medium's inability to re-create a natural meeting environment. That is to say, if we do not replicate the “natural meeting” in the human to machine interface, important cognitive signals are effectively stripped out and differing degrees of confusion may unnecessarily ensue. Within health-care, MDT meetings require a much higher level of understanding to accurately diagnose and treat patients. For example, during the process of diagnosis, if we tried to treat the patient using a Morse code interface between all the experts involved, we would never finish. This is because the Morse code medium removes all of the human cognitive elements such as eye gaze, gesturing, facial expressions and the interaction of people and things. Similarly, the telephone makes us blind and does not provide the necessary environment for comprehending live applications or visualizing relevant data. The result of this is that we must have everything present in our remote communication medium that we have in a local face to face meeting around a table. Now for the first time, these technologies are available, delivering the powerful potential for the future and giving us the opportunity to work in new ways and improve global collaboration.

Reducing the times where travel is not essential will lead to improved sustainability and financial savings. The time lost to the travel of skilled physicians adds to the significant costs of the hospital and can incur large HR costs in the form of overworked staff. Having a workforce that is constantly traveling goes beyond the financial; the stress that extensive travel leaves on the mind and body can lead to errors causing projects to take longer and accrue larger expense. Furthermore, breakdowns in communication and misunderstandings have meant that within the healthcare industry a substantial amount of time and resources are unfortunately ineffectively utilized and over a prolonged period, the opportunity cost increases dramatically.

The National Health Service (NHS) has five major concerns that it is trying to combat within the upcoming years:[2]

  • Connecting health-care workers and supporting patient outcomes
  • Facilitating the breakdown and sharing of information between all departments
  • Driving collaboration regardless of location, department, or device
  • Improving staff engagement, retention, and productivity
  • Centralize important documents and ensure one version of the truth

Virtual collaboration can be the platform to advance a large percentage of these changes. The ability to more effectively connect health-care workers through remote meetings would mean a higher level of efficiency and a better platform for innovation throughout the industry. Outsourcing innovation has previously been constrained by the inadequacy of the communication medium. Doctors and nurses, for instance, are still constrained by the limitations of medical platforms that sometimes require special permissions to access certain types of information on patients as well as the required immediacy in collaborative innovation. Equally, collaborating with highly complex and detailed information over inferior communication platforms such as e-mail frustrates our creative thinking and innovative input. Such outsourcing arrangements can, therefore, hinder, rather than foster, innovation.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Gupta AK, Govindarajan V. MIT Sloan Management Review. Building an Effective Global Business Team; 2001. Available from: http://www.sloanreview.mit.edu/article/building-an-effective-global-business-team/. [Last accessed on 2017Jan16].  Back to cited text no. 1
Interact. How to Drive Transformation in the NHS Using Collaborative Technology; 2016. Available from: https://www.interact-intranet.com/how-to-drive-transformation-in-the-nhs-using-collaborative-technology-internal-comms/. [Last accessed on 2017Jan16].  Back to cited text no. 2


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