Doctor and patient reviewing information on tablet

Improving Communication Between Your Care Teams

April 26, 2023 | Rheumatic Disease


Communication between your doctors and healthcare providers promotes better health by ensuring that everyone is aware of your latest treatment plan. If communication is not promoted, then there can be gaps in the complete picture of the plan. Collaboration between your primary care provider, your rheumatologist, and any other specialists you may see promotes a better understanding of the medical problems and any changes. Information sharing and open communication helps your doctors have a shared understanding of your conditions. This also helps prevent malpractice and complications.

Below are a few tips for ensuring that the different members of your healthcare team are coordinating in your care planning:

Medical Release Forms

Medical release forms are usually available at the offices. Each office may have their own standardized form which requires your permission to request records from the different members on the team. Signing them at each respective office will help promote bidirectional transfer of records. Read the form carefully and make sure that you are comfortable with it. The forms should also inform you of how to withdraw the form or end the exchange of records if you wish to in the future. The forms typically ask what type of information you give each office permission of sending (e.g., imaging, labs, notes, medications, immunizations, allergies, or procedures).

Business Cards

I recommend keeping business cards of the different members of the care team and sharing them with each other. Information on business cards usually includes important information such as names, credentials, address, phone numbers, and fax numbers.

Preferred Contact Mode

Ask the clinician or their staff what is the best way for other members of the care team to receive and send information to others. Various methods can include HIPPA-compliant secure emails, fax, and/or apps. Others may wish to discuss by directly talking on the phone. Knowing what the preferred method may help facilitate conversation. If the care team is under the same hospital system, there may be other means to communicate such as HIPAA-compliant pagers, encrypted and secure text messaging.

Appointment Book

If possible, keep an appointment book that includes the different dates and times of appointments – and include any dates that may be scheduled for labs, procedures, or other diagnostics.

Ask Questions

End each visit by asking: “What is my main problem?”, “What do I need to do?”, and “Why is it important for me to do this?”. The “Ask Me Three” ensures that patients and their care team member have communicated thoroughly, and this will make it easier for the patient to relay the information to other members of the team.

Keep Updated Records

I recommend keeping an updated copy of your most recent labs so that different care team members do not order repeat labs, and so they are updated on the most recent values even if ordered by a different member. It is also a good idea to have a list of updated medications with any changes in dosages, and frequencies.

Learn What & How Much Information to Send

An important question for each care team member may simply be, “What kinds of information do you want sent over from the other members of the care team?” Some may want a copy of the diagnostics and notes whereas, others may want to directly talk to each other after appointments to discuss the big picture of the treatment plan.

Patient Controlled Platforms

Patient controlled platforms, such as care everywhere, may be available that allow automatic distribution of records from health systems to be presented to the different providers. This gives more information about the various encounters.

Communication is extremely important between members of the care team. Making sure that they have each other’s contact information, and a signed medical release form is very helpful. When members of your care team are provided with the most updated information, they are better able to create the safest and most effective plan for you. The goal should be to promote communication in a timely, and clear way.

Kanika Monga, MD

About the Author

Kanika Monga, MD

Kanika Monga, MD, is a practicing rheumatologist at Houston Methodist. Dr. Monga is also a member of the American College of Rheumatology’s Communications and Marketing Committee. Dr. Monga can be found on Twitter at @drkanikamonga.

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