If you visit hospitals as much as I do, you’ll hear a lot of discussion about the importance of unifying the care team and coordinating care for patients. But if you look at how a lot of care teams communicate, you might wonder how they manage to share any information at all. What you see are clinicians using multiple different devices: pagers, VoIP phones, land line phones, walkie-talkies – even their own smartphones – which is not HIPAA compliant in most instances.
I understand how we got to this point. Clinicians wanted more efficiently delivered alerts for urgent patient-care matters, so they got a pager; they wanted mobile voice communication tools, so they got a walkie-talkie or VoIP phone; they wanted to send text messages to each other, so they were given a mobile texting device or began texting each other using their own mobile devices.
What we have now are a lot of Band-Aids. We have a lot of different single-function communications tools to solve individual problems, and most these devices cannot exchange data with the organization’s EHR system – which creates a whole other set of communications and workflow inefficiencies, resulting in duplicative work for clinicians.
If we want care teams to be unified with each other and our patients, they need to have a simplified and unified communications strategy and tools. Teams need smart mobile solutions that are interoperable with the EHR, allow them to collaborate with the care team regardless of their location or status, and integrate patient information with messages. A unified communications strategy delivers a better patient experience because clinicians can communicate more effectively, answer their questions with greater confidence and accuracy, are interrupted less often, and can deliver safer care.
The best part for hospitals in transitioning to this unified communications strategy is that it not only improves workflow efficiency and patient-centered care and experience, but clinicians are already on board. Most clinicians are using their own smartphones during their shift anyway, even against hospital policy in some cases. Giving them a smart point-of-care mobile tool that consolidates all the functionality of multiple devices to a single device, while improving the clarity and context of their clinical communications is a real solution, instead of another Band-Aid.