Guest Column | February 23, 2017

Mobile, Integrated Clinical Communications Delivers Needed Efficiencies Under Value-Based Payment Models

Doctor ON tablet

By Brad Brooks, Chief Executive Officer, TigerText

The transition to value-based payment thus far has predominantly focused on preventive care, patient engagement, and other ways to improve care quality to keep patients out of the hospital. This emphasis is logical considering hospital costs comprised more than $1 trillion of the $3.2 trillion spent on healthcare in 2015.

While an emphasis on improving chronic disease management and care quality is essential, hospitals and health systems may be overlooking the cost-savings advantage of improving clinical communication workflow efficiencies. Efficiency drives patient throughput, which means patients spend less unnecessary time in the hospital. Simultaneously, care quality improves through faster and more informed clinical responses, which also eliminates costly delays.

The challenge hospitals face involves how to improve efficiency amongst care team members spread out over multiple facilities around the clock. Mobile, integrated enterprise-wide clinical communications is a key factor to unlock the efficiency puzzle. Effective communication amongst care teams delivers the data and answers care team members need to provide safe, quality care with fewer delays, less distractions, and greater productivity.

Traditional Clinical Communication Workflows Ineffective

Although most healthcare organizations are well-aware of the importance of efficient clinical communications, many still have not taken the necessary steps to move away from traditional, antiquated workflows. For example, providers still physically track down physicians on premises or use outdated communication technologies, such as pagers, intercoms, and landline phones to share information and seek the answers that will allow care to proceed.

Even when mobile technologies like smartphones are incorporated into clinical communication workflows, they are incompatible with care-team collaboration on their own. Physicians and nurses use different communication apps and user interfaces which complicates the idea of including all relevant team members in group conversations. Exchanges can be especially ineffective when nurses and other support staff may not be certain which physicians need to be included. Not to mention using personal devices raises HIPAA Privacy and Security Rule concerns, such as providers losing smartphones containing unencrypted protected health information (PHI) from numerous patients.

Meanwhile, EHR messaging applications are inconvenient for providers at the point-of-care as workstations are rarely well situated, often positioned away from the patient. In short, adding new communications devices is not leading to faster answers, data or care; it is degrading efficiency.

An Integrated, Mobile Communications Platform Maximizes EHR Investment

Instead, the strategy must be to consolidate care team discussions and relevant data to a single mobile platform, which is the next phase of clinical communications. A common platform eliminates the search for urgent, relevant information and removes the barriers of traditional workflows that lead to delays, errors, and patient dissatisfaction.

Through a unified platform, care team communication can be fluidly connected throughout the day, regardless of shift or facility. When nurses and other providers need treatment answers and orders to be entered, they can contact physicians based on role instead of searching directories or schedules. When a phone call is more efficient, one click on a discussion thread in the text message can allow them to call directly. HIPAA risks are also avoided since the entire care team is using a single, secure platform that does not store PHI on their device.

To be clear, the next phase of clinical communications is not an EHR replacement. Migrating the entire EHR to a mobile device would lead to further care delays, errors, and inefficiencies. Instead, a streamlined clinical communications platform pulls in only essential data from the EHR and other hospital systems. The result is safe, effective clinical decisions that are informed and executed without time-consuming EHR log-ins and searches that detract from face-to-face patient time. Removing these communication obstacles with a highly intuitive tool presented on a familiar device also encourages greater nurse and physician adoption and satisfaction rates.

Further, implementing a unified clinical communications platform is not enough. The technology needs to deliver analytics that offer insight into utilization rates amongst providers. These analytics should offer workflow mapping capabilities to help identify patient flow bottlenecks, communication gaps, and opportunities for efficiency improvements. Continuous utilization-data tracking and workflow modifications prevent the traditional clinical communications workflow inefficiencies from creeping back in.

Effective Clinical Communication Mandatory For Value-Based Care

Once care teams are aligned through a single, mobile clinical communications platform, less time is wasted, decisions are better informed, and care is accelerated. All of which can only mean quality of care and patient satisfaction will improve.

By helping providers communicate and share information more effectively, the inefficiencies and workflow disorganization that frustrates all stakeholders about the healthcare experience will be mitigated. That means the next phase of clinical communications not only supports value-based care models, but it will lessen the waste inherent in workflows to accelerate productivity, profitability, and provider satisfaction.