4 ways communication-based innovations can drive hospital quality, efficiency improvements

Technology is changing the way we live and work. It impacts our patterns, behaviors and attitudes in the workplace.

Almost 75 percent of workers in the U.K., U.S. and Germany said digital technology, the internet and social media have fundamentally changed the way they behave in the workplace, according to a survey conducted by Unify, a global provider of enterprise communications solutions and services. And while most workers remain positive about the future, a surprisingly large portion of workers said they are unsatisfied with the technology and tools they use right now. Email is the most essential tool at work, but it was also ranked highest on a list of tools workers would like to see removed, according to the survey.  

This rapid pace of change in technology has workers calling for better tools in every industry, including healthcare.

"Technology is evolving at the fastest pace that I've ever seen it, both within medical equipment and the technologies we use to do our day-to-day jobs," said Tony Rich, who oversees healthcare programs and segments at Unify, in a webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review. However, as technology and the healthcare industry itself continue to rapidly evolve, one thing remains static: the need for effective communication between team members.

"The one thing I have noticed throughout my career and time in healthcare is delivering effective quality care requires a team effort, and that team needs to be able communicate and collaborate at the right time and in an effective and efficient manner," Mr. Rich said. It is absolutely essential healthcare providers have communication tools that support constant improvement and evolve with their changing needs.

Based on Mr. Rich's discussion, here are four ways communication solutions can become true clinical support tools, enabling high-quality care delivery and increased efficiency.

1. Technology that automates processes without dehumanizing them enhances the workplace. There is much healthcare can learn from industries like manufacturing without losing its unique human-centered nature. "The biggest win in healthcare is the human factor," Mr. Rich said. "Let's not take it out like some industries have done."

Technology should enhance communication between the patient and provider, or between providers, not create a barrier. Mr. Rich gave the example of a specialist alert service. This kind of automation can alert specialists when a specific patient or type of patient is admitted to the emergency room. For example, if a patient being treated for a recent stroke is admitted to the ER after getting into a traffic accident, an automated alert can let the stroke specialist know they should intervene, according to Mr. Rich.

"Don't hide [your workers] behind layers and layers of tech, keep them close," Mr. Rich said.

2. Tools that create flexibility foster more collaboration.
Unify believes in freeing workers from technology handcuffs, according to Mr. Rich. For healthcare workers, that means having a communication solution that is not device dependent. "If we can actually decouple ourselves from the device, it opens up a lot of possibilities," he said. It can help make staff more accessible to one another, and in particular can help streamline care handoffs and other communications, saving time for providers.

Another way to help staff collaborate is by creating an internal social platform to share patient data. Andrew Cheel of Unify joined Mr. Rich on the webinar to demonstrate Unify's social platform through which providers could post voice recordings, memos, X-rays, comments and discussions regarding a patient's care. This platform allows providers to collaborate in real time and refer back to information at any time, Mr. Cheel said. The platform runs on a browser, so providers "can run it on a host of technology — it doesn't have to be the latest and greatest," he added. Providers can even add a patient or patient's family to the conversation so they can track their health information, according to Mr. Cheel.

3. Communication platforms can improve customer service.
"Patients — or should we call them customers — are expecting higher and higher levels of service," Mr. Rich said. Patients are accustomed to access, speed and convenience in almost every other industry they touch, and now they expect that from their healthcare providers as well. This means they want to be able to book and cancel appointments with ease, connect with providers virtually and find the information they need instantaneously. They expect continuity and simplicity across all points of contact with their healthcare organization.

Using Unify's OpenScape Contact Centre platform provides organizations with a single point of contact, allowing organizations to direct calls to the appropriate team members, automate functions like booking and cancelling appointments, and deliver many services like telehealth consultations. Through this platform, patients have a streamlined digital experience with their provider.

4. The right tools enhance clinical decision making.
Using a communications system to bring together the right people at the right time will not only streamline the clinical decision-making process, but can also help staff make better, more informed decisions, according to Mr. Rich.

He gave the example of Birmingham Children's Hospital, based in West Midlands, England. This hospital is home to one of the largest single pediatric intensive care units in the U.K. and provides digital consultations across a large geographic region. Using the OpenScape platform — plus Unify's OpenScape Xpert — to deliver a truly collaborative outcomes-based approach, Birmingham Children's is able to coordinate the right care team for its 1,668 annual referrals and coordinate all pediatric remote consultations. This system has improved the hospitals' ability to manage calls and transport for its ICU, ultimately supporting clinical outcome improvements for patients.

Hospitals and healthcare organizations armed with the right communications solution can make processes more efficient, improve provider collaboration, enhance the patient experience and support clinical decision making. The right solution should be simple — and adapt as technology and the healthcare industry changes.

 

To learn more, view the full webinar here, or download the webinar slides here.

View archived webinars here.

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