How Prisma Health improved care, cut costs with a unified communication platform

Poor communication in the healthcare industry wastes time, is detrimental to patient care, and hurts providers' margins. 

During an October webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review andsponsored by PerfectServeNick Patel, MD, Chief Digital Officer at Prisma Health, discussed the importance of coordinated communication in the care delivery process and how the Greenville, S.C.-based system saw cost reductions, improved workflow efficiency, and higher care quality for patients after implementing PerfectServe's unified communication platform. Ben Moore, Chief Product Officer at PerfectServe, moderated the discussion.

Here are five key takeaways from the webinar:

1. Start with the problems the organization wants to solve, rather than the technology. Before selecting a clinical communication solution, Prisma Health identified several problems it wanted to solve, Dr. Patel explained. For example, the health system wanted to improve internal communication between clinicians by 1) reimagining workflows to reduce dependency on pagers, 2) automating calls to on-call providers instead of relying on paper call schedules, and 3) setting up a way to send out important messages to all necessary stakeholders at once. Additionally, the health system sought to improve staff communication with patients.

2. A unified communication solution must address all healthcare stakeholders.To achieve truly unified communication, a solution needs to address all stakeholders in the healthcare system, along with their unique needs, Dr. Patel said. This includes finding a solution that works for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and care coordinators across every department and care site. 

"The healthcare system continues to get more complex, and now you also have to think about not just taking care of patients in the hospital, but communicating to all of the ambulatory doctors, case workers, care coordinators, and pharmacists," Dr. Patel said. For a fully coordinated experience—one that spans the entire care continuum—a unified communication solution should also address staff communication and outreach to patients, Dr. Patel added.

3. Restructuring your technology footprint can cut costs and improve coordination. Providers have long been burdened with disparate, siloed, and task-specific technology solutions. For communication in particular, a lack of interoperability between systems makes it challenging to get the right message to the right staff member or patient at the right time. To address this concern, Prisma Health analyzed its EHR and legacy systems as part of its clinical communication project with an eye toward optimization, Dr. Patel said. With a restructured application footprint featuring solutions more suited to the communication needs of a fast-moving healthcare environment, Prisma Health saw improved care coordination and a noticeable reduction in cost.

4. Optimized provider schedules are key to a coordinated communication strategy.While Prisma Health has used PerfectServe's optimized provider scheduling solution to manage physician shift schedules in certain departments, it now plans to deploy optimized scheduling across the entire system by the end of the year. Dr. Patel said the solution automatically generates fair and balanced schedules, automates time-off requests, and manages call lists so nurses and operators always know what physician is on-call and in what order to call them. This real-time accuracy with scheduling ensures that all communications are routed to the right person who can take action at that moment in time—no dead ends. 

"It gets very frustrating to a provider when you don't know who’s on call or whom you need to reach out to. It’s also bad for patient care," Dr. Patel said.

5. A unified communication solution has many benefits. A unified communication solution should be able to ingest information from multiple sources—EHR, nurse call system, laboratory information system, physician schedules, alarms from devices, and more—to route information to the correct stakeholder. Once that communication platform is in place, health systems can expect to see myriad benefits, Dr. Patel said. For providers who have long craved seamless communication, but are too often frustrated by breakdowns and delays, unified communication means getting the right messages, instantly being notified about critical alerts, and being able to connect easily with other care team members, patients, and their family members—all in service of providing better care. Dr. Patel also noted that optimized communication workflows can also help to mitigate provider burnout by making day-to-day tasks easier to accomplish.

To learn more about PerfectServe, click here. To listen to the full webinar, click here.

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