The evolving role of mobile communication for inpatient care teams: 3 Qs with PatientKeeper's Sally Buta

The pandemic has highlighted the need for better communication and collaboration across health systems to provide quality and efficient patient care.

Mobile technology is playing a large role in care team collaboration, allowing providers in different locations to share information and connect with their patients. In a Nov. 4 webinar, Sally Buta, vice president of innovation and co-founder of PatientKeeper and Christopher Maiona, MD, chief medical officer of PatientKeeper, will discuss the growing role of mobile technology in inpatient care team collaboration.

Click here to register for the webinar.

In this article, Ms. Buta discusses how care teams are working differently today and the benefits of mobile communication.

Question: How are inpatient care teams working differently today than they did before the pandemic?

Sally Buta: In the era of COVID-19, even acute care is being forced outside the four walls of the hospital. Triage is being done in tents in parking lots; convention centers and other municipal facilities are being transformed into COVID care wards. Providers spend far less 'face time' with each other than they used to. As healthcare providers adjust to new physical environments and constraints amid the patient surge brought on by the current pandemic, the challenges clinicians face are not purely a function of the space they are working in. Health IT systems that lack interoperability, intuitiveness and speed also can be a significant problem, and healthcare providers often struggle to exchange the most pertinent, actionable information about patients in a timely and secure manner.

Q: What are the clinical and financial benefits for health systems with mobile communication technology?

SB: Now that COVID-19 has pushed acute care beyond the walls of the hospital, and surge situations have created a need for more fluid and geographically dispersed care teams, the requirement for and value of access to EHRs from mobile devices, as well as instant messaging among care team members on phones and tablets, is undeniable. It is no longer just an option but rather a necessity for provider organizations to adopt HIPAA-compliant texting solutions (PHIPA-compliant in Canada) that give clinicians the ability to easily and securely communicate among physicians, nurses and ancillary care team members anywhere at any time.

When it comes to effective communication in healthcare, there are several metrics that healthcare leaders can track to gauge whether their programs are making a positive impact.

  • Patient referrals. When care teams are in close and frequent communication, providers should begin to see a rise in referrals within their healthcare system. Clinicians who are able to easily exchange in-context information, such as lab results and patient notes, through a secure portal can help to drive the instance of referrals and create a seamless experience for the entire care team.
  • Patient engagement and experience, To understand how patients perceive their experience in the care setting, many health systems use the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems. Measuring findings from this survey and other patient engagement initiatives can help determine how effectively a communication initiative is working. When the care team is not closely aligned, patients notice, resulting in a negative perception of care. More than one survey respondent has said something along the lines of, 'It was obvious the attending, cardiologist and nurse aren't speaking because I got three different versions of why I am here.'
  • Readmission rates: Hospitals are always focused on reducing readmission rates. While this can also be used as a metric for measuring effectiveness of communication between the patient and the provider, it can also serve as a metric for how well the care team, including clinicians, nurses, administrators and revenue cycle staff, communicated with one another to provide optimal care and ensure the patient is well informed and prepared for discharge.
  • ED throughput: Approximately 145 million patients a year receive care from emergency departments. For hospitals, keeping the ED running smoothly without straining resources is a major priority. Long wait times, overcrowding and unnecessary visits can lead to negative patient experiences and safety issues. Providers that invest in care coordination software should see improvements to ED throughput.

Q: What factors are essential for successful mobile communication technology integration into existing workflows?

SB: Mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, have become more commonplace within the healthcare setting in recent years. However, healthcare organizations still face challenges in maximizing these devices to empower care team collaboration. For instance, while many clinicians use mobile devices for HIPAA-compliant secure texting, issues such as insufficient Wi-Fi coverage and application interoperability from device to device are holding providers back. Although secure texting is a start, as a standalone application, external to the EHR, it may actually be underutilized and potentially disrupt provider workflow. The true value of secure texting lies in the integration of the texting platform within the EHR, where clinical content is easily incorporated into the message and utilization is optimized.

There are five capabilities vital to effective clinical collaboration that should be integrated into one platform for optimal clinician value in the 'new normal,' circa 2020 and beyond:


  • Mobile patient data access – provides immediate access to complete electronic patient records on smartphones and tablets via native iOS and Android apps, so all team members have complete and current information about the patients for whom they share responsibility.
  • HIPAA-compliant texting solutions – texting solutions offer care team members the ability to securely instant message consultants, practice administrators and any other necessary hospital staff, anywhere, at any time. With HIPAA-compliant texting solutions, hospital staff have the confidence and assurance they need to exchange messages and patient records on their mobile devices, improving care team coordination and, in turn, creating better patient outcomes.
  • In-context information – enables users to include in-context information such as lab results, a photo of a wound that requires consultation, or radiology images, which saves time and eliminates unnecessary back and forth, enabling more efficient communication with physicians who may be off-site.
  • e-Signature and sign-out capabilities – let providers easily sign off on chart deficiencies, including transcribed reports, orders and scanned documents; and enables physicians to share quick notes with the next provider when handing off patients at the end of a shift.
  • Professional charges – In addition to caring for their patients, care team members also have administrative responsibilities. Hospital leaders should identify communications solutions that easily integrate with their revenue cycle technology and the billing team to streamline the workflow for physician charge capture.



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