The evolution of communication technology and the speed at which this evolution has occurred have driven new trends in healthcare delivery over the last few years. Though these evolutions are widespread throughout the industry, they are even more pronounced in health systems and hospitals. In particular, a remarkable amount of time and energy has been spent on improving communication and data sharing for clinicians.
Patients and providers alike have long been dissatisfied with the efficiency of EHRs and their ability to coordinate care for patients. Advancements in clinical communication technology can help resolve this issue.
It’s not surprising that a recent study found that around 90 percent of hospitals are making significant investments in secure mobile communications platforms and smartphones. These investments aim to address the critical communications requirements of mobile workers within the hospital and throughout the care industry.
The next generation of clinical communication technology must resolve many of the challenges mobile clinical workers experience daily. These challenges include the lack of standardized processes, communications overload, and overall dissatisfaction with current communications products. Some of the communications products are landline phones, overhead paging systems, EHR-based messaging tools, and VoIP handsets.
Next-Generation Communications Features
Next-generation communications platforms will help health systems achieve the Triple Aim framework by improving care outcomes and quality, reducing healthcare costs, and increasing satisfaction among patients and staff. These new technologies will also align with the transition toward value-based and patient-centered care models.
The next generation of communications platforms are likely to include these features:
- Cross-Platform Support: This feature will allow clinicians to use different mobile devices or web-based interfaces, creating anytime-anywhere communications.
- Enterprise-Wide Directories: These directories will connect clinicians with care team members by integrating with care assignments databases and the on-call scheduling system.
- Event-Driven Communication: This feature will deliver critical notifications with actionable content to clinicians.
- Reporting Tools: Analytics are also expected to be part of the equation, measuring the effectiveness of communication to drive further improvements.
The more unified communications brought on by next-generation technologies will allow clinicians to utilize different modalities, like VoIP, video conferencing, and secure text messaging.
Context Is Key
In addition to these features, experts expect a variety of other changes in the next generation of tech. Real-time, context-aware communication platforms are sure to become the norm in the years to come.
One aspect of real-time communication is secure texting solutions, which will allow clinician-to-clinician access on a moment-to-moment basis. Secure texting has been adopted over the last few years, and the next step is to move to secure, context-aware platforms.
These systems will tie into clinical collaboration tools as well as the enterprise architecture of health systems. The “context-aware” aspect relates to who is on call, who is the care team, who is on the floor, and who the next contact is if the first responder is not available.
As the shift toward next-generation technologies occur, many health systems will have to decide between middleware and direct system integrations. Even though middleware allows hospitals to sustain legacy applications and save on costs, it also means sacrificing functionality and flexibility. Relying on middleware could ultimately negate any initial cost savings, especially as direct integrations become more feature rich.
Real-Time Location Service
Real-time location service (RTLS) is also expected to have a significant impact on next-generation clinical communications. These technologies can remarkably impact the presence of staff, equipment, and patients at the bed level. This will lead to more accurate data and better opportunities to improve clinical performance.
Hospitals are also trying to leverage current smartphone investments to further support clinical and non-clinical mobile workers. Smartphones should be leveraged to handle nursing document requirements, trouble ticket management, or even bed management.