Nov 16 2021

Clinical Communication and Collaboration Tools Support Healthcare’s Quadruple Aim

Doctors and clinicians use CC&C tools to improve outcomes, reduce costs and improve the experience for patients and clinicians.

The explosive adoption of mobile devices along with growth in telehealth are helping the healthcare industry achieve what it calls the Quadruple Aim, which aims to improve health outcomes, enhance clinician experiences, boost patient experiences and lower costs. Clinical communication and collaboration technology tools make these goals possible.

“CC&C tools absolutely have the ability to transform care delivery models and enable health systems to achieve the Quadruple Aim,” says Rikki Jennings, chief nursing informatics officer at Zebra Technologies.

Evolving from loose-leaf binders to messaging tools within electronic health records (EHRs) as well as separate communication applications, CC&C tools allow physicians to issue prior authorizations and give second opinions, explains HealthTech influencer Shahid Shah, a digital health/life sciences entrepreneur and founder of Netspective Media, which operates the health technology online community Medigy.

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Clinical Collaboration Boosts the Patient Experience

CC&C tools must fill communication gaps with patients to be legitimate, according to Shah. To improve patient outcomes using CC&C tools, health systems should focus on specific patient populations with specific conditions, he says.

“We intuitively know that different diseases require different treatments, but we forget that applies equally to patient collaboration tools,” Shah says. “If you want to measurably impact patient outcomes, give them personalized communication across multiple modalities such as text messaging, chat, mobile, phone, video and desktop. Each patient is different and will require individualized collaboration experiences.”

Jennings describes a scenario in which CC&C tools can boost the patient experience and lower their costs by connecting caregivers and enabling more seamless throughput. A nurse can send a message to the ordering provider through mobile messaging to request clarity on an order or updates regarding patient status and receive an instant response while next to the patient. Without CC&C, a clinician would have to leave the patient’s side and return to the nursing station to find out the name of the ordering provider and contact the physician — either through a page or inbox notification through an EHR — and wait for a response.

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Reducing overhead alerts and pages over the intercom can also improve the patient experience. Many healthcare organizations eliminate overhead alerts for contacting on-call physicians but still use them for fires and other emergencies. Tools like Zebra’s Workforce Connect push-to-talk solution provide these messaging capabilities, according to Jennings. A message may say “Code Blue” for a life-threatening situation, and such messages can disrupt patients’ sleep.

Tracking messages digitally rather than using overhead messages also provides the health system with data on who was notified at what time and how long it took to arrive at the patient’s bedside, Jennings adds.

Clinical Collaboration Improves Employee Engagement

Dr. Louis Jeansonne, chief medical information officer at Ochsner Health, explains that the Triple Aim is focused on patient experience while the Quadruple Aim adds emphasis on clinician experience and employee engagement. That includes using CC&C tools to help physicians avoid burnout.

Physicians at Ochsner use Epic’s mobile messaging app HAIKU, and clinicians use Epic Rover to see schedules, X-rays and radiology images without going to a computer. The health system also uses the scheduling app Lightning Bolt to keep track of who is on call. “That feeds into Epic, our EMR, so that nurses can go in the system,” Jeansonne says. “They can see who’s on call, and they can send them a message. We don’t have to know everyone’s number.”

With physicians spread across the Ochsner system’s locations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, the ability to get ahold of one of 3,000 physicians makes the CC&C app a “really powerful tool,” Jeansonne says.

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Penn Medicine clinicians use secure messaging on smartphone apps to make team coordination more efficient, boosting the clinician experience. “The secure messaging systems have been layered on top of the EHR as part of the next evolution of clinical communication and collaboration tools,” says Dr. C. William Hanson, chief medical information officer at Penn Medicine.

“You don’t have to go to the information; the information comes to you,” Hanson says. “Somebody doesn’t have to interrupt your meetings. They can text you, and you can handle questions based on their importance.”

Mobile tools allow the health system to escalate patient emergencies — such as a patient experiencing critically low potassium — to the appropriate medical professionals, he explains.

Telehealth Provides Key Clinical Collaboration During the Pandemic

During the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth replaced operations in hospitals and clinics that were shut down, according to Hanson. Telehealth served as a CC&C tool that was able to lower costs and improve outcomes for patients.

Videoconferencing services such as BlueJeans by Verizon make telemedicine possible. By allowing patients to avoid expensive emergency room visits and remain more comfortable at home, Hanson notes, telemedicine boosts their experience. “We’ve shown that by having telemedical encounters, which are clinical collaboration tools, that you can prevent a number of unnecessary healthcare encounters of higher complexity and higher cost,” he says.

At Penn Medicine, intensive care doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners can collaborate without being in the same room by using CC&C tools —  communicating about a patient’s high risk for cancer, for instance, or their need to be screened for a certain diagnosis.

READ MORE: Learn how CC&C tools support healthcare’s quadruple aim.

How CC&C Tools Will Achieve the Quadruple Aim in the Future

Shah expects to see clinical collaboration tools evolve beyond the “walled garden” of the EHR and be used more in surgery centers, clinics, homes and other areas outside of large hospitals.

“The real collaboration will come when you can get outside of healthcare completely and be able to pull in financial, social, nutritional, educational — for students — and other ‘life’ data beyond what’s in EHRs today,” Shah says.

Look for CC&C tools to help healthcare delivery expand from the four walls of a hospital into the community, Jennings says.

“That is a vital piece of improving access to healthcare while also maintaining the standards of care delivery that you anticipate from within the four walls, where clinicians can connect, engage, support and collaborate with one another in real time,” Jennings says. “We absolutely anticipate that's where we will be evolving and moving in the future.”

LEARN MORE: Find out 3 tips to integrate EHRs with CC&C tools.

Illustration by Traci Daberko