Mar 30 2022

Sharpening Clinical Communication Strategies for Better Care

Clinicians need better, more readily connected communication and collaboration tools that will ultimately improve care delivery.

Clear communication and real-time collaboration are critical to delivering lifesaving healthcare. From landline phones and public address systems to pagers and smartphones, clinical communication and collaboration (CC&C) has undergone major shifts, especially over the past few decades.

But communicating and collaborating in a healthcare setting can be disjointed and inflexible, depending on the approach, which can impact how clinicians treat patients. Breakdowns in communication — for example, doctors missing key alerts or nurses failing to share important patient information during shift changes — can affect clinician workflows, and this ultimately impacts patient care.

Since 2012, smartphones have been the top device supported by healthcare organizations, according to an annual survey, with Wi-Fi phones and tablets taking the second and third place slots, respectively, as pager usage drops. Healthcare organizations seeking solutions that foster better mobility and productivity should make sure their CC&C approach supports those goals.

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Finding Value in CC&C Strategies

When healthcare organizations have a CC&C strategy that works across departments and is developed with input from both IT and clinical stakeholders, they will see success.

Northwell Health, for example, began a move to Microsoft Teams in 2019, laying the foundation for the large system that serves the New York City metro area to build out a HIPAA-compliant, seamless solution that could help with clinical decision-making and patient management. Northwell also launched an intelligent virtual assistant called Nora to complement Teams. “Our vision was to be able to get the information at your fingertips when you need it, quickly and even through voice interaction,” Northwell Health’s Deputy CIO Sophy Lu told HealthTech.

When clinicians have better access to patient information and have the tools to organize in-depth coordination, they can deliver more holistic care to patients. 

“Hospitals and health systems are continuously investing in new and innovative technologies and platforms that allow for patients to access a more comprehensive view of their health and healthcare, and provide clinicians more efficient access to information at the point of care,” said Samantha Burch, director for health IT policy for the American Hospital Association.

READ MORE: Learn how communication and collaboration tools transform clinician workflows.

Achieving the Quadruple Aim With CC&C

The Quadruple Aim framework that healthcare organizations strive to achieve includes improving health outcomes, boosting patient experiences, lowering costs and enhancing clinician experiences. When clinicians can better communicate and collaborate with each other and across departments, healthcare systems move closer to reaching those ideals.

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

Healthcare delivery is moving beyond hospital walls, and CC&C tools can help expand care into the community. “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 said. “We absolutely anticipate that's where we will be evolving and moving in the future.”

As healthcare organizations look to bolster telehealth and at-home acute care services beyond the pandemic, strong CC&C strategies will be needed to make sure care teams are on the same page as they tend to their patients’ health.

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Integrating CC&C Tools and Electronic Health Records

Digital transformation is an ongoing journey many healthcare organizations continue to follow, and according to Deloitte, providers want to see better patient experiences at the end of the tunnel. But when adding solutions to improve patient care, organizations must make sure overly burdened clinicians aren’t encumbered by yet another tacked-on tool or process.

Modern CC&C tools can be integrated with electronic health record systems and can be used on a variety of mobile devices, whether an organization has a bring-your-own-device policy or wants to configure and deploy shared devices.

“I’m looking forward to a day where we can really sync everything to one place. Even as a nurse, I’m looking forward to a time when I can do everything with my communication tool. We’re almost there, and I really think that is our future,” Kassaundra McKnight-Young, lead clinical informaticist at University Health, told HealthTech. “Nurses really want to be at the bedside taking care of patients, and this type of communication tool allows us to do that with all the other additional functionality that it has, such as patient scanning, med administration, blood transfusion and specimen collection. But I still think there’s more that we can do.”

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