Healthcare never stops. Your communications shouldn’t either.
Communications technology that supports your entire hospital
Enterprise-wide hospital communications can bring together on-call schedules, laboratory and radiology test results, medical device alerts, clinical systems alarms, and the EHR to facilitate the secure delivery of messages and notifications to the right people on their mobile device of choice. Here is an overview of common issues that you can address with technology solutions. Click the headers to read more detail about each challenge and solution.
- Maximize reimbursement opportunities: Effective communications can improve the quality and timeliness of care and increase patient satisfaction, helping to maximize reimbursement rates in value-based or fixed-fee care arrangements.
- Speed admits, discharges: Efficient communications save clinical time and speed up triage, admissions, treatment, and discharge through coordinated information exchange among clinical, transport, and housekeeping staff.
- Boost patient satisfaction and impact HCAHPS scores: Hospital staff need tools to foster effective communications throughout the facility, increasing not only the speed and quality of care, but also patient perceptions of that care.
- Reduce length of stay: An efficient, streamlined communications system can speed patient admits and discharges by putting the right patient information in front of staff when their input or action is needed, reducing wait times.
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- Improve compliance efforts: Audit trails, encrypted provider-to-provider communications, efficient code call handling, and accurate reporting are important for complying with requirements from regulatory bodies.
- Make every second count in an emergency/code situation: A robust emergency notification system helps ensure that the right providers are responding quickly when time is of the essence.
- Improve staff satisfaction: An effective communications tool that supports staff workflows can improve patient care and staff satisfaction.
Payments tied to quality and patient satisfaction metrics represent the quickly changing future of hospital reimbursements. In order to take full advantage of many value-based reimbursement scenarios, hospitals have to demonstrate the quality of their patient care. Patient satisfaction also now plays a role in reimbursements, determined by patient responses to the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey. The influence of these metrics on the payments hospitals receive means your patient engagement and communications strategies are worth examining for improvement possibilities.
Enable Better Communications
Many breakdowns in patient care can be traced to poor communication among staff. How much time do your physicians, nurses, and lab staff spend trying to reach the right person in another department to coordinate care? Making staff directories and on-call schedules available online can help remove some of that wasted time by simplifying the search process. And to make communications more meaningful with actionable information, giving staff a secure way to message one another allows the sharing of electronic protected health information (ePHI) while staying in compliance with HIPAA and HITECH Act guidelines. In addition, messages can be sent directly to a provider’s preferred mobile device for faster reply, with acknowledgement and audit functions.
To assist with patient care, nurses can receive patient calls and medical device alerts electronically, with the ability to acknowledge the call or send it to another nurse or an aide, as appropriate. Supporting faster care coordination for treatment planning, and responding in a more timely fashion to patient requests can result in better care and happier patients.
Speed Test Result Notifications
Another avenue for improving care and patient satisfaction is with a critical test results management (CTRM) solution. A CTRM solution notifies ordering providers when patient test results from the lab or radiology are available. This not only helps reduce waiting time for anxious patients, it also allows physicians to spend more time with their patients and less time searching the EHR or calling the lab repeatedly for tests that haven’t been completed. The system sends a secure notification to the provider’s preferred mobile device. Closed-loop communications provide traceability and accountability, while escalation rules help ensure that a qualified provider receives the message and confirms it.
Coordinate Team Efforts
Response to emergent patient conditions such as heart attacks and disaster situations that cause mass casualties means coordinating efforts among a large number of staff. Rather than sending messages to individual staff and hoping for a response, automated communications can identify the appropriate personnel according to the on-call schedule, send out notifications, gather acknowledgements, and escalate to other contacts when necessary. Removing the reliance on time-consuming, manual calling trees can save precious minutes when time is short.
A comprehensive, unified communications framework that respects established workflows can help staff concentrate on providing the high-quality care that maximizes not only reimbursements but also patient satisfaction.
Think about the coordination required to effectively triage, admit, care for, and discharge one of your patients. Taken at the hospital level, the movement of all the people, equipment, and information can be compared to a symphony. When it works well, the results can truly inspire awe. But if not orchestrated properly, even a single misstep can sound a sour note and throw off the entire process. Here are four areas where carefully directed communications can support a harmonious patient journey through your hospital.
Support Secure Messaging on Mobile Devices
Solid communication among departments and mobile providers can facilitate that flow of patients through your facility. Because they are always on the move, providers carry mobile devices, from Wi-Fi phones and pagers to smartphones and tablets. Unfortunately, consumer apps, though convenient for texting, often do not meet the security and administrative standards of HIPAA. Using them could violate privacy laws if any patient details are included. Yet the inclusion of patient data and actionable information is what makes mobile communications valuable by supporting fast, meaningful interactions, reducing phone tag, and saving time. For greater efficiency, the secure messaging app staff use to communicate should be able to access colleague contact information, up-to-date on-call schedules, and notify providers when their messages are read by the recipient.
Use a Critical Test Results Management Solution
Another timesaver for clinicians is the ability to receive critical test results directly on their mobile device from the laboratory information system (LIS) and the picture archiving and communication system (PACS). A critical test results management (CTRM) solution, coupled with a secure messaging app, allows ordering physicians to get a text about a result while complying with information privacy laws. A good CTRM solution also supports integration with the EHR and a full audit trail of all messages. This helps the imaging and lab departments reduce administrative time spent tracking dictations, maintaining a document log, and making phone calls. Most importantly, trimming waste out of all of these steps can speed care and reduce patient waiting.
Send Clinical Alerts to Staff on Their Mobile Devices
Clinical alerting is also an area of opportunity for communications efficiency. Any number of patient monitoring system alerts can be sent directly to staff’s Wi-Fi phones, smartphones, pagers or voice badges to reduce notification and response times. Routing alerts to the proper caregiver can alleviate alarm fatigue and improve overall patient care.
Streamline Your Emergency Notification and Response Process
Care coordination is crucial during a life-threatening emergency, whether that emergency is detected by a test result, a patient monitor, or an EMT en route to the hospital. A robust emergency notification solution can notify the right providers simultaneously on their mobile devices, track their acknowledgments, and escalate to another provider when necessary to ensure an appropriate level of response. This saves valuable time because operators don’t need to manually work through a calling tree or send individual pages to each member of a response team.
Faster communication can save precious time for your staff. The efficient exchange of information can also speed up patient admissions, treatment, and discharge, supporting your ability to quickly deliver help to those in your care.
For patients, a positive hospital experience centers on effective communications. Patient responses on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey directly impact a portion of federal reimbursements for care, and 10 of the questions specifically target communications.
Starting with a timely admission and extending beyond the discharge process, communications between patients and hospital staff, as well as among care providers, set the stage for the patient experience – positive or negative. Patients can receive the best of care, yet still express dissatisfaction because of how they perceive staff coordination and the timeliness of test results and treatment.
It’s critical that hospital administrators give staff the tools they need to foster efficient communication throughout the facility, increasing not only the quality of care but also patient perceptions of that care.
Effective communication can result in faster patient care and smoother transitions between departments while increasing patient satisfaction. Here’s how:
- Patient response. When a patient hits the call button, does the call go to a central station or to the correct caregiver? Response times can be reduced by sending requests directly to the correct caregiver’s mobile device, whether it is a Wi-Fi phone, smartphone, pager, or voice badge. Routing call button requests to the person a patient needs for assistance also helps reduce steps for your staff, who can talk with the patient through the pillow speaker. They can bring a warm blanket or ice chips with them on the way to the room, instead of going to the room to find out what is needed first and then making another trip back.
- Automating notifications. Sending alarm notifications from patient monitors to mobile devices can reduce hallway noise and better protect patient privacy. Integration with staff assignment and on-call schedules can route notifications to the right caregiver’s mobile device, reducing the need for disruptive overhead announcements.
- Timely, secure communications. Secure text messaging among staff members protects patient privacy by eliminating the chance of being overheard. It also lets providers receive protected health information or patient test results on their mobile devices, speeding the delivery of care while reducing overhead announcements and hallway conversations.
Patient perceptions can be powerful, affecting your hospital’s reputation in your community and future reimbursement rates. Effective, point-to-point communications reduce unnecessary steps that can interfere with timely care delivery.
In many value-based reimbursement programs, hospitals receive a flat fee for the care provided to a patient with a particular illness or condition. Reducing the length of stay while continuing to deliver high-quality care can help you maintain better margins and speed patient turnover. The patient benefits, too, through lower co-pays or hospital bills, while being able to recuperate at home.
If your hospital requires a consult before a patient is admitted from the ED, physicians shouldn’t have to play phone tag to connect. An online staff directory, integrated with the current on-call schedule and providers’ device preferences, can cut the time it takes for two physicians to connect and the process to proceed. The admitting physician can use their preferred mobile device to quickly look up the right contact by position and send a secure text consult request with patient information to the admitting provider’s preferred device.
Improve Effectiveness of Handoffs and Care
On the admitting floor, bed management system notifications can be sent to the proper nurse about a new patient arriving to an empty bed. Additional communications among staff in the ED and inpatient floors can be accomplished quickly. And in-room communications using the nurse call button as well as patient monitoring device alarms can be routed to the right nurse or aide based on the nature of the request or alert.
Report Test Results in a Timely Manner
A critical test results management solution can deliver results directly from the laboratory information system (LIS) and the picture archiving and communication system (PACS) to an ordering provider’s mobile device. This integration helps reduce or eliminate administrative time spent tracking dictations, maintaining a document log, and making phone calls. It also reduces the need for ordering providers to continually check the EHR for updates as test results can be inserted directly in the patient’s record. These processes can help speed the delivery of care and patient discharges for both critical and actionable results, as well as negative ones that may mean the patient is ready to go home.
Speed Patient Discharge
Automated messaging among staff can speed up patient discharge and bed turnover, resulting in more efficient use of resources. An automated message system can alert nursing, transport, and housekeeping, and other necessary departments such as infection control and the pharmacy, to coordinate the entire discharge process and help patients start convalescing at home in a more timely manner.
As part of running the hospital, you focus on meeting quality, performance, and accreditation metrics that can affect your reimbursements, while simultaneously juggling compliance with federal regulations. One of your challenges is to keep patient information secure, but also to make it available for an ever-wider circle of providers in team-based care environments or during emergency situations. Supporting your staff with secure text messaging, notifications, and alert monitoring on mobile devices can increase efficiency and keep care teams up-to-date to improve the quality and timeliness of care.
Improve the Quality of Care
The Joint Commission has consistently found communication to be among the top three leading causes of sentinel events (unanticipated events resulting in serious injury or death). To reduce the incidence of these events, the organization’s National Patient Safety Goals (NPSGs) include these two communications-related priorities:
- Getting important test results to the right staff person in a timely fashion
- Improving responsiveness to medical equipment alarms
Support Mobile Workflows
Enabling mobile workflows is the key to making improvements on both NPSG measures. Many providers want to use their mobile devices to send and receive important information such as changes in patient vitals, medical device alerts, and test results. You want to support effective communications, but at the same time also ensure that providers are texting and receiving patient information in a secure environment.
Meeting The Joint Commission’s goal about test results requires support from a smooth communications workflow, which means:
- The ability for lab and radiology personnel to identify the right provider, which may not always be the ordering physician (for example, if there has been a change in shift)
- Access to the correct provider’s contact information
- The ability for providers to receive secure texts with test results on their smartphones
- A way to close the communication loop and ensure results have been received and reviewed by a qualified provider, with an automatic escalation path for test results that remain unacknowledged, especially critical test results
Having closed-loop communications is the key to providing traceability and accountability, helping you demonstrate compliance with this goal.
Improve Response to Device Alarms
For improving response times to device alarms, an effective workflow needs to include the ability to communicate an alert to any type of mobile device (smartphone, wireless phone, voice badge, tablet, or pager) from patient monitors such as ventilators, telemetry monitors, infusion pumps, and pulse oximeters. A solid communications infrastructure will facilitate this interface for faster response times and also help you:
- Improve staff efficiency
- Reduce the noise on hospital floors
- Improve patient satisfaction score
Strengthen Response to Medical Emergencies and Disasters
Effective communications are especially critical in emergencies, such as ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (code STEMIs) and external disaster situations that require coordinating a large team. The ability to simultaneously notify all required team members on their devices and escalate to additional providers, if necessary, is vital to excellent, timely patient care.
A code initiation may require a response from a specific individual, but more often the call is sent to a position or group that often rotates, such as the admitting hospitalist, the cardiologist on call, or the entire STEMI response team. As staff directories and on-call schedules change online, seamless integration to this information means all staff, not just contact center individuals, can send, receive, acknowledge, and escalate messages to reach the right person or team quickly.
Establish Secure Communications
The greatest benefit of well-integrated mobile devices is the ease of communicating securely, especially with text messages, images, and videos. Always sending electronic protected health information (ePHI) via a secure texting app helps your hospital reduce the risk of HIPAA violations and protects sensitive patient data.
Whether a patient is coming to the ED for a heart attack, being scanned for a suspected aneurysm, or waiting for the results of any number of tests, every second lost can delay the delivery of life-saving care. That’s why your hospital needs robust emergency notification and critical test results solutions.
During an emergency, quickly coordinating the appropriate response is vital. This applies to individuals and teams within the hospital, as well as on-call staff who need to be notified when they are required on site. And not only do the right providers need to be contacted, but they also need to acknowledge they are on the way. Both of these tasks can be accomplished seamlessly with the right technology.
Ensure Proper Response to Code Calls
Instead of spending valuable time manually working through a calling tree, or sending individual pages or texts to each member of a response team, the entire process can be launched and all alerts sent at once. Whether triggering a code STEMI or summoning on-call staff to the hospital to handle a large influx of patients, hospitals can rely on emergency notification software to alert the correct responders on their preferred devices.
Text alerts are especially valuable in this situation because responders can immediately acknowledge that a message has been received and whether they are available to attend to the patient(s). One example of this solution in use is to facilitate code STEMI responses and coordinate the 20 or more staff required for successful average door-to-balloon times of 90 minutes or less.
Meet Joint Commission Guidelines
The Joint Commission (along with the ACC/AHA and CMS), have set a 90-minute door-to-balloon time as a quality indicator for code STEMI response. The Joint Commission also highlighted the need to “Get important test results to the right staff person on time” as a national patient safety goal (NPSG.02.03.01). Both of these guidelines rely on efficient communications for successful delivery of timely care and can be achieved with the assistance of technology.
As previously mentioned, an emergency notification solution can handle the coordination for a successful 90-minute-or-less door-to-balloon-time response. To help accomplish getting critical test results from the lab, radiology, or other department to the ordering provider in a timely manner, a critical test results management solution will help. If alerts are delivered to the provider as soon as they are ready, the physician won’t need to waste time searching for results. It also helps fulfill the goal to report critical results quickly for faster interventions and better care for patients.
Rely on a Robust Critical Test Results Solution
A good critical test results management (CTRM) solution will include an audit trail to track acknowledgments, automatically route escalations, and reduce the manual documentation of notifications. The ability to send encrypted results information from the laboratory information system (LIS) and radiology information system (RIS) straight to a smartphone, tablet, or other device is also an important consideration. These features help satisfy HIPAA and HITECH Act guidelines for maintaining the security of patient information in a mobile device-driven world. In addition, powerful analytics and report generation capabilities within the CTRM solution can help prepare your facility for Joint Commission evaluation.
Trying to chase down the right provider when a patient needs immediate assistance, or calling repeatedly for a test result not only wastes time, it compromises patient care. That frustration can lower staff satisfaction rates and contribute to higher turnover.
In fact, one study shows that 60 percent of physicians express concerns about contacting colleagues and specialists and more than 50 percent of nurses say they have difficulty determining which physicians are available. As an administrator, you worry about staffing shortages and how that situation can negatively impact patient care. One way to help boost provider satisfaction and keep higher retention rates is by building a communications infrastructure that supports providers and their workflows, making it easy for care coordination and team collaboration.
Establish Online Directories and Schedules
The first step is to enable online access to staff directories and on-call schedules. Updating details as they change saves the cost and hassle of printing schedules and lets providers contact the correct person on the right device the first time. It also saves the time (and patience) of providers not on call who would otherwise receive messages and consultation requests because of outdated contact information.
Support Secure Communications
Second, provide an easy way for providers to communicate securely on their mobile devices. Security allows the inclusion of protected health information (PHI), which is important for a message to be meaningful and actionable. In addition to security, give your staff a solution that lets them quickly find the right contact and send a message to that provider’s separate, secure inbox. Look for a secure text messaging solution that supports voice, image, and video file sharing, as well as escalation to pass a message to another available on-call provider in the case of a critical situation.
Improve Test Result Workflows
Finally, give your clinicians in the radiology and lab departments the ability to send test results quickly to the ordering provider’s mobile device, including escalation rules for unacknowledged alerts. If the ordering provider is unavailable, the alert should pass to another clinician after a set amount of time to help ensure a critical situation is addressed quickly. Pushing out results as soon as they are available helps smooth out workflows for radiology and lab staff by reducing phone tag and extra manual documentation. An automated notification system also saves time for ordering physicians who can stop looking for test results that aren’t available yet.
Online directories and on-call schedules, secure point-to-point mobile communications, and test results management can not only save precious time for providers, they can also improve staff satisfaction and the quality of patient care