Improving Patient Care While Saving Time for Physicians

Delivering excellent patient care is your organization’s top priority. You can improve patient care while also saving time for your physicians with smart technology and communication solutions that augment the EHR to help you:

  1. Improve care team coordination and collaboration by connecting the team with secure messaging
  2. Deliver important patient status updates such as alerts and critical test results automatically to the right physician to improve care quality and patient safety while reducing time spent on phone tag and checking the EHR for updates
  3. Achieve reliable, rapid team response for events such as inpatient code calls, disaster action plans, or less critical events like staff meetings

Helping physicians improve outcomes requires bringing all elements of healthcare communication together with mobile and desktop solutions that are integrated into your EHR and biomedical devices. Unified hospital communication tools help physicians:

  • Engage in rich, secure, and reliable conversations with the care team on mobile devices that can be augmented with images, sounds, and videos
  • Determine which colleagues are on call and available via an integrated on-call scheduling solution with physician status indicators
  • Act on key changes to the patient status through integration with the EHR, ancillary systems, and biomedical devices
  • Respond to key events through a coordinated notification system using the on-call schedule with escalations and response tracking

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Effective communications can help physicians improve patient care:

  • Enhance care team coordination: Secure messaging enables the care team to collaborate with two-way conversations that provide everyone with complete and current information.
  • Get the information needed to make decisions now: Prioritized alerts and well-defined escalations for important messages provide your physicians with critical patient information quickly and support treatment planning.
  • Identify the right caregiver quickly: Having on-call schedules available and visible means your physicians are able to message an on-call colleague quickly by name or role. In addition, well-managed on-call schedules mean your physicians are not contacted during their personal time.
  • Use a preferred device:  A unified communication system that works with a variety of devices means you can leverage the preferred devices of your physicians for messaging.
  • Save precious time: Instead of repeatedly logging into the EHR for critical information, your physicians can receive important test results easily via a smartphone or other device.
  • Comply with HIPAA and other regulations: Maintain regulatory compliance by using secure, HIPAA-compliant communications to transmit protected health information (PHI) and maintain audit trails.​

Communicate with the Care Team

Effective, Timely Communications Needed to Coordinate Care

Communication across the hospital and among care teams has become progressively more convoluted. The use of diverse mobile devices and the rise in care complexity necessitating care team coordination mean more sophisticated and user-friendly communication technology is required.

With “delivery/read” notification and automatic escalations, your staff can avoid the time and trouble of wondering whether their messages were received, and who should be contacted if a particular team member is unavailable. The ability to prioritize messages and notifications to separate those that require immediate attention from those that don’t is another important capability.

Consider just some of the systems storing and/or sending information to a multitude of different devices: mobile phones, desk phones, pagers, voice badges, email systems, tablets, Wi-Fi phones, and more. The key to effective communications is to connect these islands of information to the right person on their device of choice.

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Receive Critical Information

Get the Information Needed to Make Decisions Now

Not all communications sent to physicians are urgent, but messages that require fast action to save a life or avoid a sentinel event must get a physician’s attention quickly and contain enough information to act upon. Smart messaging systems provide alert prioritization with different ringtones to audibly let a physician know the urgency of the message they receive, as well as place the most urgent notifications at the top of the inbox. As part of a larger clinical communications platform, a secure messaging solution also supports the secure sharing of patient details, the ability to identify and connect with other members of the care team, and escalation pathways for urgent messages that are not responded to in a timely manner. All of these features work together to promote patient safety and care quality.

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Identify the Right Caregiver Quickly

Find the Right Physician the First Time

Finding the right physician when a question arises can be tricky because of constantly changing regular and on-call schedules, and perhaps uncertainty about the best way to reach someone, whether it’s on an office phone, smartphone, or pager. If the physician is unavailable, it’s important to know who is next in line to assist.

The answer is a clinical communication platform that brings together the staff directory, web-based on-call schedules, secure messaging, and physician-specific information such as availability and device preference.

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Integrate Your EHR With Your Communications Platform

For a communications system to be effective so that individuals can easily locate the person they need to speak with, it needs to include directory, scheduling, and device preference data.  A good communications system also needs to operate using industry standard protocols, such as HL7, for easy integration with other systems in the hospital, especially the EHR. 

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Make Finding the Right Physician Easier

Locating the right physician can be a big challenge if on-call schedules are out of date or contain erroneous information. In a survey of hospital informatics professionals, 62 percent cited managing on-call schedules as a top concern (Spyglass Consulting Group Health Care Study: Spok Secure Messaging Survey, September 2013).

When urgent requests are sent to the wrong physician because contact information is incorrect, the result is a potential treatment delay—time a patient may not have. The solution to this problem is a centralized, web-based on-call schedule. The on-call schedule should be readily accessible to authorized staff, pull contact information from a well-maintained directory and integrate with additional tools such as secure smartphone text messaging and escalation procedures.

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A Hospital-Wide Schedule Helps Staff Make Contact

Web-based, on-call software provides up-to-the minute information that allows password-protected access to the latest schedules for physicians and other staff.

  • Web-based on-call schedules can be accessed by any authorized staff, including clinicians and contact center operators.
  • Easy access to schedules and contact information means urgent messages get where they need to go quickly. Time isn’t lost waiting for a response from the wrong person.
  • Quick access to information cuts down on wasted search time for physicians who need to find out who is on call and how to reach that person. Also, once the correct provider is located, you can send a message right from the directory.
  • Robust solutions enable physicians to input exceptions so users can forward their on-call to another provider during specific days and times (for example, while in surgery).

Besides having up-to-date contact information, additional benefits of an online, on-call schedule include integration with paging and secure texting applications that can automatically route messages not only to the correct provider, but also to their preferred device.

Use Preferred Devices

Communicate With Physicians on the Devices They Prefer

In the hospital environment, there is no one-size-fits-all communication device. Smartphones, tablets, desk phones, voice badges, pagers, Wi-Fi phones, and email systems are all useful in certain situations. Smartphones are convenient and offer a choice of useful medical apps, while pagers add an increased level of reliability and message delivery assurance when cellular service is not available. Newer pagers can also offer encryption. The right clinical communications platform should have the flexibility to incorporate all of these devices.

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Contact the Right Provider on the Right Device

For maximum efficiency and quicker patient decisions, messages should be routed to the right people on their preferred devices. An effective solution considers such factors as message priority to route a text-based or voice message to the intended recipient on his or her preferred device for that situation. Escalation contacts can be added in the event a message is not received and acknowledged in a pre-defined timeframe.

When used in conjunction with the hospital’s online directory, a messaging preference tool will bring escalation capabilities to your current messaging environment. The tool should integrate with the database you already have in place and will layer users’ escalation preferences on top of the devices they currently use to receive messages.

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Get Critical Test Results Quickly

Save Time by Receiving Test Results at the Right Time

At many hospitals, the current reporting process for critical radiology and lab results is a manual one involving phone tag, paper documentation, and EHR documentation. The ordering physician might also spend unnecessary time frequently checking the EHR to find out if results have been posted.

One way to improve the test results reporting process is with a critical test results management solution that can deliver results directly from the laboratory information system (LIS) to an ordering physician’s mobile device.

Another area of inefficiency, especially for emergency department (ED) physicians, is when they need to continually check the EHR for patient test results. A critical test results management system can send an important result to their mobile device when it is available.

Meet Compliance Regulations

Integrated Communications Support Compliance

Whether to protect against litigation, retrace steps to evaluate efficiency, or meet Joint Commission requirements, audit trails are essential for physicians in hospitals when it comes to communications. Having a proper audit trail with a date and time stamp for all messages sent and received can eliminate a lot of hassle and protect both physicians and your organization if the details of a particular message or situation come into question.