Does Your Workflow Do This? 4 Requirements for an Enterprise Approach to Communications

Walk the show floor at HIMSS, or any healthcare technology tradeshow, and you’ll notice a lot of terms get thrown around. Enterprise. Platform. Real-time. Interoperability.

The problem is that while the words are the same, vendors may have very different definitions. Buzzwords and marketing spin result in a lot of #fakenews, if you will. I find it helpful to break down what my team means by these terms by putting them in the context of workflow.

What does it mean, practically, to have an enterprise platform for clinical communications? Consider the following as a dictionary that more than 1,900 hospitals stand behind.

en·ter·prise (en(t)ərˌprīz) – a business or company

While physicians and nurses are critical to the business of a hospital, the doors wouldn’t stay open if there weren’t a plethora of other roles supporting the mission. To us, an enterprise approach to communications fully supports every person working for the hospital. Whether that’s a clinician or a call agent, an administrator or a housekeeper. Whether they work within the hospital walls or at a clinic down the road. Healthcare workflows often encompass both clinical and nonclinical roles, and communication and collaboration among the entire team is vital. I often use the term “big tent” when describing how we approach communications at Spok. We support the many modalities and types of communication available today, and are prepared to support in the future.

plat·form (plat-ˌfȯrm) – a group of technologies that are used as a base upon which other applications, processes, or technologies are developed

A platform is holistic—a unified base on which other solutions are developed and deployed to work together seamlessly. It’s not a collection of solutions that weren’t developed in tandem, or reliance on other companies for key pieces of platform functionality. It’s not something you can fabricate with a few lines of code. A true platform runs deep, and the workflows it supports prove it. A platform is something that others can build upon. We often talk about how Spok solutions are never deployed standalone and are the plane upon which all communications are routed.

real-time (rē(ə)l ˈtīm) – the actual time during which a process or event occurs

Seconds count in healthcare. Our customers have countless stories of when seconds made a difference in the outcome for a patient. In those critical situations, you need to rally the right people and quickly. Mass notification helps hospitals manage incidents in real-time. The alert goes out to the designated individuals on their preferred devices. If they don’t respond in seconds, then that alert immediately escalates to ensure rapid response. Secure messages can even be sent to providers with real-time waveforms. Delivering the right information at the actual time during which a process or event occurs is what it’s all about.

in·ter·op·er·a·bil·i·ty (in(t)ərˌäp(ə)rəˈbilədē) – the ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information

It’s the second part of this definition that is key. Integrations, or simply exchanging information, are a dime a dozen. Integrations still serve a valuable function, don’t get me wrong. However, interoperability serves a higher purpose. It makes use of that information. That’s another layer. Interoperability implies compatibility and integration without any special customization effort. It is also a way of connecting key people and information in a way that brings about new meaning, context, and clinical insights through a combination of multiple diverse sources of data.

What terms am I missing? Send me your ideas and maybe they’ll appear in the next edition.