Modernizing Healthcare Communications

Step into a patient room in a private hospital in Singapore and you might think you’re in a 5-star hotel. Your room is a luxurious suite with amenities like travel-sized toiletries, a mini fridge, a Blu-ray player, and sometimes even your own personal butler to attend to your non-clinical needs. It’s the picture of comfort until you try to rest: Overhead pages echo throughout the room and bedside medical devices frequently beep and buzz. Hospital staff are unable to hear these annoyances in your private room, so as a patient, you’re responsible for alerting them via your nurse call button to attend to the alarm.

Having lived in Singapore for three years, I’ve realized that hospital communications in the region, as well as in many other countries including some organizations within the U.S., are as antiquated as the accommodations are modern. There’s a lack of enterprise communications, and consequently, care is not integrated. At best, practices like overhead paging are inefficient and annoying—they go off all over the hospital, including on patient floors and in meeting rooms. At worst, they can cause patient safety and care quality to suffer if they are ignored.

Achieving effective clinician communications is one of the biggest challenges for Singapore hospitals. Overhead paging is the de facto norm in Singapore since the government-supported paging network lapsed in the 2000s. Clinicians rely on it only out of necessity: Overhead pages require them to check to see if they need to respond to an overhead page and then follow up with phone calls. There’s no other way for them to communicate right now. Smartphones have not taken hold as an option for clinician communications, and there are also no other onsite devices like Wi-Fi phones in use today.

This is widely recognized as a problem by Singapore hospital leaders and clinicians alike, but there hasn’t been consensus on the best solution. Most hospitals tend to just throw more labor at the issue, which can create even greater confusion and inefficiencies. What these hospitals in Singapore need, as well as any other hospital facing a similar challenge, is a cultural shift to embrace innovations in technology. The CMIO of a private hospital in Asia once remarked to me that his hospital was great, but just not “big on innovations” as he switched off the speaker in the room as it was barking distorted and loud overhead pages.

Embracing innovation can require a cultural shift for staff, but the environment in Singapore is ripe for change. Nearly everyone has a smartphone in Asia, and smartphones coupled with Spok technology can turn those devices into clinical communication powerhouses. Once clinicians can see the myriad benefits an enterprise- and healthcare-grade communication platform like Spok Care Connect® can bring to the table, they will hardly remember the days of overhead paging, reams of paper, phone tag, and manual processes. Timely and secure communication that enhances their daily workflows will be the new normal. Not only will clinician satisfaction be improved, but a unified communication platform can also help healthcare organizations reach goals set by Joint Commission International, and boost patient outcomes and satisfaction.

Let’s work together to bring innovative solutions into these hospitals for better patient care.