Major communication improvements between providers and patients, particularly during transition of care, are making headway within healthcare facilities, according to a Joint Commission blog post earlier this year.
However, there is plenty of room for improvement in clinical communication, not only with the patient, but also among the care teams themselves. The Joint Commission’s 2017 National Patient Safety Goals (NPSGs) focus on improvement in several areas of patient safety, including “communication between staff” (NPSG.02.03.01). Improving communication is included in the list as a high priority because communication delays and errors can have serious consequences, for patients as well as hospitals.
Fortunately, technology is available that can improve communication among clinicians to enhance patient care and safety. These solutions enable mobile workflows that help clinicians receive information quickly, and act faster to respond to patient needs.
1. Actionable Information
Modern technologies streamline a wide range of communications to ensure providers receive information efficiently. Using mobile devices, providers can access clinical decision support applications and their EHR system on the go—staying current with patient updates, changes in vitals, and test results. Patient monitoring equipment alerts staff instantly when patient vitals change, enabling clinicians to assess and coordinate their response more quickly.
A critical test results (CTRM) system enables lab and radiology personnel to send results via text quickly and securely to the ordering physician’s preferred mobile device, whether that’s a smartphone, tablet, Wi-Fi phone, or pager. Closed loop communications enable traceability and accountability, while escalation rules help ensure that a qualified provider receives and confirms the message, so patient treatment can begin quickly.
Because CTRM solutions integrate with laboratory information systems (LIS), picture archiving and communication systems (PACS), and the EHR, hospitals can automatically populate a patient record with the physician acknowledgement of the test results and streamline incidental findings reporting. The system also maintains a complete audit trail that offers proof of compliance.
2. Quick Connections
Clinicians rely on mobile devices to communicate with their individual colleagues and care teams alike to coordinate patient care. While a doctor or nurse may be looking for a specific person, they may also be looking for someone in a position that rotates, such as an admitting hospitalist or the cardiologist on call.
Online staff directories and on-call schedules offer an intuitive way to send, receive, acknowledge, and escalate messages. When secure messaging and group notifications are integrated with the enterprise directory and on-call schedules, staff can quickly reach the right person to coordinate patient care faster.
3. Mobile Device Support
Clinical and non-clinical care team members use many devices for communication—Wi-Fi phones, smartphones, tablets, pagers, and more. The device carried often depends on the role: Do they need to send protected health information (PHI)? Is access to applications required for their job? You might even have some people carrying more than one device. No matter what your device mix is, you need an underlying communication backbone that brings all these devices together to help staff find the right provider quickly through secure messaging and efficient emergency notifications.
Technology solutions are available to help hospitals manage their diverse communications devices and speed communications for better patient care. Spok provides health systems with HIPAA-compliant communication solutionsthat integrate seamlessly with current operations on any type of device or combination of devices.
4. When Seconds Count
Time is particularly critical during significant health events, like a Code Blue or an elevated MEWS (modified early warning system) score for sepsis that require activation of dedicated rapid response teams, or during natural disasters or other events that require notification of all staff. Sending alerts to the right staff after initiating a code is just the first step in the response process. When seconds count, it’s not efficient enough to start a manual calling tree process. Being able to monitor each emergency as it unfolds to ensure that all codes, alerts, and messages have been received by the appropriate personnel in a timely manner is a requirement. If an individual’s call-to-action remains unacknowledged, the code should be automatically escalated to another responder. Real-time reporting and tracking allows human oversight, as well as provides documentation that can be used for later analysis and process improvement.
Modern technologies can significantly improve communications throughout hospitals. Enhance your hospital’s compliance with Joint Commission NPSGs and empower staff to send actionable information to the right caregivers, on their preferred device, at the right time—increasing patient satisfaction, while enabling the delivery of the best possible care.