How Key Solutions Enhance Clinical Collaboration and Improve Healthcare Outcomes
The right technologies can help care providers work together more effectively and increase the quality of patient care.
Healthcare professionals have to work together to deliver the best possible outcomes for their patients. But this collaboration doesn’t happen by accident. Technology has become a major factor in supporting collaboration in healthcare.
Among the solutions that contribute to improved clinical collaboration are mobile devices and apps, video collaboration solutions, device management platforms, digital medical record systems and Internet of Things sensors and applications. These tools are helping clinicians to instantly and securely share updates on patients and respond to requests, helping providers and patients to connect around care delivery and helping patients themselves to become more involved in their own treatment and health. All of these individual benefits, in turn, lead to the biggest healthcare benefit of all: improved outcomes for patients.
Healthcare organizations must identify, deploy and manage specific solutions that will help employees to work together more effectively and improve the quality of patient care.
Solutions such as tablets, smartphones and other handheld devices are having an impact on healthcare in numerous ways. Clinicians mainly use smartphones and handheld devices designed specifically for healthcare environments. One important trend is that these mobile devices are consolidating the effect of device fragmentation seen in the past, when many clinicians had multiple devices (such as pagers and cellphones). On the patient side, tablets are popular for engaging patients and improving communication.
The consolidation of mobile devices makes doctors and nurses much more productive, and so it is important for hospitals and other healthcare organizations to make an effort to select tools that will allow clinicians to seamlessly move from task to task. Other factors that will likely play a role in selecting devices include battery life, integration with existing technologies and providers’ current familiarity with different device types and operating systems.
The popularity of mobile solutions, such as Apple iPad devices, combined with the growth of collaboration solutions, such as Cisco Webex, has increased the practice of telehealth in the healthcare industry. While confusion about reimbursement rates (which vary from state to state) has been perhaps the dominant factor preventing telehealth from growing even faster than it already has, the model also presents challenges with technology integration and end-user adoption.
However, these challenges are becoming less formidable as telehealth gains traction in the industry. In a 2019 survey, 69 percent of physicians said they would be willing to use telehealth solutions — a substantial increase from the 57 percent who said they would be willing to use the technology just four years earlier. And younger doctors are even more willing to engage with patients via video, with 74 percent of physicians between the ages of 25 and 34 saying they would use telehealth.
Some hospitals design their own custom telehealth solutions by integrating disparate displays, processors, connected medical devices and videoconferencing software. But prebuilt carts from vendors such as American Well make it relatively simple to deploy telehealth as an “off-the-shelf” tool if internal staffers lack the time or expertise to build out custom solutions.
While some large healthcare organizations continue to develop custom mobile apps for their idiosyncratic environments, standardized apps for uses such as EHRs, mobile communication and simple tasks like barcode scanning are far more popular due to considerations around cost and simplicity.
Many physicians even rely on mobile apps to supplement their medical knowledge, using these tools to quickly look up drug information and interactions, calculate patient health metrics such as body mass index, find lists of possible conditions that match a patient’s symptoms, or view reference videos for clinical procedures and physical examinations. Some physicians also use mobile apps to seek out other providers for consults and referrals, send HIPAA-compliant faxes through their phones, view and share medical images, or subscribe to medical journals.
Especially in healthcare environments — with patient data a ripe target for cybercriminals, and with HIPAA regulations creating serious demands on IT teams — management of mobile devices is critical. According to a 2019 Verizon report, healthcare organizations are more likely to be affected by mobile security breaches than organizations in any other sector. Forty-two percent of healthcare organizations reported that they had experienced a data loss or system downtime as a result of a breach involving mobile devices in the previous 12 months.
In recent years, the concept of mobile device management has evolved into enterprise mobility management, which also incorporates management of mobile content and applications. And many organizations now opt for a unified endpoint management approach, which allows them to also manage devices such as laptops, PCs, and even printers and wearables.
Clinical Collaboration and Communication Solutions
For many healthcare providers, general applications don’t meet all their needs, which can frustrate clinicians. For example, if physicians are expected to use a certain application for hospital business — but can’t use the app to communicate about patient cases due to privacy or security concerns — they may turn to unauthorized “shadow IT” solutions to help them be more productive in delivering care.
To prevent this scenario, healthcare organizations should seek out solutions developed specifically for clinical collaboration and communication. These may include apps designed to enable the following: EHR mobilization; messaging, voice and text integration; nurse-to-nurse, physician-to-physician and nurse-to-physician communication; and patient engagement.
Taken together, these technologies can help healthcare organizations achieve benefits for patients, providers and the organization as a whole. On the patient side of the equation, these solutions can improve both access to and the overall quality of care, while also reducing the length of hospital stays. For clinicians, they can improve morale, enhance communication and help providers to gain a greater understanding of their patients’ overall health. And for healthcare systems, these technologies can reduce hospital readmissions and improve staff productivity — both of which have a tangible impact on an organization’s bottom line.
To learn more about how technology can help connect patients and care providers, read the CDW white paper “Better Healthcare Through Clinical Collaboration.”