When you think of the cloud, what comes to mind? Maybe you think of the apps on your smartphone?
Perhaps some of those apps are associated with your facility’s electronic medical record system? If so, your healthcare organization is already leveraging the power of the cloud to connect staff, patients, and information—seamlessly and without internal data centers and related maintenance and support demands.
Now, when you look at the telephones sitting at nursing stations, your front reception areas or throughout your facility on the walls, do you think of the cloud? Can those phones be accessed by clicking a phone number from within a cloud-based clinical application? Will those phones send a secure message from a nurse to the pharmacy? Will they respond to a webchat from a patient within your patient portal? With a cloud-based healthcare communications system, they will!
What is a cloud-based healthcare communication platform?
A cloud-based healthcare communications platform transforms those legacy phones into a powerful, integrated suite of voice, video meetings, messaging, and contact center technologies—a platform that is highly scalable, mobile, secure, and managed outside of the physical walls of the healthcare facility. It is customizable to your unique workflows, interoperable with a variety of other cloud-based applications, and displaces numerous other disparate communications in use at your facility. Most importantly, it lets providers reimagine how agile patient engagement and care coordination can be. Let’s explore further how some common workflows can be reimagined with a cloud-based healthcare communications platform.
Use case 1: scheduling appointments
Think about your current appointment scheduling experience for patients. Do they call a primary number to have a receptionist answer? What about the in-office patients that she is supporting? Trying to manage both patient scenarios will provide a less than desirable experience for everyone. Even in larger ambulatory environments that utilize some type of call tree for patient scheduling, are your existing patients still being mapped across an experience that treats them like a new patient each time?
A cloud-based healthcare communications platform will enable your facility to design the ideal patient scheduling experience for new and existing patients. Intuitive tools identify patient caller profiles, new vs. existing or billing vs clinical questions. This platform can also telephony-enable your patient portal and open new channels (like webchat) for scheduling requests and intuitively route the webchat to the appropriate facility representative. A cloud-based healthcare communications platform will position your facility to enhance the patient scheduling experience and satisfaction ratings, increase your patient revenues, and optimize your staffing resources.
Use case 2: appointment reminders
In a February 2019 survey, providers stated that a top benefit of implementing automated appointment reminders was a reduction in no-shows. That’s for good reason as industry research also determined that patient no-shows cost a provider over $400/day per physician—ouch! Despite this patient revenue challenge, many providers still rely on their front-office staff to “get to” the outbound appointment reminder calls each day—which generally happens at the end of the day, which means they may not get done at all. For those providers that have implemented automated reminder tools, they are feeling the costs burden of paying standard cellular carrier service rates for each outbound text. The costs add up quickly and negatively impact the revenue gains the solution was implemented to improve.
Did you know that an integrated feature of a cloud-based healthcare communications platform includes automated outbound patient notifications? This can include outbound calls, texts, or emails. This provides your patients with the flexibility to be notified across multiple types of mediums. Additionally, when a patient does need to modify an appointment following notification, you can customize how the response is routed and managed as compared to a third-party reminder service that is not integrated to your communications platform. A highly customized automated notification service will lower your current abandonment rates, improve patient revenues, and further deliver a positive patient scheduling experience.
Use case 3: sharing information across multidisciplinary care teams
Digital transformation in healthcare has been largely represented by the adoption of electronic health record systems. It represented a milestone shift from paper to digital capture of patient data. Despite this transformation, an EHR does not address the traditional siloed nature of information and communications exchange within healthcare.
For example, the information and areas of the EHR that a nurse can access vs. a phlebology tech is disparate and their mutual EHR-based updates to each other will not be real-time. So, when that nurse needs to know when a blood test will be completed to update a physician, she’ll be checking the status within the EHR multiple times. This scenario represents the numerous, one-minute tasks that comprise a 12-hour shift across a multidisciplinary care team. Secure collaboration that maps to real-time demands is required to maximize team responsiveness and output during a shift and equally important during critical shift transition hand-offs.
A cloud-based healthcare communications platform can remove these communication bottlenecks and still harmonize the value and investment in your EHR system. It does this by providing HITRUST CSF-certified mobile collaboration tools (voice, secure messaging, task assignments, video calls, and more) that care teams can access and utilize from anywhere on any device to securely provide real-time updates that leverage EHR-based data. Now, a phlebology tech can securely message a real-time update to a nurse and the nurse can do the same with a physician – real-time and not in a vacuum.
Providers need to collaborate for better patient outcomes. A healthcare communication platform ensures greater collaboration between providers by allowing them to share information quickly and securely. Providers can discuss patients’ cases through video chat, send messages to other providers, and take actions such as share screens to make sure that the patient receives the right treatment (and medication if needed).
Use case 4: improving follow-up care
Avoidable readmissions and retreatments are top of mind for every provider for the overall recovery of patients and to avoid related reimbursement penalties. There is quite a bit of research supporting the idea that follow-up care can save lives. When patients adhere to their treatment plan, they are healthier. For example, if a patient with diabetes sticks to his reduced-fat diet and exercise, he will have fewer complications from the disease.
Here’s where a healthcare communication platform helps improve follow-up care: it makes it easier for providers and patients to connect to one another. Let’s say that a patient recovering from knee surgery has a question about her physical therapy regimen. Traditionally, she would have called the physiotherapy clinic and asked to make an appointment with the provider; at a busy practice, the chances of getting a same-day appointment would have been quite slim.
Because her provider’s clinic uses a healthcare communication platform, the patient can log into a special portal for navigating follow-up care. The portal connects her to her physiotherapist, who can participate in a video chat and explain how to perform specific exercises that will strengthen the patient’s knee.
Use case 5: increasing patient engagement
A crucial use case of a healthcare communication platform (and perhaps the most important of them all) is to increase patient engagement.
The concept of patient engagement is built on the idea that if patients are actively involved in their own care, they will be more likely to manage their own healthcare. The first step in patient engagement is patient activation, which refers to an individual’s knowledge, skills, ability, and willingness to adhere to the provider’s treatment plan. Patient engagement takes place when patients have been activated and interventions are in place to promote healthy behaviors.
How can a healthcare communication platform increase patient engagement? Look at patient engagement through the lens of the previously mentioned use cases.
Making appointment booking easier and more efficient is the first step to ensuring patients are engaged; when they can book an appointment in a hassle-free manner, they’re already more confident about going to see the provider. Automated appointment reminders are a second step to achieving higher levels of patient engagement; they prompt patients to attend appointments so they can start getting the treatment they need.
Sharing information with other providers increases patient engagement because patients don’t feel confused or uncertain about their treatment; they know their providers are working together to help them get better. Improved follow-up care has a significant impact on boosting patient engagement; when patients can reach out to their providers quickly and easily, they get the answers they need faster and can take care of themselves that much better.
These are only some of the great use cases for healthcare communication platforms for providers. Why not start taking advantage of them today and provide the ideal patient experience for your facility? Request a demo of RingCentral’s cloud phone systems for healthcare providers to get started.
Originally published Oct 16, 2019, updated Apr 23, 2021