Hospitals striving to become high-performing health systems must overcome a number of chronic challenges. One of the most pervasive and persistent ailments is communication breakdowns between healthcare professionals that can contribute to high costs and mediocre quality of care. In fact, an initiative by The Joint Commission National Patient Safety standards recently identified “improving the effectiveness of communications among caregivers” as one of its primary patient safety goals.
Poor communication and collaboration is a huge waste of time. A new study by Accenture finds that difficulty locating other clinicians and knowing how and when they are available to communicate represent two of the biggest contributors to time loss. This wasted physician and nurse time could cost a typical 500-bed acute-care U.S. hospital about $4 million annually, and potentially increase the average length of stay.
Nurses and mobile technology – a cure for poor communications
The Accenture report goes on to suggest a remedy. It says improved nursing communications and collaboration is possibly one of the greatest untapped opportunities to overcome these communications breakdowns. Nurses represent the largest group of healthcare professionals with more than 3.1 million registered nurses practicing in the Unites States alone.
Nurses have long been on the front lines of communications challenges, struggling daily to manage time-sensitive interactions that can impact patient safety and care. They have been early adopters of information technology, using it to devise workarounds to be as efficient as possible.
A fundamental challenge to effective communications in hospitals, clinics and even dentist’s offices is that you don’t often see doctors and nurses sitting at their desks. The latest mobile trends can keep them connected even if they are moving targets. Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) coupled with smartphones and tablets provides a number of advantages:
- Efficient, real-time communications saves time by making it possible to instantly locate and connect the right care providers.
- Video conferencing speeds shift and discharge hand-offs among providers in any location within a hospital, clinic, or office.
- Feature-rich smartphones linked to cloud-based UC solutions enable effective call routing and faster connections regardless of location.
- The ability to set business rules and prioritize messages and calls reduces interruptions and eliminates dangerous distractions everywhere from ER rooms to surgery to bedsides.
Is there a doctor in the house?
Mobile technology also solves the problem of locating clinicians in real time. For example, the Accenture study found that nurses were challenged to find and communicate with not only off-premise doctors, such as on-call physicians, but also facility-based physicians. But with UCaaS, calls to doctors can be sent to their mobile phones or offices when they are on-site or off site. A feature like single number reach rings all the clinician’s devices at the same time. The physician can then choose to answer the one that is most convenient.
Shhhh! – This is a hospital
However, adding more technology to the clinical environment can also create more avenues for potential interruptions. Nurses participating in Accenture’s study remarked that some wireless phones create challenges because they allow communication with anyone at any time. This can have an impact on patient care because there are times when the nurse simply cannot answer, such as while administering medication.
“In one ICU, 10 different family members from one family called within a three-hour time frame to get an update on the patient’s condition.” – Accenture
A feature-rich mobile devices equipped with UCaaS can eliminate distractions by allowing a call to be sent to voicemail or email if a nurse is with a patient. The administrator can even build in business rules so that messages can be classified based on urgency and routed to the right person. The messages can also include context, such as information about the location of the sender or receiver within the hospital.
Hospital executives are answering the call
Residents of the C-Suite in hospitals seeking to become high-performing health systems are taking notice of these and other benefits and making mobile technology and UCaaS a priority. Equipping nurses with the latest technology makes it it is possible to address the problem of poor clinician communication and collaboration, and alleviate its potentially detrimental impact on finances, patient satisfaction and quality of care. To learn more about mobile trends in healthcare and how to use UCaaS to an advantage, download the Accenture report.
To find out how RingCentral brings better communications to healthcare providers and patients, see case study examples here.
Originally published Apr 18, 2016, updated Aug 11, 2020