Jack is a 55-year-old patient recovering from knee surgery. His team of healthcare providers consists of dispersed clinicians including nurses and physicians within his orthopedic practice, his PCP, and the treating hospital.
As this multidisciplinary team continues to coordinate Jack’s acute care and plan for his discharge, they need to collaborate regularly. This results in unproductive phone tag and delays with return calls and related information exchange. Collectively, critical clinical resources are not being optimized, and our patient, Jack, feels like it takes forever to receive engagement throughout his patient journey. Something as critical and straightforward as adjusting his medication feels like a painful game of jumping through hoops intertwined with significant delays and wait time. Sound familiar?
This scenario plays out time and again in healthcare, leading to fragmented care coordination, low patient satisfaction outcomes, and, most importantly, potential patient safety issues.
Coordinated Care: Good for Patients and Good for Healthcare Providers
Coordinated care can dramatically impact this situation. Let’s say Jack’s team of providers uses a single technology solution that allows them to collaborate in real time to take swift action related to patient care.
Team members have access to each other to facilitate care coordination, maximizing opportunity for positive outcomes regarding Jack’s health. During team rounds, the nurse manager can kick off the session by starting a video meeting with screen share, enabling all key stakeholders—regardless of location—to collaborate closely on Jack’s care. The nurse and doctor meet at Jack’s bedside, while an off-site orthopedist joins the meeting via mobile to consult in real time.
Jack’s care team learns that the patient needs a different medication, so the doctor messages the pharmacist to confirm order entry and request unit delivery ETA. The pharmacist quickly replies to inform the care team that the requested medication is not on site but will be ready for the patient’s first BID dose later that morning. Jack’s healthcare providers’ ability to join forces helps keep him healthy.
Though Jack’s health outcomes are the most important factor to consider, care coordination also supports a reduction in his out-of-pocket expenses and enables his collective providers to support their accountable care initiatives.
According to a 2015 study of 506,376 chronically ill patients, those that experienced the highest rates of fragmentation in healthcare incurred $4,542 higher healthcare costs, on average, than their counterparts who were able to benefit from coordinated care.
What Does Coordinated Care Look Like?
What does coordinated care look like in practice? The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), a government agency tasked with improving the safety and quality of the American healthcare system, states that there are two categories of coordinated care: broad and specific.
Broad approaches to coordinated care include:
- Care management
- Medication management
- The appropriate use of healthcare information technology
Specific approaches to coordinated care encompass:
- Agreeing on team members’ responsibilities
- Sharing knowledge about a patient within the team
- Ensuring smooth transitions of care
- Developing a proactive health plan
- Monitoring the patient’s condition
- Following up in a timely fashion, especially when a patient’s needs change
- Connecting a patient to the right resources for further care
In addition to these definitions, the AHRQ notes that care coordination is “a key strategy that has the potential to improve the effectiveness, safety, and efficiency of the American health care system. Well-designed, targeted care coordination that is delivered to the right people can improve outcomes for everyone: patients, providers, and payers.”
How Clinicians Want to Collaborate
According to a 2016 Accenture study, clinicians want to use integrated collaboration tools to support care coordination across dispersed stakeholders. Specifically, they need modern capabilities characterized by:
- One device: Integrated functionality
- Visibility: Dispersed stakeholders
- Control: Availability / medium
How Can a Healthcare Communications and Collaboration Platform Facilitate Care Coordination?
Patients need their providers to work in harmony, rather than in silos. Coordinating care is more effective, efficient, and easier with a comprehensive healthcare communications and collaboration platform. How?
Communication and collaboration tools for many healthcare organizations include a mishmash of separate components from multiple providers. For instance, the organization may use one provider for video meetings, another for messaging, and still another for phone services. This approach creates multiple points of entry around security risk of ePHI with each point solution.
Additionally, many providers utilize these multi-point solutions as adjuncts to their legacy facility phone systems—perhaps aiming to improve communication, but creating siloed collaboration environments nonetheless.
Alternatively, providers could incorporate messaging, calling, video meetings, and contact center technology into one integrated platform. A comprehensive communications and collaboration solution enables healthcare teams to use the communication modes their patients—and colleagues—want. An integrated all-in-one solution also allows healthcare providers to switch seamlessly from one mode of communication to another, all within one app.
Here are examples of how integrated healthcare communications and collaboration platforms can improve the patient experience.
Effective Care Coordination
A healthcare communications and collaboration platform allows the primary care physician to communicate quickly and securely with the orthopedist.
Using a healthcare communications platform, the primary care physician holds a video conference call with the specialist. He shares a screen, and the two providers discuss what steps to take in the patient’s care.
Efficient Care Coordination
Efficiency in the coordination of care is also essential. Inefficient delivery of healthcare services frustrates patients and increases costs.
Scheduling an appointment shouldn’t be a difficult process, and with a healthcare communications platform, it’s not. For example, a large specialty group practice uses an IVR system that detects the patient’s caller ID and routes her call automatically to a scheduling coordinator within the practice’s contact center. The patient’s pre-defined data (i.e., last appointment, next appointment, primary physician) pops up on the agent’s screen, and the agent schedules an appointment. This scheduling workflow optimizes the agent’s time and provides a positive patient experience.
Easy Care Coordination
Coordinated care should be easy for the provider and the patient alike. An integrated, all-in-one healthcare communications platform makes coordinated care simpler.
Remember our knee surgery patient, Jack? While recovering at home after discharge, he has a question about his in-home therapy exercises. Instead of booking another appointment, Jack calls a Patient Care Navigator helpline, which routes his call to a specific, skills-based clinical agent based on his caller ID. The agent can directly address his question while simultaneously securely messaging a physical therapist—collectively responding to Jack’s question within a few minutes. Once again, an integrated healthcare communications and collaboration platform delivers the appropriate level of interaction to help the patient get the coordinated care needed.
Coordinated Care via a Comprehensive Communications Platform
Coordinating care doesn’t have to be challenging for providers. A comprehensive healthcare communications platform makes care coordination effective, efficient, and easy. Want better healthcare outcomes at a lower cost? Cloud communications systems are transforming healthcare. Find out how.
Originally published Dec 19, 2019, updated Mar 17, 2021