A Road Map For Bridging The Healthcare Communication Gap Through Technology

Chief Human Resources & Marketing Officer, Zebra Technologies. getty As a professional communicator, I am stunned…

Chief Human Resources & Marketing Officer, Zebra Technologies.

As a professional communicator, I am stunned when I hear that medical errors are attributable to communication breakdowns. Then I think about how many times I have played a game of “telephone” or “tag” with my colleagues and how easily messages can get mixed up or delayed.

But healthcare providers can’t afford for anything they say to get lost in translation or lost, period. Clinicians frequently tell my colleagues and me that they know the right words to use with colleagues, patients and other caregivers. They just struggle to reach the right people with critical information in a timely, effective manner.

That tracks with the feedback my company, which provides mobile health collaboration solutions, received from both clinicians and hospital executives in a study conducted this summer and summarized in the “Smarter, More Connected Hospitals” global report

The top goal of surveyed decision-makers is to improve clinician-to-patient communication. It even ranked higher than supply chain optimization.

And nearly all (84{1ecc11bb1501b786f489293ac2ac25fb54683d686574816a94d14a51901cfb17}) survey respondents agree the quality of patient care would improve if both clinicians and non-clinical healthcare workers had access to collaboration tools and healthcare applications. 

With so many voice, text and alerting capabilities available on today’s mobile devices, why aren’t communications better — especially given that, according to a July 2021 McKinsey article, utilization of another communication solution, telehealth, is 38 times higher than before the pandemic?

I suspect two things are happening:

1. Healthcare providers aren’t using the right types of mobile devices — or don’t have the right types of mobile communication and collaboration tools loaded onto their devices.

2. Hospitals are financially constrained, so technology implementations are either stalled or slow to scale. And this is hindering staff from connecting with people and information in the ways they want and need.

To improve communications and truly enable clinical mobility, executives should make the case to prioritize these investments with all stakeholders.

But even when support and funding are secured, it’s critical to understand that improvements won’t happen overnight. Change management is critical, as is a long-term road map informed by multiple listening sessions to:

• Find out what your clinical and non-clinical teams need. Call a meeting with the experts: your end users. Find out if doctors, nurses and support staff prefer text-based messaging, push-to-talk, push notifications or even dynamic group calls and workflows. Ask how often they actually make voice or video calls and what their experience has been like so far. Find out if there is lag time in connectivity or if they can contact the person they need as instantaneously as a two-way radio call. Get feedback on how easy it is to access patient records, send and receive lab or radiology orders, and orchestrate room turnovers. You might find out it’s not easy at all and then look for ways to improve those capabilities.

• Get feedback from IT. If the IT team is configuring, deploying and managing the technology, it should have the opportunity to weigh in on your thought process. Find out what security, software and support requirements the team has. Ask about the challenges the team is experiencing with the current system — or if they’ve previously considered your proposed solution.

• Have a technology consultant help design a solution. Once you understand what is and isn’t working well in your current clinical and IT environments, then you can sit down with a technology provider to discuss your clinical mobility solution needs as they relate to wireless connectivity, data capture, security and communication features to give your users the right capabilities. Be sure to bring all technology solution providers and integrators to the table — not only the hardware vendor. Hardware is only as helpful as the software running on it, and if neither can sync with your back-end systems easily, there will likely be friction in the front-line worker experience.

• Think about user role management in addition to device management. Staff may share devices, and users will likely need access to their own personal email, contact lists and other communication-related tools when they grab a device. Be sure to consider whether your solution enables this. And check with users at the time of rollout and at frequent intervals thereafter to ensure their expectations are met.

• Understand, learn from and avoid others’ mistakes. Don’t test the “clinical mobility” concept with non-clinical devices. Ensure solutions and software will actually sync with healthcare information systems and connect to hospital wireless networks — both of which help maintain strong, secure communication channels between staff and patients.

I also encourage you not to be afraid to imitate your legacy solutions. Pagers are still very prevalent. In fact, they’re still worn on doctors’ hips and nurses’ toolbelts — in the form of mobile computers. 

In summary, my advice is to find out from all stakeholders what it will take to make the simple, effective communications mechanisms more accessible to clinicians so their wisdom, instructions and care can reach the right people at the right time without any confusion.


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https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2021/12/29/a-road-map-for-bridging-the-healthcare-communication-gap-through-technology/