How to Improve Hospital Communication

How to Improve Hospital Communication

The Challenge of How to Improve Hospital Communication

Finding ways to improve hospital communications is challenging, but it can deliver substantial rewards. Healthcare organizations that have been able to improve communication within hospitals have witnessed increased productivity, a reduction in costs and a higher standard of healthcare delivered to patients.

What makes the challenge of how to improve hospital communication so difficult is compliance with healthcare industry legislation. While smartphones and other technologies have improved communications in daily life, the need to comply with HIPAA and HITECH standards can limit the solutions available to healthcare organizations and how the solutions can be utilized to increase hospital productivity and improve hospital patient communications.

A further issue is the cost – not just the cost of implementing a communications solution, but also the resources required to train staff on how to use it, monitor that the solution is being used as intended, and maintain the solution. In order to overcome the issues of compliance, and reduce communications costs to hospitals, many healthcare organizations are implementing HIPAA-compliant secure messaging solutions.

How Secure Messaging Solutions Increase Hospital Productivity

In order to be HIPAA-compliant, secure messaging solutions have mechanisms to ensure message accountability. These mechanisms – together with delivery notifications and read receipts – significantly reduce phone tag, saving precious time for medical professionals and enabling healthcare organizations to increase hospital productivity.

Other features of secure messaging solutions also help to improve hospital communication. For example, with secure messaging:

  • Medical professionals can collaborate on patient healthcare.
  • Hospital admissions can be accelerated with secure messaging.
  • Patient discharges and post-acute care can be coordinated.

When integrated into an EMR, physicians can receive lab results and radiology images directly to their mobile devices the moment they are entered into the EMR. Doctors and clinical staff can also organize their EMR alerts on the go in order to prioritize their workflows. This capability alone helps to accelerate diagnoses and reduce the number of redundant tests – and helps to reduce communications costs in hospitals while contributing to an increase in hospital productivity.

Case Study: At the Limestone Medical Center, a secure messaging solution was implemented so that staff could communicate in compliance with HIPAA through their personal mobile devices. With secure image sending and file attachment capabilities, consults and diagnoses are performed remotely or on the go – cutting diagnosis time in half and saving staff an average of more than one hour per day.

Secure Messaging Helps to Improve Communication within Hospitals

In addition to the above examples, secure messaging helps to improve communication within hospitals in many different ways. Emergency Room and other hospital staff can request physician consults with secure texting, sending the physician far more information than could be relayed in a voicemail message – – and reaching the physician more easily than through paging systems and other dated methods.

Secure messages sent by text are faster, more accurate and less interruptive than any other form of communication, and, if the physician requires specialist advice, he or she is able to consult the integrated on-call schedule to find which consultant is available, forward them the consult request with the secure attachments, and facilitate the appropriate treatment for the patient in a timely manner.

The ability to request physician consults by secure messaging enables the swift evaluation of patients by consultants who may not even have to attend the Emergency Room. This helps eliminate admission delays and ensures that patients requiring inpatient treatment receive it faster. Secure messaging also increases Emergency Room productivity with the faster discharge of “treat and release” patients.

Case Study: The San Joaquin General Hospital implemented a secure messaging solution to replace its inefficient overhead pager system and increase message accountability. The solution for sending PHI securely helped to accelerate patient hand-offs and streamline overall care coordination, while the reduction of noise in the hospital environment helped the medical facility improve its HCAHPS score.

How Secure Messaging Solutions Reduce Communications Costs in Hospitals

Secure messaging solutions are inexpensive to implement and maintain. They work via secure messaging apps that have a familiar text-like interface. The apps can easily be downloaded onto personal mobile devices and desktop computers enabling any authorized user to communicate securely with any other authorized user within the healthcare organization´s network once they have verified their identity.

Due to their familiar texting interface, secure messaging apps require little training for hospital staff. The secure messaging platform is hosted in the cloud and users can be added or removed quickly or even automatically via Active Directory sync, reducing the burden on healthcare organizations’ IT departments. Healthcare IT administrators can also monitor HIPAA compliance via a web interface displaying access reports and compliance audits.

With no hardware to purchase, no complicated software to install and few administrative resources required, healthcare organizations can improve communication within hospitals without great expense. Given their ease of use, secure messaging apps have a high uptake among staff, ensuring compliant communication with no risk of a breach of PHI.

Case Study: In February 2016, a study conducted by HIMSS Analytics revealed that the average paging service cost per device was $9.19 per month, compared to industry research showing the cost of secure messaging to be less than $5 per month per authorized user. The “Hidden Costs of Pager Usage” concluded that healthcare organizations could reduce communications costs in hospitals 45% by retiring antiquated pager technology and replacing it with secure messaging.

Improve Hospital Patient Communications with Secure Messaging

Under the current HIPAA regulations, medical professionals can exchange PHI with their patients over unsecure channels only if they adhere to the “Minimum Necessary Standard”. This can limit the amount of information that can be obtained or the level of advice that can be provided, hindering accurate diagnoses or delaying treatment.

With secure messaging, it’s possible to improve hospital patient communications via a temporary web-based messaging session. The patient is given a temporary username and password which they can use to communicate with their healthcare provider. This enables the secure and full exchange of PHI – including images, video and voice messaging – facilitating an accurate diagnosis and the opportunity to organize timely treatment when required.

This telemedicine facility is not the only way in which it is possible to improve hospital patient communications with secure messaging. With secure messaging, all of a patient´s post-acute care providers can be kept fully informed during the discharge planning process and kept up-to-date with the post-discharge plan. Medical professionals can collaborate with a patient´s care network to increase the likelihood of a healthy recovery and reduce the prospect of a hospital readmission.

Case Study: NAMM California implemented secure messaging to improve real-time communication between healthcare providers and comply with HIPAA. The solution accelerated the discharge process and streamlined communications with patients´ care networks, with the result that the organization saved thirty inpatient beds per month and more patients were discharged to home healthcare rather than nursing homes.

Other Ways in Which Secure Messaging Can Improve Hospital Communication

Some of the most noteworthy implementations of secure messaging solutions have occurred in pharmacy scenarios. Secure messaging solutions not only help pharmacies comply with HIPAA regulations, but also DEA regulations under the Controlled Substances Act. For in-house pharmacies, secure messaging solutions also fulfill certain requirements of Stage II and Stage III Meaningful Use.

Secure messaging can improve communication within hospitals in scenarios such as when a pharmacist needs to send a request for order clarification to a physician. The pharmacist can include as much personal identifying information about the patient as he or she needs to in order to resolve the issue, assured that their message is guaranteed to be received by the physician and answered quickly.

With the elimination of phone tag, both the pharmacist´s and the physician´s workflows are streamlined, while patients are more satisfied with the service they receive due to not being kept waiting while the issue is resolved. The one-text-one-reply resolution of the issue also helps to reduce communications costs in hospitals with in-house pharmacies.

Case Study: To ease communication with hospitals, the Carvajal Pharmacy implemented a secure messaging solution because it had the encryption, support and interface that the company required to remain HIPAA and DEA compliant. Since implementing the solution, the pharmacy estimates it is filling prescriptions up to 50% faster, while the doctors that use the pharmacy´s service spend less time on the phone resolving issues and more time caring for their patients.