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Industry Insight

Putting the Patient at the Center of the Universe – Care Teams

The “triple aim” of improved health outcomes, better patient care and lower costs is the objective of every healthcare provider today. With value-based care already in play, healthcare organizations are keenly aware that efficient use of medical resources and quality patient outcomes are more important than ever. What we know is that technology plays no small role in this future. In fact, the future of healthcare is integrated, it’s digital and, most importantly, it’s built around the patient.

The Patient-Centric Experience

The reputations of today’s healthcare organizations are impacted by a variety of issues, including health navigation platforms. With the advent of such apps, consumers can share their experiences and compare doctors, care teams and hospitals with just a few clicks. Informed by these changing behaviors, along with a host of new regulations, every healthcare system is looking at strengthening patient engagement and putting the patient experience front and center. The importance of this strategy aligns with findings in a health policy brief by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which indicates that individuals who are actively engaged in their health and their healthcare do have better outcomes. They also incur lower costs. [1]

As the world of healthcare researches how best to activate patients and keep them engaged, we believe that the thoughtful, intentional use of secure communications technology can support patient engagement and keep customer satisfaction high.

What Impacts the Patient Experience?

Today’s technology can aggregate data in large amounts, allow telehealth outreach to underserved populations, engage patients with user-centric health sensors and even offer new precision treatment possibilities. Within this ever-growing high-tech list of exciting possibilities, secure digital clinical communication—particularly within collaborative patient care teams—is paramount and creates much-needed efficiencies.

Patient care is incredibly complex given the multitude of caregivers in various disciplines who make up modern care teams. One cardiac event impacting a patient with multiple comorbidities, for example, could involve more than a dozen professionals who need to discuss the care plan or check patient status, a trying situation for communication coordination.

Hand-off is another area where communication coordination can affect outcomes and patient satisfaction. Reports in The Joint Commission’s sentinel event database include instances of ineffective hand-off communication causing adverse events, noting such examples as wrong-site surgery, delay in treatment, falls, and medication errors. A 2016 study estimated that “communication failures in U.S. hospitals and medical practices were responsible at least in part for 30 percent of all malpractice claims, resulting in 1,744 deaths and $1.7 billion in malpractice costs over five years.” [2]

We envision better: digital patient care teams using communication coordination that is flawless, secure, routine and efficient and involves all team members, including the patient.

Better Clinical Communication

A secure clinical communication platform should unify and consolidate the fragmented assortment of communication technology that hospitals currently have—such as pagers, voice badges, paper schedules and unsecure methods of texting and sharing photos. It should allow for medical resources right at a provider’s fingertips, without having to log in and out of multiple systems. It should provide a great user experience, impeccable documentation and the ability to integrate seamlessly with all existing networks, consuming real-time data and allowing user access to relevant information immediately – all of which helps clinicians provide better patient care.

A secure platform should allow all members of a digital patient care team member to access colleagues without sifting through contact info or routing through another system. Whether the team needs secure texting, voice technology or alerts, all actions to communicate need to be easily understood and quickly accessible.

Emphasis on the way secure communications are being supported is especially critical during a hand-off or transition of care. Using a cloud-based product suite will allow uninterrupted interaction among multiple care team members, without being tied to an on-premise system.

And finally, a critical requirement of a comprehensive digital communication tool is that it should allow secure communication and EMR systems to work together effortlessly, so that real-time access can take advantage of all of the information that exists around who’s doing what, lowering the barrier to patient-centric communication. More efficient communication for care teams means better patient care and experience.

The Patient as a Digital Care Team Member

Ultimately, the patient is the most important team member. It is essential to use best practices when it comes to personalizing communication, coordination and decision-making strategies to create effective patient partnerships and better outcomes. Practices that allow patients to choose communications options for pre-admission and follow-up care, including email, texts, access to personal health records or even social media, are known to increase patient engagement. [3]

The availability of secure messaging apps to remind patients about medications or appointments and encourage participation in targeted health programs for chronic care management is the first step. Enhancing the functionality of that secure messaging app and giving it the ability to connect to the digital patient care team is the next step. With a care coordinator taking the lead, patients stay informed of treatment schedules and physician visits. Families can easily receive updates on the status of their loved ones. Everything a patient care team talks about or shares revolves around patient care. When we extend a method of communication or collaboration out to patients and their families we enhance patient engagement.

Healthcare providers need a unified communication platform to have an effective patient engagement strategy.

Better Outcomes

Some hospitals have crunched the numbers to determine the importance of enhanced communication using interdisciplinary care teams and integrated care plans. Metrics at Unity Hospital in Rochester, New York, indicate that its particular program has decreased readmission rates, decreased infection rates and decreased complication rates. [4]

Along with these promising results, Microsoft Enterprise reported that two healthcare trends clearly emerged in 2017—the focus on a patient’s social environment—friends, family and community—as well as the personalization of healthcare, which impacts a patient’s ability to observe and implement prevention and recovery plans. These two trends are directly impacted by a third trend, the digital revolution, which is paving the way for the other two. “New health system technology, such as moving beyond basic EMR (Electronic Medical Record) infrastructure to full patient-focused CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solutions, has enabled providers to integrate extended care teams, enhance patient satisfaction and improve the efficacy and efficiency of care.” [5]

This is good news for care teams and patients. A unified secure communication platform is an important investment in the future of healthcare, improving patient outcomes and the patient experience. With secure clinical communication and authentic real-time collaboration, effective decision-making is enhanced, and we all reap the benefits. Download Insights

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[1] Julia James, “Health Policy Brief: Patient Engagement,” Health Affairs, February 14, 2013, accessed January 18,
2018, https://www.rwjf.org/content/dam/farm/reports/issue_briefs/2013/rwjf404446

[2] The Joint Commission, Sentinel Event Alert, Issue 58, (September 12, 2017), accessed January 18, 2018, https:// www.jointcommission.org/sentinel_event_alert_58_inadequate_handoff_communications/

[3] Sally Okun et al., “Patients and Health Care Teams Forging Effective Partnerships,” Discussion Paper, Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, December 2014, accessed January 18, 2018, https://nam.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/PatientsForgingEffectivePartnerships1.pdf

[4] Deborah Wood, R.N., “Collaborative Healthcare Teams a Growing Success Story,” Healthcare News, AMN Healthcare, April 25, 2012, accessed January 18, 2018, https://www.amnhealthcare.com/latest-healthcare-news/collaborative-healthcare-teams-growing-success-story/

[5] David Turcotte, “The Top 3 Transformational Healthcare Industry Trends,” Microsoft Enterprise, August 10, 2017, accessed January 18, 2018, https://enterprise.microsoft.com/en-us/articles/industries/health/the-top-3-transformational-healthcare-industry-trends-2017/