Today’s healthcare IT teams must apply technology to improve collaboration, support patient satisfaction, comply with regulations and capture revenue. And they have to accomplish all this in a technical world that’s constantly changing, forcing them to cope with frequent software and hardware upgrades, shadow IT and a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) environment.
Against this backdrop, how can they find time for more strategic initiatives?
Interoperability and BYODOne of the biggest challenges these IT teams face is interoperability. Serving users on a multitude of devices – be it smartphones, desktops or tablets – is key to effective and efficient healthcare communications.
But how can they accomplish this? Today 90 percent of healthcare staff bring their own smartphones and devices to work. Meanwhile, 73 percent send and receive work-related texts, and of 1,000 physicians surveyed, 95 percent frequently use text messaging. Data is flying around everywhere, often without HIPAA-compliant security.
“Whether we are trying to accomplish meaningful use or improve the overall care of our patients,” says Dr. David Ratto, “we need improved functional interoperability. Data must be available and needs to be seamlessly transferred from one source to the next.”
Unified communications (UC) platforms link all devices by using secure web-based applications that enable users to share rich data like video, images and files. And by using Wi-Fi rather than carrier networks, IT saves money.
When you bring your own device, you can connect to the cloud and access colleagues and clinical software 24/7, whenever the patient needs the care.
As healthcare moves steadily toward a fully integrated care model, IT has a critical role to perform. Technology connects the disparate parts of the system – hospital, primary care, rehabilitation and post-hospital care facilities – so that data flows and clinical outcomes are positive.
For example, cloud-based technology enables contact centers to follow up with discharged patients and measure satisfaction. Staff can call to check on patient recovery progress and use UC software to conduct HCAHPS surveys. Automated appointment reminders make sure the patient meets with their physician for post-treatment review. And with UC, all of this can happen via voice, messaging or video, no matter the physical location or device.
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Collaboration and workflow
Care teams, composed of healthcare professionals across the system, spend at least 25 percent of their time on communications-based activities. But when every second counts and patient care is at stake, phone tag and voicemails just don’t cut it. Cloud-based software enables professionals to link to communications systems wherever they may be and on whichever device is at hand.
With presence technology, a nurse “sees” when the specialist is available on a mobile device. From the computer at the nurses’ station, the nurse sets up a quick video call to discuss a patient’s condition. They review the patient’s electronic medical records together, each accessing the data via individual dashboards on their respective devices. The clinical software they use is made even more effective with the real-time voice, video and messaging functions that unified communications makes possible.
What’s missing from this picture? Hardware and software that IT doesn’t have to buy and maintain (like personally owned smartphones). With communications platform as a service (CPaaS) rather than onsite solutions, upgrades come at a push of a button and hardware becomes a commodity, not a capital expense. The system is easy to administer too, freeing IT’s time for more strategic projects.
Whether it’s staffing a help desk or making sure all system communications are secure, UC offers HIPAA-compliant voice and SMS capabilities to easily manage common IT processes such as system alerts, two-factor authentication, messaging workflows and text-to-speech capabilities.
Today’s healthcare systems generate a great deal of data. You have to store that information in a way that’s both secure and accessible, so that healthcare professionals can share and collaborate. The cloud offers easy scalability, so your systems can keep pace with your needs, without the TCO involved with onsite deployment.
In fact, choosing a HIPAA-certified communications provider can reduce your worries about data security considerably. Choose a partner that offers a robust, multi-layer security framework with physical and technical safeguards enforced by stringent administrative policies. Unified communications solutions should also include call recording encryption, auditing and reporting systems, data backups, access logging capabilities and three configurable sensitivity levels for collected data.
Via unified communications and the cloud, healthcare IT teams have tools to automate key processes, enable healthcare professionals to collaborate and support patient satisfaction.