How Unified Communications Streamlines Healthcare Practices
Despite advances in unified communications and mobility, much of the healthcare industry is still living in the dark ages when it comes to communication.
An estimated 66 percent of providers reported that physicians and nurses are still using alphanumeric and numeric pagers to support clinical communication, according to a Ponemon study. Clinicians waste an average of more than 45 minutes each day due to the use of pagers and other outdated communication technologies, costing the U.S. healthcare industry more than $5.1 billion annually, according to Ponemon.
Improving both the quality of care and patient satisfaction has been an ongoing priority for healthcare organizations, especially due to recent developments under the Affordable Care Act. One of their strategies has been to reduce operational inefficiencies by improving communications with colleagues, other healthcare providers and, of course, their patients.
Many have found a powerful tool for doing just that in unified communications (UC). By seamlessly meshing data, voice and messaging technologies into their working environments, clinicians can both reduce operational costs and increase the quality of patient care. Healthcare staffs become more productive as they spend less time on routine tasks, access critical information more quickly, and collaborate with more efficiency across teams and locations.
For patients, this improved coordination and efficiency means care is delivered both more quickly and more effectively. For physicians and hospitals, it translates into higher scores on patient surveys, which directly impacts revenues under the ACA’s rules.
In other words, the ability of unified communications to streamline workflow has provided healthcare practices with tangible benefits. Among them:
- Enhanced team collaboration. Because doctors, nurses and specialists routinely consult each other on patient care, missed calls or other delayed communications risk disastrous consequences. Unified communications allows clinicians to share critical patient information immediately, whether they’re in separate facilities or the same building. Smartphones, instant messaging and rollover calls ensure teams are connected at all times, so collaboration is never unduly delayed.
- Real-time access to patient updates. As providers travel between their practices and the hospital, and switch their attention between patients, unified communications allows them to follow cases with real-time access to patient data and status updates. They can easily reference medical and drug databases without having to disrupt their schedule for a visit to a library or reference center. This “anytime, anywhere” access to patient information is essential for practitioners as they face the high stakes of medical decision-making.
- Eliminated redundant and inefficient workflows. Sometimes, patient outcomes and satisfaction are at odds. A patient with a routine question, for example, can delay medical professionals from attending to the needs of someone who’s sicker. When a facility’s website is enhanced with self-service options, patients can find answers for themselves more quickly, and the medical team can focus on the patients who need their attention the most. In addition, unified communications creates efficiencies by automating routine tasks such as making appointment-reminder calls or delivering test results.
- Centralized patient support services. For healthcare providers with multiple facilities, back office coordination is tricky. Billing issues or appointment mishaps detract from the patient experience, lowering satisfaction. But unified communications allows administrators to centralize information about appointments, billing and other administrative details. The back office staff has better insight into history and schedules, regardless of which office a patient is visiting.
Taken together, these communications and workflow changes have a powerful impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare practices. But most importantly, they result in better care for the patient. Unified communications impact is evident in improved outcomes, higher patient satisfaction, and a more efficient business model.