Everyone Needs a Better Healthcare Communication Tool
Communication in a medical practice is essential to the patient care, patient satisfaction and productivity of the healthcare personnel. Within all healthcare environments, there should be an active communication between all personnel, not just between physicians. Communication starts at the front desk. Throughout the course of an average workday, the front office staff must schedule a wide array of appointments and medical procedures. Some medical procedures need to be done by other physicians and surgeons; these appointments require weeks in advance to insure the doctor will be available to perform the operations. The staff is also responsible to inform the physician of any patient cancelations ahead of time so that the physician can rearrange schedule as necessary. Physicians, in particular specialists, are away from the clinic for either making rounds at the hospitals or in a procedure or attending an emergency case. Staff are constantly struggling to communicate with physicians about patients, and physicians don’t like to be disturbed when they are with patients.
Best Way to Communicate with Physicians
Making phone calls is too intrusive and email communication is too slow and most likely not catch physician attention. SMS/Texting has been proven more effective form of communication in this setting and evidence shows that lot of texting happens between medical professionals. In order to text, most likely both sender and receiver need a mobile phone unless they are using some kind of texting application. Most likely that staff are using their personal mobile to text since most practices do not provide such service to staff. Staff are reluctant to use their mobile phones for various reasons. Some do not have adequate texting plan and other fear of HIPAA violation, particularly when they are sending patient related information. Since these messages stay on the personal mobile, the family and friends have the ability to access the information. Moreover when mobile phone is lost or stolen or upgraded all the communication is accessible to the person acquired the mobile.
Most Effective form of Communication
On top of these issues, SMS/Texting may not be the most effective form of communication. We looked at various medical office communication flows and we found that there are unmet needs that need to be addressed.
First, how to prioritize messages. The staff should be able to identify messages that need immediate physician attention vs those that can wait. Urgent messages should make a unique beep so that physician can easily identify those from the rest. Next, how do you ensure that the physician received the message and positively confirmed that he got it. When we text someone, we really do not know whether the receiver got it and read it. It important in health settings due to the importance of the message. We found that message contexts are important way to organize chat threads. SMS/Texting apps native to mobile phones do not provide this capability. For example a staff and physician could engage in a chat conversation about multiple patients simultaneously. Easy group communication and quick broadcasting messages to physicians who are on call is important.
Effective tools for Healthcare Communication
In additional to staff spending lot of time to reach physicians, nurses and physician assistants communicate extensively with physicians. They too need more effective tools, such as using medical billing and coding services to save time and spend it with dealing with patients. And physicians need the most effective tools to communicate back to staff/nurses and with other physicians. Physicians also need to communicate with back office personnel about clarification about procedure codes and billing when they are ready to complete a charge.
We are actively engaged with healthcare community to understand their specific challenges with current communication methods and soliciting their communication needs. We would like you to participate in a quick survey if you are involved in healthcare delivery. We will be publishing the results in our upcoming blog post.