Communication Barriers in Healthcare
There are many moving parts when running a healthcare organization. The level of complexity in the healthcare system and fast-evolving patient expectations create a need for better communications and faster response time.
However, barriers to communication in the healthcare industry have made it challenging for many organizations to get ahead. Here are some major barriers and how they can be overcome with cloud technologies:
Major Barriers To Effective Communication In Healthcare
The healthcare industry consists of a web of providers, patients, third-party service providers, and insurance carriers. With the level of complexity comes many barriers to effective communication:
- Difficulty in providing clear patient instructions via voice calls: while it has become quite common for doctors and nurses to provide patients with guidance over the phone, it's often hard for patients to fully grasp complicated instructions verbally without the aid of visual demonstration. As a result, patient compliance with follow up care suffers.
- Complexity and volume of patient-services related calls: hospitals need to handle hundreds of calls and inquiries related to patient registration, appointment booking, and billing every single day. Without the ability to sort, categorize, and prioritize these calls, as well as track the call statuses, time-sensitive and critical tasks can fall through the cracks.
- Inability to share information effectively across departments: as healthcare networks expand to include more facilities and providers, there's an increasing need for medical staff in different departments to coordinate treatment options, share patient information, and orchestrate care. The lack of collaboration can lead to miscommunication, duplicate work, and costly errors.
- Hurdles in upgrading to new communication systems: hospitals need to operate around the clock and the extensive downtime required to install new network systems is simply not practical for many healthcare organizations. As a result, many of them are stuck with outdated communication tools.
- Cost of hardware and infrastructure: another hurdle healthcare providers face when upgrading their communication systems is the cost of infrastructure and hardware. Having to make the purchase upfront, they could end up with capabilities that become obsolete before they're fully utilized.
- Busy and noisy environment: many healthcare environments bustle with people and lack the privacy required for sensitive conversations. Not to mention, sometimes it's hard to carry out a phone conversation with the background noises and interruptions. Traditional communication systems, such as landlines, don't offer the flexibility for healthcare workers to move to a quiet location to improve the quality of patient communications.
Breaking Healthcare Communication Barriers with UCaaS, CCaaS, and VoIP
As the communication barriers are posing more issues for healthcare providers, a viable and affordable solution is needed to eliminate inefficiency and improve the quality of care.
The use of cloud-based communication platforms, such as UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service), CCaaS (Contact Center as a Service), and VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) can help break down many of the barriers:
- Improve "medical memory" with visual elements: the human brain takes in 90 percent of information visually. Patients will remember information, such as treatment instructions, if visual elements such as videos or diagrams are incorporated in the patient communication protocol. Video conferencing, which is a common UCaaS feature, makes this possible without requiring anything more than commonly-available equipment such as smartphones or computers, and an Internet connection.
- Categorize and prioritize patient calls: VoIP services allow healthcare organizations to organize and categorize patient calls so they can respond based on criteria such as time received and urgency. In addition, call statuses can be tracked to ensure that each call is addressed in a timely manner. VOIP can also match the callers with their accounts to expedite appointment booking and payment processing.
- Information sharing among healthcare staff: UCaaS and VOIP providers often integrate functions such as file sharing and chat/IM to facilitate real-time communication and information sharing. These files and chat records can be retrieved and updated on a centralized platform to ensure that all parties can access the most up-to-date information to minimize errors.
- Seamless integration and installation: UCaaS and VOIP are cloud-based, so it can simply be layered on top of the existing network with virtually no downtime required for installation. In addition, without the need for new hardware, there will be minimal disruption due to procedures such as running cables.
- Reduce cost and increase efficiency: CCaaS providers offer pay-as-you-go models that include infrastructure and hardware rental so healthcare organizations can get the most up-to-date equipment they need in a just-in-time manner.
- Improve the quality of patient communication: UCaaS and VOIP services can be run on laptops and mobile devices so healthcare staff has the flexibility to take patient calls in a quiet and distraction-free environment. This helps improve clarity and quality of patient communications.
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