Solve Communication Challenges in Healthcare with Digital Transformation
Caring for the sick, the elderly, the young, and the rest of us makes for a whole lot of accumulated information over time. Healthcare providers, researchers, and payers have long struggled to communicate with each other, let alone within their own organizations. Due to the strict security and data privacy regulations of regulatory standards like HIPAA and vast siloed repositories, it's not a question of whether the information is out there. It's how to access it, make it discoverable, and share it with those who need it most.
Here are seven communication challenges in healthcare and how digital transformation is overcoming these obstacles:
1. Electronic Health Records (EHRs) Systems Aren't Interoperable Enough
Companies that develop EHR platforms are highly motivated to achieve as much market share for their products and services as possible. The average hospital has 10 EHR applications running within its technology ecosystem across multiple practices and departments. Until recently, there was little will to make it easy for hospitals to have a 360-degree view of a patient across the enterprise.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, a government agency within Health and Human Services is driving EHR providers to make their systems talk to each other more effectively. AI discovery services are being introduced to EHR platforms to ingest millions of patient case records, identify relationships between them, and help doctors diagnose and treat patients more effectively and affordably.
2. Intra-Hospital and Inter-Hospital Communications
Healthcare executives and staff are motivated to provide the best care they can to patients. Yet hospitals also are businesses which compete with each other when they aren't in the same system. According to Accenture, hospitals waste as much as $12 billion per year due to poor communication because there have been few incentives to share information between providers until recently.
3. Healthcare Teams Are Better than Isolated Care
Patients often see multiple providers to get second opinions or follow-ups from different clinics, and there has been little in the way of sharing between providers which could accelerate diagnoses and continuity of care. As incentives have become available, physicians are more apt to contact their peers, technicians, and researchers for insights and knowledge sharing.
Through unified communications applications, a patient can participate in a video conference with their general practitioner and a specialist at the same time, even if the patient is in a remote location. Consider how nonverbal communication in a healthcare setting can be enhanced for patients who can't speak, their caregivers, and/or physicians on a video conference — facial expressions and sign language for example. These methods are common with patients who can't afford to visit a specialist across the country or in another city.
4. Telemedicine Eases Pressure on ERs and Clinics
Modern digital telecommunications platforms like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and cloud contact center applications are enabling telemedicine. For a concerned mother with a feverish newborn or a highly contagious adult who needs over-the-counter medicine, effectively diagnosing symptoms over the phone can divert crowding in hospital emergency wards. This can also diminish infecting others on public transit, waiting rooms and elsewhere.
5. Mental Health and Digital Transformation
For sufferers of debilitating mental health challenges like agoraphobia, PTSD, OCD, and other phobias, leaving the safety of their home to visit a psychologist is often an excruciating and stressful process. Military veterans, for example, are often unable to get transportation to a therapist or don't seek out care because of the stigmas around mental health issues.
Counseling through text chats, video calls, and other real-time communications channels is an affordable resource to help veterans and mental health suffers cope with their ailment. Skilled care providers can assess a patient's case through interviews and observations of non-verbal communications cues like rocking, lack of eye contact, or evidence of self-harm.
6. Caring for a Captive Audience
For healthcare providers that serve correctional facilities, having a communication channel to support office-bound and remote employees is critical. Employees of MHM Services Inc. can make and receive voice calls and text chats from their laptops while visiting patients in prison, as cell phones are not permitted.
VoIP and unified communications platforms are ideal ways of helping employees keep connected, wherever their day takes them.
7. Helping the Elderly Keep in Touch with Friends and Family
Many of us are guilty of prejudice as it relates to the elderly and technology, yet many aging baby boomers and their surviving parents are using mobile devices, social media, and video calling. For aging men and women in senior living homes like Thrive, talking to grandchildren, kids, and spouses on video conferences can lift their spirits and stimulate their mind and mood.
No matter what our age, health status, or medical needs, we all need to be connected to our communities, social circle, and the healthcare ecosystem. For many years, communication challenges in healthcare were detrimental to healthcare institutions, their commercial service provider partners and suppliers. Patients need to take priority over profits and proprietary platforms.
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