By Dr. Shayan Vyas, SVP and medical director of hospitals and health systems, Teladoc Health.
As patient expectations continue to evolve, hospitals and health systems are required to offer an omnichannel experience that lets patients connect with the health system whenever and wherever, and via the channel of their choice (in-person, phone, video, etc.).
As patients gain more choices, it becomes harder for health systems to ensure a quality experience, maintain complete patient records, keep patient data secure and maintain care coordination.
In fact, a 2019 Deloitte study found that 90% of healthcare data is unstructured and largely inaccessible for data-driven decisions. The result is ultimately elevated risks to patient safety, care quality and compliance.
Fortunately, these challenges can be avoided with a well-connected platform for hybrid care – a method of care many leading U.S. health systems employ today. In planning for this new care model, hospitals and health systems can implement care technology that integrates into a single platform that supports internal clinicians, care team and patient communications across all channels that also integrates with current workflows and systems.
The integration of communications across both physical and virtual channels gives patients and providers the engagement options and experience they want, and health systems the security, coordination, information access and control they need. And ultimately, it minimizes clinician burden by eliminating redundant devices, logins, data entries and other workflow tasks.
Here are what we believe to be the most important features of an integrated platform:
A single sign on to simplify and promote a good user experience
Multiple logins are more than an inconvenience, they are a risk. When clinicians and patients are required to log into multiple systems to perform their common activities it becomes tempting to reuse the same login credentials. This raises the risk of exposure and chances of a system breach. The more logins that are required, the more chances there are for failed logins, which can cause appointments to be missed or for records not to be updated. A single sign on allows patients and clinicians to launch telehealth visits directly when logged into the patient portal and/or EHR system.
Interoperability with EHRs
With care models, patient preferences and clinician workflows all changing, hospitals and health systems are rethinking their communications channels and workflows to better support these changes. A constant amid these changes is that the EHR will remain as the system of record. Ideally, as healthcare organizations improve their systems of engagement with patients, these systems work in concert with the EHR.
Clinicians should be able to access the EHR to review information and make updates while they are interacting with patients via telehealth, from the same screen. This level of integration encourages timely and complete record keeping, which supports care quality and continuity. It also eliminates the need for redundant data entry (once in the telehealth system, and again in the EHR), allowing clinicians to give patients their full attention, ultimately leading to a better patient experience.
Support for Collaboration
Patient care and coordination often requires a broader team outside of just the patient and the clinician. For that reason, communications channels should support collaboration among the care team. For example, clinicians providing follow-up care, social workers, and others should be able to come together virtually, via the same platform. Strong collaboration support is essential for team-based care and is increasingly important as remote care, hospital-at-home and other in-person/virtual hybrid care models grow. This level of collaboration requires the alignment of clinical and IT teams on applications that support care delivery in addition to business operational needs and having a change management program ready before these and other planning discussions take place.
When given the chance, patients and clinicians will choose the communication and engagement method most convenient for them, even if it isn’t the channel approved for that purpose. As health systems look to provide more methods to communicate, they can address these challenges head on by ensuring the new channels are connected to centralized records and maintain consistent security. This is best done through a platform, rather than ad-hoc connections that require even more integration and potentially cause gaps in care.
Care is becoming more fragmented, but communication and documentation don’t have to be.