COVID-19 has amplified troubling pain points in the healthcare sector. Forced to scale delivery of care beyond hospital walls at an accelerating pace, providers are experiencing the limitations of outdated legacy technology and siloed lines of communication. And in full ICUs across the nation, weary frontline workers are stretched thin, summoned from crisis to crisis by an unrelenting chorus of alerts, alarms and pages.
Better communication and collaboration tools, like those deployed in most other industries today, could help beleaguered frontline teams perform their jobs more efficiently and with less stress. In fact, some hospitals already provide their staff with technology that helps them better prioritize nurse call alerts, manage workflows and assignments, and collaborate with physicians, technicians and others involved in each patient’s treatment.
But those are the exceptions to the norm in one of the last industries to undergo a digital transformation. In fact, some 90% of hospitals still rely on faxes, and 80% still use pagers. In many cases, physicians using pagers must carry several at the same time. Communications between care team members and with the patient occur over outdated systems and can delay the exchange of vital information and timely scheduling of treatments. These antiquated communication systems decrease the quality of care and make it harder for healthcare workers to do their jobs.
Healthcare leaders seeking improved efficiency and productivity in their organization’s patient outcomes, financial performance, staff satisfaction, or patient experiences should look first to the quality of their communications. A health system’s communications network provides the channels for critical collaboration between physicians, technicians, nurses and others as they pursue the shared goal of delivering quality patient care.
Platforms that prioritize data integration, patient engagement and collaboration among caregivers not only deliver the best care, but also enable doctors and nurses to do their jobs easier, improve the patient experience and realize the lowest operating expenses.
As physicians, nurses and administrators grow increasingly dissatisfied with the legacy systems still in use at their organizations, more and more hospitals and hospital systems are augmenting or replacing traditional IT infrastructure with cutting-edge technologies. What follows are key features to look for while planning improvements and evaluating available solutions.
TigerConnect released its annual “State of Healthcare Communications” report, a survey of healthcare leaders and patients detailing the pervasive challenges in healthcare communications. The survey confirmed the fragmented state of communication in healthcare – with many organizations still heavily reliant on landline phones, fax machines, and pagers, and the adoption of modern communication technology often happening in silos.
“Adoption of modern communication solutions has occurred in every other industry but healthcare,” said Brad Brooks, chief executive officer and co-founder of TigerConnect. “Despite the fact that quality healthcare is vital to the well-being and functioning of a society, the shocking lack of communication innovation comes at a steep price, resulting in chronic delays, increased operational costs that are often passed down to the public, preventable medical errors, physician burnout, and in the worst cases, can even lead to death.”
In fact, industry research shows that communication inefficiencies cost a single 500-bed hospital more than $4 million annually (NCBI) and worst case, can lead to death, with communication breakdowns estimated to be a factor in 70% of medical error deaths (JMIR).
Our latest research sought to better understand the state of healthcare communication today and how technology solutions can foster better communication and collaboration in healthcare. Specifically, the survey found 90% of organizations are still using fax machines and 39% are still using pagers. Additionally, nearly 40% of healthcare professionals say that it is difficult to communicate with care team members, contributing to bottlenecks at various touchpoints when moving patients through the healthcare system.
Moreover, the majority of healthcare organizations – 52% – experience communication disconnects that impact patients daily or multiple times a week. It is also worth noting that non-clinical staff greatly underestimate the frequency of communication disconnects that impact patients. Clinical staff members were nearly three times more likely than non-clinical staff to say communication disconnects impact patients on a daily basis.
Survey findings include:
Communication in Healthcare is Broken:
The healthcare industry is still heavily reliant on 1970’s technology, with 89% using fax machines and 39% using pagers among some departments or roles, or even organization-wide.
Communication channels are badly fragmented in healthcare, with groups across the health system all using different tools to communicate.
Despite a growing mobile workforce in healthcare, landlines are still heavily relied on. Landline communication is the top choice of communication when secure messaging is not available – used 29% of the time. Among organizations using secure messaging it still ranks number two – used 25% of the time.