By Will O’Connor, M.D., chief medical information officer, TigerConnect
When the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that COVID-19 was no longer a global pandemic, everyone breathed a maskless sigh of relief and tried to put the devastation of a three-year-long crisis behind them. But now, the healthcare industry faces another pandemic – a nurse staffing crisis years in the making.
A recent report by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing found that nearly 100,000 registered nurses had left the profession since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, when exposure was high and support was low. What’s more startling is that another 600,000 nurses intend to leave by 2027 due to stress, cognitive burnout, and retirement. This labor shortage adds to the factors pushing nurses to leave as their workloads inevitably increase while available resources remain scarce. But what’s at the root of this mass exodus?
Navigating The Great Attrition
As of March 2023, 45% of inpatient nurses reported they are likely to leave their role in the next six months because they feel undervalued by their organization and have an unmanageable workload, contributing to burnout, stress, and cognitive burden. As nurses navigate the complexities of providing care to multiple patients, they face the challenge of using ineffective communication methods such as phone and email and balancing various interruptions and disruptions, all of which obstruct patient care. In fact, miscommunication is the root of over 70% of sentinel events, resulting in $1.7 billion in malpractice suits over five years.
In a recent joint survey conducted by Becker’s Healthcare and TigerConnect of more than one-hundred clinical leaders across various healthcare ecosystems, respondents provided valuable insights into the perceived risks to patients and care providers stemming from communication and workflow processes that put care on the line. These risks include:
68% of respondents cited an increase in staff frustration with slow response times or lack of response
64% of respondents noted that numerous alerts and system notifications lead to cognitive overload, also known as alarm fatigue
Over half, or 56%, stated that suboptimal communications create the risks of delays in patient care
Enhancing Clinical Collaboration
Given these insights, it is evident that to develop a successful staffing strategy, healthcare leaders need to understand how nurses spend their time, their desired allocation of time, and how communication methods affect job satisfaction. By identifying the detrimental effects of inadequate workflows and broken communication methods, healthcare organizations can seek ways to alleviate the burdens on nurses and allow them to thrive and deliver exceptional patient care.
By Andrew A. Brooks, M.D., chief medical officer, TigerConnect.
Information is the healthcare industry’s core, from paper to digital record keeping. Healthcare organizations and physicians have relied on charts, treatment plans and other means of records to provide the highest quality of care they can offer. In the 21st century, providers need unrestricted access to holistic data to streamline record-keeping, reduce costs, and better collaborate as treatment teams advance patient care. This access to vital information is becoming more critical as digital healthcare information rises along with the rise in EHR integration.
By current estimates, nearly 30 percent of the world’s data is being generated in healthcare – with no signs of slowing down, this figure is expected to reach 36 percent by 2025. According to a 2019 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) survey, almost 90 percent of office-based physicians responded that they are leveraging EHR systems in their office-based practice. Information availability is only part of the healthcare equation. Data accessibility and interoperability are another.
When roadblocks to information are present, it can create unnecessary challenges for hospitals and treatment teams to do their jobs. These challenges in treatment and care can lead to poor clinical communication and collaboration – reducing the quality of patient care and driving costs upward. In an industry such as healthcare, smooth communications are essential both between providers and patients as they attempt to navigate doctor’s offices, hospitals, and other care facilities. Unfortunately, interoperability and access to information aren’t easy.
Information Blocking and its Impacts on Patient Care
Information blocking often refers to the interference of access, use or exchange of electronic health information. In most cases, information blocking is caused by the use of proprietary technology systems that are unable to interoperate or communicate with one another. When information blocking does occur, patient data necessary for care can be sent or received in an untimely manner or can be transmitted inaccurately. The fact is that most electronic data is still locked in silos across disparate providers. According to a study reported on by the AJMC, nearly 75 percent of physicians feel they lack sufficient information about their patients. The demand for seamless access to healthcare information is one of the driving forces behind the 21st Century Cures Act – which expanded its scope in October.
The 21st Century Cures Act & The Power of Data to Improve Patient Care
When healthcare providers have access to data, they can dramatically improve patient care. This is why many are asking the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for additional clarity on new federal information blocking regulations set in motion in October.
The original 21st Century Cures Act held health IT vendors, providers, and health responsible for information exchanges to better provide patient access to health records with 3rd party applications – banning the blocking of health information sharing. But this applied only to a limited set of data. Under the expanded regulations, patients will get electronic access to their records without limitations. So, what do providers and patients need to know, and how can they better align with these new regulations?
TigerConnect, maker of healthcare’s most powerful software collaboration suite, announces it has received a significant strategic growth investment from Vista Equity Partners, a leading global investment firm focused exclusively on enterprise software, data, and technology-enabled businesses. TigerConnect will leverage the partnership with Vista to continue its mission to improve patient care through real-time, contextual communications.
“At TigerConnect, we are laser-focused on improving the care experience for providers and patients, beginning with access to real-time and contextual communication and collaboration throughout every step of the care journey,” said Brad Brooks, co-founder and chief executive officer of TigerConnect. “We believe that Vista’s expertise in partnering with founder-led and market-leading enterprise software businesses, coupled with our shared values, align strongly with our mission to provide advanced collaboration technologies that improve care delivery.”
“In 2010, the notion of a universal communication and workflow platform for healthcare did not exist, and TigerConnect transformed that,” said Andrew A Brooks, M.D., FAAOS, co-founder and chief medical officer of TigerConnect. “Together with Vista, TigerConnect’s vision remains to improve outcomes for patients and enhance the daily lives of physicians, nurses, and everyone involved within the healthcare system.”
By Dr. Will O’Connor, chief medical information officer, TigerConnect.
The pandemic is highlighting how difficulties with technology are stressing out healthcare employees and negatively affecting the quality of care. It’s a problematic situation, though in truth, it’s only the latest in a long history of tech devices impairing the delivery of healthcare.
Even in 1980, the movie “Caddyshack” had a character literally named “Dr. Beeper.” As the troubles mount, though, it’s an opportune moment to examine the underlying causes of this problem and glimpse at possible solutions.
Use of obsolete communication devices leads to breakdowns in collaboration between care team members, allied health service providers, and patients. It is a source of frustration and sub-optimal clinical and financial outcomes. In a recent survey we conducted, 53% of care team members said they experienced communication disconnects that affected patients at least once a week. For 12%, it’s a daily experience. Half the respondents felt that a patient’s inability to communicate with a doctor, outside of a visit, was the most frustrating aspect of a hospital stay.
Why is this happening? At the device level, care team members are not provided with equipment that enables them to collaborate effectively. While use of pagers is declining, now employed by about 49% of hospitals, healthcare still outpaces other industries in use of this antiquated technology. In our research, 47% of caregivers perceived that healthcare was either “somewhat behind” or “extremely behind” other industries in adoption of modern communication technology.
Today’s nurses may be carrying up to three pagers. They receive so many alerts that they have trouble separating the signal from the noise—contributing to “alarm fatigue” that is bad for morale and patient care. Faxes, emails and whiteboards continue to abound.
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.