Reimagining the Role and Function of Clinical Communications in Care Delivery

Smiling provider with patients

The HIMSS Global Conference & Exhibition doesn’t end when the convention center doors close. Attendees leave with knowledge from educational sessions, speakers and networking that can be applied to the real world, creating an ongoing, year-round experience. HIMSS asked attendees to share the personal and professional successes that stemmed from attending conference – from challenges faced to changes made. Read on to learn about the value of attending HIMSS19 from the unique perspective of our members and partners.

This year at HIMSS18, I had a chance to catch up with a number of healthcare leaders from across the country. I was especially interested in their thoughts on clinician-to-clinician communication in their hospitals.

After speaking with a few of them, it became obvious that their clinicians are still struggling with the friction inherent in today’s communication infrastructure. To solve this problem, we have to reimagine the role and function of clinical communications in today’s care delivery.

Communication Silos

We've seen remarkable achievements in consumer communication technology over the past decade. With a click, we can call, text and even video chat with friends, no matter where they are or what device they’re using.

Unfortunately, clinicians can’t expect that same level of simplicity from their communication and collaboration tools due to a variety of factors, including complex call schedules, HIPAA compliance, workflow preferences and more. Building smart, secure and easy-to-use clinical communications solutions is a challenge that demands the best of us.

Our industry has created multiple tools to tackle the clinical communication challenge but also – inadvertently – created another problem: fragmentation. Today, clinicians have to use an array of independent, limited-point communication solutions just to provide care.

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Secure texting applications, alerts and alarms, real-time location tracking and the like are part of a disconnected ecosystem of notifications, alarms and reminders that don’t talk to one another, frustrate clinicians and complicate workflows, making holistic care team collaboration virtually impossible.

Communication Islands

Electronic medical record (EMR) systems don’t entirely solve this problem, either.

Some of the healthcare leaders at HIMSS18 shared the realization that their EMR isn’t capable of supporting urgent communication because it lacks critical functionality. While the EMR can identify the care team, it can’t help pinpoint the proper on-call clinician at a given time, and it can’t connect with affiliated physicians who aren’t using the health system’s EMR at their offices.

Even hospitals that rely on their EMR system for non-urgent internal communications still struggle with communicating outside the four walls of the hospital. They've effectively built a communications island that limits collaboration.

Beyond the EMR

The only effective solution is one that transcends the EMR and facilitates collaboration between clinicians within and across different organizations.

A holistic approach to clinical communication and collaboration can help clinicians speed time to care and treatment. Bringing together disparate communications solutions is the only way to solve the clinician-to-clinician communication problems that are still too pervasive in our industry.

A solution like this would connect clinicians across their patients’ care continuum, allowing a physician to pick up the phone and have instant access to healthcare professionals at other hospitals and practices, pharmasists at independent and commercial pharmacies and clinicians at dialysis centers, rehabilitation clinics and other outpatient facilities.

The future of care delivery requires technology that enables efficient, patient-centered, cross-continuum collaboration. Tomorrow’s care requires intercommunication between compartmentalized systems to eliminate the friction and help clinicians expedite patient care.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.


February 11-15, 2019 | Orlando, Florida
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