5 Key Factors to Adoption of Healthcare Communication Technology
When hospitals adopt new healthcare team communication technology, they intend that the technology will help clinicians and staff meet care delivery goals. Why do some communication tools meet with clinician resistance—and how can that change?
In a recent New Yorker article physician Atul Gawande described the current mismatch between clinicians and technology:
“Something’s gone terribly wrong. Doctors are among the most technology-avid people in society; computerization has simplified tasks in many industries. Yet somehow we’ve reached a point where people in the medical profession actively, viscerally, volubly hate their computers.”
At bottom, Gawande suggested, the problem was technology intervening between patient and clinician, rather than adding value to interactions. That’s an insightful observation, one that raises the question, what aspects of clinical technology lead to that belief?
Resistance to healthcare technology adoption
Recent research from the Spyglass Consulting Group sheds light on the problem. Their study “Healthcare without Bounds: Trends in Clinical Communications and Collaboration”i identified several specific concerns, including:
Antiquated equipment: “Clinicians are dissatisfied with the antiquated communication options provided by hospital IT, including overhead paging, landline phones, pagers, and proprietary VoIP headsets,” Spyglass discovered. Dependence on these single-use tools also forced certain team members to carry around a collection of assorted devices.
Time-consuming processes: The healthcare professionals Spyglass surveyed emphasized just how little time clinicians, in particular nurses, have to use clinical communication tools. If clinicians find standardized procedures inconvenient, they are likely to skip them.
Cumbersome interfaces: More than one hospital featured in the research reported that the need for additional logins contributed to adoption resistance. Apart from the time it takes to sign in to each portal, having to sign in and out of individual apps often means information is locked into one application.
What to look for in healthcare team communication tools
Well-planned rollouts and incentives can be useful tools to drive adoption of clinical communication and collaboration tools, but they don’t get to the root causes of resistance. Clinicians should find using a hospital communication system or device easier and more efficient than not using it. These capabilities of a communication and collaboration platform will help:
1. Multiple communication functions supported on a single platform
According to a recent Gartner report, “Healthcare provider CIOs have technology portfolios typically running into the range of 300 to 450 applications and technologies used by the HDO [healthcare delivery organization], with many that are obsolete, overlap with others and have small user populations.”ii
Clinical communication and collaboration systems can reduce the IT complexity, providing messaging or paging capabilities along with functions for staff, resource and care coordination. Some of these systems can assist with patient throughput, codes and alerts, and crisis management in addition to other clinical communication needs, eliminating the need to jump back and forth between systems, log in to multiple portals, or switch between devices.
2. Multi-modal communication for freedom of choice
A single platform shouldn’t limit users to a single device or communication mode. Different departments or units of a healthcare facility have different requirements, ranging from vulnerability to infection to vast geographic range . A hospital physician might use a computer on wheels (COW) in a patient’s room, a hospital-issued smartphone to receive secured text notifications while on site, and a personal smartphone to receive to emails at home. An administrator may prefer to receive critical notifications via multiple modalities at once, to ensure nothing gets missed.
The Spyglass report notes that a majority of hospitals have or are developing mobile communication strategies. While many are focused on smartphones for healthcare team communication, including bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs, a major benefit of a clinical communication and collaboration system should be bringing users of different devices and communication modes together on a single system.
3. Communication tools to optimize healthcare workflows
Clinicians are more likely to adopt solutions that address genuine pain points. Patient discharges and transitions are especially complex workflows that create frustration for care providers and drive lower satisfaction for patients. In one study, 76 percent of clinicians identified communication as a major source of delay for discharges and transition. Speaking to Spyglass, one CMIO complained “Patient discharge planning process can best be defined as ‘controlled chaos.’”
Care coordination complexity can be lowered with tools for managing bed availability; admission, discharge and transfer (ADT) alerts; and EHR integration for assigning care tasks. Tools that eliminate toil, such as repetitive manual documentation or notifications, also help streamline workflows and ease care delivery burdens.
4. Customizable structured communication options
Putting structure around routine communication should save time rather than create obstacles. Pre-templated messages, specialized care codes, and pre-defined contact groups reduce the effort necessary to complete messages, so that many notifications can be sent or responded to with one touch. When more information is necessary, customizable fields can allow clinicians or staff to provide unique details.
But communication time saved is only half the story. When the right information is provided to the right people the first time, response times can be faster and the appropriate patient care activities can happen more quickly.
5. HIPAA-compliant, secure communication
One of the biggest risks hospitals take by retaining out-of-date communication technology is the real possibility that staff will communicate private patient information via an insecure device. HIPAA fines are costly, as is the loss of patient trust. A Chief Nursing Officer interviewed by Spyglass reflected the experience of several hospitals, noting that many nurses and other care team members “are using their personal smartphones and unsecured SMS to address perceived communication inefficiencies and gaps.”
Providing a secure messaging option as part of a clinical communication and collaboration system is the first step to addressing this gap.
Choosing healthcare team communication tools
Resistance to change is human nature—but so is the adoption of tools to make necessary tasks simpler to perform. Modern, flexible technology can be adapted to new uses and to the demands of users. Healthcare team communication tools that save time and reduce complexity make change easier.
Read the white paper How Clinical Communication and Collaboration Technology Supports Value-Based Care.
Read a related post, Make the Business Case for Real-Time Healthcare Technology.
Explore the blog topic: Clinical Communication and Collaboration.
See LiveProcess Communicator, used for real-time healthcare communication and coordination software in healthcare delivery organizations.
Terry Zysk, CEO of LiveProcess, has more than two decades of experience in leading organizations that provide innovative solutions to the healthcare industry.
i Spyglass Consulting Group. “Healthcare without Bounds: Trends in Clinical Communications and Collaboration.” January 2018.
ii “Gartner. “Developing the IT Strategy for the Real-Time Health System Primer for 2018.” January 15, 2018.