Hospital Communication Systems: Structured Messaging to Reduce Toil in Healthcare Teams

by | Feb 5, 2018

structured-communication-hospital-team-coordination-messagesAs healthcare providers strive to do more with less, identifying opportunities to reduce unnecessary labor will be crucial to maintaining high-quality patient care. In Healthcare Moment: Enhance Care Team Effectiveness by Eliminating ‘Toil’, Gartner analyst Barry Runyon called this unnecessary labor toil and defined it as “drudgery and does not contribute to productivity and worker morale.”

At Methodist Health System in Dallas much routine labor around hospital communication has been reduced or eliminated by implementing a clinical communication and collaboration solution that provides a hospital communication system for both health system emergency preparedness and day-to-day hospital workflow. Although Methodist Health System initially began using LiveProcess as a hospital communication system for emergency management in major disasters, the potential for streamlining everyday hospital workflows for all staff convinced them to stay with LiveProcess for almost a decade so far.

Structured communication for frequently used messages and notifications

Although every patient is unique, much of the hospital workflow required to care for them — admissions, discharge, care coordination — are similar. Especially in an emergency, having set protocols helps ensure everyone knows his or her role and can carry it out as quickly as possible.

The same is true for structured communication, which is used in many industries to prevent ambiguity and dramatically increase efficiency — in essence, reducing toil. The right hospital communication system makes structured messaging work for healthcare, too.

At Methodist Mansfield Medical Center, one of four Methodist Health System hospitals, the structured hospital communication system provided by LiveProcess allows the hospital to simplify communication and automate its repetitive elements.

In the trauma center, pre-programmed notification groups — for example, trauma surgeons, the blood bank, and radiology — identify the appropriate recipients with one touch. Trauma notifications at levels one, two and three are pre-populated with customized phrases that will be repeated in every notification, so no time or effort is wasted. The PBX operator fills in a few remaining details and send the notification. Recipient responses can also be customized and automated, so receipt or availability can be confirmed with a tap on the screen.

“Mansfield’s trauma notification has been great. It is more reliable than the pagers, and quicker,” said Wes Dunham, Director of Emergency Management at Methodist Health System.

Get the case study to learn 5 ways Methodist Health System uses structured messaging to improve emergency response and day-to-day operations.

Situational awareness through staged, structured hospital communications

Hospitals train to ensure that they are ready to execute emergency plans as soon an adverse event strikes. A structured communication plan can enhance and expand situational awareness without additional labor. For Methodist Health System, the most frequent type of emergency is severe weather. To maximize emergency preparedness, they instituted a two-tier emergency communication process. An initial mass notification alerts all staff to the increased likelihood of take-cover actions. The second alert, which happens much less frequently, directs staff to execute those actions.

Methodist Health System doesn’t limit this type of communication to emergencies. They’ve also developed a two-tier protocol for developing situations that are not urgent, but still require attention. A partially pre-populated message can be completed with specific details at the time it’s sent, letting staff know that managers are aware of a situation and are responding appropriately, without taking undue time. This notification lets staff focus on their work and prevents an overload of calls to PBX operators, sparing them needless toil as well. In rare cases, a second emergency activation response may follow the initial alert. But the primary value of the protocol has been to eliminate the time spent on individual communications over a non-urgent event.

Automatic triggers for faster emergency response times

As hospitals become more wired, there is increased potential for notifications that are initiated by an event rather than an individual, completely eliminating some forms of hospital communication toil. For example, a patient census notification could alert clinicians to prioritize completing patient discharges — reducing wait times for patients ready to go and improving patient flow to make resources available for other patients.

Methodist Health System is considering automatic triggers for mass casualty events, both to save precious time during a major emergency and to enhance hospital emergency preparedness overall. “The muscle memory and valuable repetition of going through the activation” is valuable, Dunham said, “even if you end up clearing it 10 minutes later.”

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Next steps

Methodist Health System has found a number of ways, big and small, to eliminate toil with a more efficient hospital communication system using LiveProcess. Learn more in the case study, Structured Communications Improve Emergency Response and Day-to-Day Operations.

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Learn about our emergency management platform for hospitals, health systems, and public agencies.

Read more blog posts about how to improve your hospital communication system with real-time two-way, multi-modal communication tools.

terry-zysk-100x100Terry Zysk, CEO of LiveProcess, has more than two decades of experience in leading organizations that provide innovative solutions to the healthcare industry.