5 Ways Healthcare Communication Technology Fosters Staff Connections

by | Sep 4, 2018

nursing-frantically-runningHospitals find FRED (Frantically Running Every Day) among their staff for many reasons, some of which we’ve explored in earlier posts: 

Lack of time to recover from stressful events

Concerns about safety due to threats and violence in the workplace

Perceptions of inadequate or unsafe staffing levels

All of these issues were identified by the Nursing Executive Council in a report on supporting a resilient workforce. The NEC also observed a fourth factor: feeling isolated in a crowd. The report suggested many causes for this feeling of isolation, including heavy responsibilities, new care protocols, decentralized nursing stations and private patient rooms.

One other reason for that FRED feeling caught my eye: new technology in healthcare. As an advocate for the power of healthcare team communication technology to improve care workflow and patient care, I believe users can and should experience technology as a clear net positive.

Challenges and benefits of healthcare communication technology

Healthcare technology sometimes gets a bad rap. Both doctors and patients expressed frustration with the move to EMRs, most notably when laborious data entry appeared to interfere with human conversation. Alarm fatigue has been a genuine safety concern in some hospitals.

Nevertheless, those healthcare technologies are here to stay, and with good reason. EMRs allow clinicians to share information quickly and easily, and can help patients access their own healthcare data. Alarms can provide early warnings to healthcare providers, protecting the health and safety of patients. A recent report from Gartner found that 50 percent of the toil embedded in nursing and care team workflows will be reduced or eliminated through targeted automation, artificial intelligence and analytics by 2022.

If your healthcare organization want to capitalize on these gains in productivity and care outcomes without increasing your nurses’ sense of isolation, you’ll need to employ healthcare communication technology in a way that builds a sense of human connection.

Best practices for healthcare communication technology

Technology that can be learned quickly, used easily and customized individually will offer more convenience than inconvenience. Using technology that enables these best practices can foster a sense of connection, teamwork and collaboration.

  1. Use two-way communication

Traditional hospital communication has often been unidirectional.  Calling codes on the PA system or contacting an individual via pager may not bring needed assistance on the first try, which increases anxiety in addition to delaying patient care. A communication platform that provides responsiveness and accountability along with speed can ameliorate both staff distress and complications or dissatisfaction from preventable waits.

For example, when a nurse needs to page a physician, either by name or by specialty, the physician can respond with availability. However, if for some reason the physician does not respond, a tool such as LiveProcess Communicator will show whether or not the physician has received and seen the page. If not, the page can be sent again, or an alternative physician can be found if needed. The LiveProcess interface allows physicians to respond with preset options, so confirming receipt and availability can happen instantly with minimal effort. As a result, nurses receive quick assurance that support is on the way.

  1. Make connections easy

Technology that is unfamiliar is technology that will not be used. While frontline nurses have sometimes been charged with resistance to new healthcare technologies, the reality is that nurses are always adapting to new patient demands, new regulations and new treatments. New healthcare technology that adds value or streamlines labor without disrupting established workflow will be much more readily adopted. New technology that takes weeks to learn or distracts from patient care may lead to user workarounds and frustration.

[Read more about nursing and technology on our blog.]

When it comes to healthcare communication technology, choice, convenience and flexibility facilitate both implementation and adoption. Because LiveProcess Communicator is multi-modal, users can communicate using technologies they already know, including email, page, fax, voice or text, from any smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop. A communication platform specifically designed for healthcare environments is also easily adaptable to nursing needs.

  1. Foster collaboration with clinical communication and collaboration tools

Two-way communication can go a long way in helping care teams work together more effectively. True collaboration, however, requires empowering each staff member to work at the top of his or her license, so every necessary role is filled by the person best suited to do it and decisions are made with all relevant input.

Healthcare communication technology designed to optimize hospital operations can foster this goal in several ways. Nurse supervisors and staffing coordinators can use shift management tools to confirm that each shift has the right mix of skills and certifications. Pre-set messaging and pre-defined cross-disciplinary contact groups assemble the appropriate teams for particular codes, such as teams for rapid response, sepsis, transplant, or behavioral emergency. When repetitive elements of healthcare communication and recordkeeping can be automated or accomplished with one touch, nurses can spend their time performing the care-related tasks for which they are uniquely trained.

  1. Mobilize the right resources

Care coordination has become increasingly complex in modern healthcare facilities. Patients tend to be older, taking more medications, and suffering from chronic conditions that will not be resolved during a hospital stay. These factors have made admission, treatment and discharge more complicated than ever before.

This can be especially true in the emergency department (ED), where patients can run the gamut from trauma victims to repeat visitors lacking access to regular care. ED nurses are called upon to prioritize not only patients, but also lab results, beds, transportation and hospital admissions. LiveProcess can be used to communicate information from EMS to help the ED prepare appropriately, eliminating a frantic rush when a patient arrives. Nurses in the ED or other departments can also use LiveProcess to ensure that they have adequate supplies if there is a sudden surge.

  1. Ensure ongoing support

Even the best care team technology can feel like a burden if it isn’t working properly. Many patients have seen a nurse gamely trying to get a response from a recalcitrant computer. When it comes to providing communication in a healthcare setting, however, consistency is essential. A cloud-based clinical communication and collaboration platform such as LiveProcess can provide the security and redundancy to assure that care team communications are always available. LiveProcess support is also available 24/7/365 when help is needed.

The crucial ingredient: joy in practice

The NEC concluded their report on building a foundation for nursing resilience with the reminder that creating small opportunities for joy in practice can make a big difference. One of the methods they suggest is using humor throughout the day, to increase creativity and cohesion while reducing burnout and absenteeism.

We made FRED into the leading man of this blog series to add a little humor to a discussion of serious topics: nurse burnout and nursing resilience. One of the most important lessons leaders in both healthcare and healthcare technology can take away from FRED is that nurses don’t just need tools to work smarter and to do more with less. Nurses need care team communication tools that will help them feel more confident and more connected to other members of the care team, so they can kick FRED to the curb and keep their focus on giving top quality patient care.

Next steps

Join the webinar: How to Build Resilience and Reduce Nurse Burnout Through Better Care Team Communication.

Read more about alleviating alarm fatigue with a quiet hospital communication system.

Learn how healthcare communication technology improves trauma response in this case study.

Explore resources for real-time healthcare.

View the LiveProcess Critical Codes datasheet.

See how healthcare facilities use LiveProcess Communicator.

An abbreviated version of this blog originally appeared in Health Management Technology

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.