physician communications

Fragmentation of care occurs when physician communications lack the necessary tools and methods for coordinated healthcare communications. For example, with fragmented communications, communications will break down between emergency department and care centers or between house staff at end-of-shift or between different care departments managing a patients’ needs. Indeed, in a typical scenario, more than 1 in 5 hand offs involve communication errors that could endanger patient care outcomes.

Much of the explanation for why much of physician communications are uncoordinated and fragmented rests with traditional pagers. Today, close to 80 percent (79.8 percent) of clinicians continue to use hospital-provided pagers and 49 percent of those clinicians report they receive patient care-related messages most commonly by pager. However, in an increasingly digital world, pagers just don’t cut it. Pagers are not only antiquated but also dangerous.

In order to break this cycle, healthcare institutions and clinics need to bring on secure clinical communications which enable encryption of exchanged information but also facilitate responding to messages with phone calls – a communication that can clarify any uncertainties. With secure messaging, physicians can exchange secure texts and easily follow up with phone calls to improve clarity.

The goal of this blog is to further delve into how physician to physician communications can be improved. To achieve this end, this blog will look at the following three points:

  • Further highlight how fragmentation occurs
  • Describe the process of how secure clinical communications work
  • Emphasize how clinical communications improves physician to physician communications

How fragmentation occurs

The increased use of asynchronous communication whereby physicians communicate via pagers inhibits the number of direct conversations that take place between physicians. Pagers make it difficult for physicians to reach one another and exchange information.

Pagers have limited range

Outside of the few square blocks neighboring a hospital, a pager often won’t receive its intended page. So, if a doctor or nurse is at home or taking care of business away from the hospital, they may not hear their pages. Even if the physician is at the opposite end of the hospital from the pager, the ability to miss pages persists.

Pagers don’t enable two-way communication

Two-way communication or face-to-face communications are what is required in order for effective exchange of information to occur. However, pagers are not effective at allowing the flow of information to occur. Traditional pagers can only receive pages but cannot initiate or further communication. In hospitals in general, text messaging is not allowed.

Process of secure clinical communications

Lack of appropriate communication in patient transfers and hand-offs increases medical errors; every time a transfer occurs, there is another opportunity to drop the ball.  How does one know what the other is doing?  And maybe more importantly, how does one know what the other is thinking? This is where secure clinical communications can step in to change the way the game is played. By shifting communications from pagers to HIPAA-compliant secure communication platforms, physicians can immediately receive updates and alerts when a patient’s status changes.

Implementing a secure clinical communications platform requires:

  • Establishing a clear policy

Make sure that all physicians commit to adopting and downloading the HIPAA compliant solution and that HIPAA compliance becomes a focus of practitioners. Make it the policy of the hospital that all digital communications go through HIPAA compliant technologies. Additionally, make sure that if the hospital has a BYOD policy, practitioners are instructed on what applications they can use for exchanging patient information.

  • Communications need to facilitate workflows

Secure clinical communications must successfully integrate with the given workflow of the hospital or clinic if they are to be fully adopted. In part, this means that when communications are sent, they arrive in a way that grabs the recipient’s attention and demands a quick response.

This immediate response eliminates the need for practitioners to send messages and wait for a response. Additionally, if practitioners receive messages with the phone number of the sender, they can call back for further clarification.

Secure clinical communications improves physician communications

For secure clinical communications platforms to improve physician communications, adopted platforms need to also provide a way for practitioners to immediately communicate either through face-to-face discussion or immediate text. As has been previously described, pagers do not facilitate this result. According to a poll, eighty-two percent of respondents to a poll said face-to-face discussion was the most effective form of communicating with co-workers about patient care, while 80 percent reported that secure texting was the most effective. Additionally, delayed communication methods (such as pagers) were cited as the least effective communication means.

Here are two scenarios in which secure communication platforms can facilitate physician communications:

Emergency room

Emergency departments provide an excellent space in which to introduce secure clinical communications with the goal of minimizing fragmentation.  In a typical emergency room, there are multiple challenges around coordinating and handing off patient care. Physicians are waiting for colleagues to respond to consult requests or are facing delays in waiting for key test information. By having a secure messaging platform that immediately alerts the message recipient, delays would inevitably be minimized.

Additionally, by having messaging templates that they can respond to, recipients can easily reply to colleague requests and let them know that they are available for a consult or that a hospital room is ready or that test results are ready. By having this immediacy at hand, the fragmentation of communications is minimized, and the speed of patient care is improved.

Another challenge that often comes up in emergency rooms is deciphering handwritten information and delays receiving information. With the ability to exchange robust information in a HIPAA compliant manner or request clarification through HIPAA compliant messaging or request a call back through the application, much of the delay that happens in an emergency room can be minimized.

End of shift

Effective communications between physicians is especially vital between staff at end-of-shifts as care instructions can be lost or forgotten if there is not a process in place to ensure effective transfer or care. By ensuring that your secure messaging platform has a scheduling component, the on-call physician can simply forward the care instructions for a patient to the overnight shift physician.

How OnPage can help

OnPage was first-to-market with its secure, HIPAA compliant clinical communications platform. The OnPage platform ensures that physicians have a secure method for communicating with colleagues. OnPage enables physicians to connect with one another immediately and practically communicate in real time. By enhancing collaboration, the delivery of physician instructions is facilitated and fewer communication errors result.

Read our whitepaper on Better Clinical Communications. Better Patient Outcomes or take a free test drive of our application today!

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