The Importance of Role-Based Messaging in Healthcare

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Do you remember the classic board game where you have to go back and forth with your opponent deducing which characters on the board you’ve each selected? It’s still played by children today, and unfortunately by healthcare teams as well. Every day, healthcare teams are forced to play a game of “Guess Who?” is on-call if they do not have systems in place for role-based messaging. 

To help you move past this game and to more reliable clinical communications, we will explain the importance of role-based messaging for healthcare teams by covering the following topics in this blog:

What is role-based messaging?

The phrase role-based messaging is used to describe communication systems in which messages are delivered to on-call professionals in specific roles or functions. 

This is in contrast to communication systems where exact contact information and/or knowledge of the on-call schedules is required to send messages to the correct recipient.

For healthcare teams, role-based messaging can be extremely powerful when applied to clinical communication and collaboration systems.

How does role-based messaging work?

To illustrate how role-based messaging improves clinical communication and collaboration, imagine that you are an emergency room nurse. 

The patient who has entered your unit is experiencing heart failure, and you need to contact the on-call cardiologist ASAP.

You know that there are multiple on-call cardiologists who work in shifts: Dr. Smith, Dr. Lee, Dr. Jones, and Dr. Williams. 

You can never reliably assume which Dr. is on-call at any given time as they regularly swap their shifts with each other to accommodate their personal lives and time off.

You rifle through paper on-call schedules to find that Dr. Williams is on-call tonight. You’re presented with another challenge, as Dr. Williams only joined the team this week and you still have not been provided his contact information. As you attempt to contact the other cardiologists, you learn that the hospital administrators have failed to inform you that Dr. Jones resigned abruptly last week.

All the while, your colleagues in the ER grapple to make care decisions for the critically-ill patient as they await the expert guidance of a cardiologist. 

As you can see, there are many communication and process roadblocks in this scenario which all delay delivery of care.

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How role-based messaging would have helped in this scenario

With role-based messaging, this workflow becomes as simple as sending a high-priority message to the contact in your clinical communication app labeled “On-Call Cardiologist” rather than having to know the exact contact information and schedules of each on-call cardiologist. 

Whichever cardiologist is on-call at that time will receive your message, and the cardiologists who are not on-call will not be disturbed by any messages.

In the event that the first on-call cardiologist is unavailable, the message can be auto-escalated to the next cardiologist on call as a failsafe.

Overall, role-based messaging simplifies, accelerates and safeguards this process so that patients receive proper care more promptly. 

What is the impact of role-based messaging?

As illustrated by the earlier example, care team members without access to role-based messaging are forced to check the on-call schedule manually or try and memorize exactly which doctors and nurses are on-call at any given time. 

In a labor market where turnover is high, this can be especially exhausting as care team members come and go. 

Having to constantly shuffle through on-call schedules adds a layer of complexity to delivering care and could negatively impact patient outcomes. 

Worse yet, a care provider might falsely believe they correctly remember who’s on call only to try and contact the wrong doctor.

Worse yet, a care provider may lose precious time in life-and-death situations trying to reach a care provider they incorrectly believe to be on call. 

Role-based messaging reduces error and saves time by routing messages directly to whoever is on-call. Exact names and details are not needed, as they are instead encapsulated by one point of contact which then routes the message to whoever is on-call to respond at a given time.

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How can role-based messaging be implemented? 

Though role-based messaging may seem like a silver bullet solution for clinical communication, it cannot be emphasized enough how important it is for role-based messaging systems to be properly configured and continually maintained.

During high-stakes situations, users of this type of system are taking a leap of faith messaging a role-based contact without knowing for sure who is on the other end of the line. 

Your team will gradually grow comfortable with a well-functioning system for role-based messaging, but any configuration error will evaporate their trust. 

A mismanaged role-based messaging system can lead to delays and errors in care delivery, as well as frustration and finger-pointing within care delivery teams.

Administrators are responsible for maintaining and regularly testing the role-based messaging system, while care team members must be empowered to report any errors or incidents they encounter.

That said, escalation and failsafe systems can be put into place to ensure message delivery in the event of any accidental scheduling or coverage lapses. 

If the scheduled on-call doctor does not acknowledge the message within a set interval of time, an escalation allows it to be quickly relayed to another available doctor.

In the rare event of a complete lapse in on-call coverage, OnPage’s scheduler will deliver the message to all members of the on-call group rather than stopping the flow of information.

Role-based messaging with OnPage

OnPage is your trusted partner for clinical communication and collaboration, including role-based messaging. 

With OnPage, healthcare professionals get the best of both worlds within one system: high-priority notifications for your most critical situations plus HIPAA-compliant clinical texting for ongoing collaboration. Add-on features include live-call routing and dedicated lines.

OnPage is trusted by thousands of healthcare professionals worldwide and was recognized as a G2 Leader for Fall 2022.

To learn more and request a demo, visit or give us a call at +1 (781) 916-0040.

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