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OnPage: Unified clinical communications for care teams

Unified clinical communications

Gone are the days when a patient could go into a healthcare facility and only see one physician from start to finish. Today, care teams are replacing the traditional approach to healthcare. These newer models are more patient-centered and include “Teamlets ” and “Family Team Care ” as part of their approach. In order for these new models to be effective, they not only need changes in resources but also require a change in the way they communicate.
These patient-centered, interdisciplinary teams work across different floors, facilities, and locations. They are also dispersed across multiple sites or even countries. These teams of physicians, nurses, pharmacists and care coordinators work in an intense, fast-paced environment, ready to respond to changing conditions and sudden crises. They must scan and gather information, apply their unique expertise and keep one another fully informed at all times. To do that, they must continually converse with each other in real time – regardless of each member’s physical location.

What tools do these teams need to be effective? How can they continually converse with each other in real time to complete their mission? That is the question this white paper aims to solve. We look into:
• A look into Patient Centered Care Teams
• The need for unified communications
• How EHR’s have led to a decrease in healthcare personnel communication
• The requirements of team communications tools


A patient-centered Care Team model calls for a multi-disciplinary skill to determine optimal treatment plans for patients. Team care means doing “more with more” to improve outcomes and reduce costs but bringing more cooks into the kitchen has traditionally raised red organizational flags for higher cost, group think, and extended time in meetings. Aren’t we striving to do more with less? These cautions have merit, but to make the Patient-Centered Care Team an effective tool for health care improvement, information sharing and improved logistics can overcome “business as usual.”

According to the this HIMSS blog team based care models have a few key components :

Care teams need to be fluid enough to involve experts that can help ensure more thorough care plans. Complex medical care teams may involve several specialists, while other patients may require social and welfare support to improve care. It’s conceivable that some care teams won’t involve a physician at all!

Small, community providers often do not have staff and expertise to accommodate all patient needs, especially those with complex clinical and social needs. These providers will need to work more closely with community providers to create formal relationships that establish “virtual” care teams as needed.

While physicians, especially small primary care providers, take on broad responsibilities for patient care, team models emphasize the physician as the orchestrator of the care plan, with nurses and extenders providing more services directly to patients . The goal here is to create optimal use of expertise and skills.

Population health strategies provide an excellent stepping off point to structure care teams. The ability to understand patient panels by condition and need will enable the care teams to organize activities efficiently.

Within patient panels, team members need to understand not only their organizational duties to provide care, but also the ability to see each patient in their broadest context. This context is generally found within the patient care plan that is established through team input and developed over time.


If these care teams are going to be diverse, scattered and involve several individuals who need to be in sync with each other to carry out a plan of action for their patient then an organized and easy to use communications systems needs to be in place. Furthermore these communications need to be unified.

Unified communications bring together contacts, voice, voicemail, email, instant messaging, presence awareness (the ability to see which colleagues are available), and conferencing into one place. In addition, it can be easily integrated with EHR systems for communication-enabled complex care processes. Care teams can determine the best way to converse within seconds and see who is in a meeting and who’s available to talk. This allows for constant, secured contact with teammates through phones, tablets or laptops as they move from a clinic to a hospital, or even at home.

Unified communications available from any device could help a nurse more quickly call or instant message a physician for approval to discharge a patient, adjust the dose of a medication, or hold a private conversation with a patient from anywhere in the hospital or clinic. Care team members could also participate virtually in care team meetings from any location — and quite possibly, most care team meetings would start on time. A pharmacist could answer questions about medications or dosages over instant messaging and dictate a message back using speech to text. Most importantly, clinicians can confirm that their colleague or patient hears and understands what they need to know and do.

All of these capabilities stand to substantially improve the quality, safety, speed and cost of care by allowing more precise conversations, reducing delays, and leaving patients with the reassurance that their care team is on the same page. Health systems that can integrate unified communications with their EHR before their competitors do will be better positioned to transform what are now teams of autonomous experts into expert teams fully equipped to complete their common patient-centered mission.

To find out how EHR’s have led to a decrease in healthcare personnel communication and what the requirements are for a  team communications tools download the whitepaper

Unified clinical communications