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Increase Healthcare Team Collaboration with New Tech Tools

Increase Healthcare Team Collaboration with New Tech Tools

By: Catherine Conlan 

Think of healthcare apps and you probably think of step trackers and calorie counters. But for healthcare teams, apps can be powerful tools to help improve patient care and foster team-based healthcare and collaboration.

“In medicine, you’re not working as an island,” says Dr. Andrew Brooks, co-founder and chief medical officer of TigerText, based in Santa Monica, California. Employees have to rely on teamwork in healthcare, interacting with a lot of people throughout the organization as they deliver care.

The good news: relatively simple technology is helping to improve healthcare delivery and employee engagement

Here are three ways that technology is helping to transform healthcare team collaboration.

Foster Communication among Providers
Apps like Whisper, WhatsApp and Snapchat facilitate communication among young people. These tools lack the security and privacy guarantees mandated for healthcare technology.

But apps that are compliant with regulations such as HIPAA can improve team-based healthcare; they also make it easier for providers to securely compare notes on patient cases, images, test results and share other important data from any location using a chatroom-like setting or direct messaging.

For example, best practices dictate that doctors contact specialists directly by calling and explaining why they are referring a patient to them, says Kenneth Garay, chief medical officer at Jersey City Medical Center RWJ-Barnabas Health in Jersey City, New Jersey. Yet too often, by the time the referral is called in, the specialist may be on rounds or out of the hospital, unable to take a call. “It delays care and lengthens the stay of the patient,” Garay says.

To help bridge this gap, his organization uses Practice Unite from Uniphy Health, based in Newark, New Jersey. The app authenticates users to communicate and share information in real time. “Now I don’t have to wait for the specialist to call back. I know it was sent out and when it was received. If there’s no response, I can resend it. It’s amazing,” he says.

The app has helped shorten courses of care and improve care quality. According to one case study, the app improved metrics such as inpatient care delays and length of post-surgical stays, resulting in annual savings of $2 million. “It’s the best thing since sliced bread,” Garay says.

Empower Employees to Do Better
As a service provider, the healthcare industry would score fairly low when it comes to user satisfaction, Brooks says. Now, with increased importance placed on patient satisfaction scores, healthcare organizations are looking to improve the patient experience via employee engagement and empowerment.

With collaboration apps, healthcare employers can empower employees to communicate as effectively as workers in other service industries, such as hospitality and restaurants -- and ultimately provide better patient care. These apps can help providers act on patient feedback in real time, creating a better patient experience.

With the tablet-based Humm system, for example, users can sign up to receive notifications whenever a patient isn’t satisfied. Individual subscriptions may depend on assigned outcomes, says Humm CEO Bernard Briggs. For example, housekeeping will sign up for cleanliness alerts, while a nurse manager might want to sign up for all alerts to see the big picture.

This type of real-time feedback can benefit “historically siloed” departments that were once at odds with each other, says Dr. Michael Bennick, medical director of the patient experience at Yale New Haven Hospital and chairman of Yale New Haven Health’s patient experience council. “Now, they’re in a healthy competition as they try to see who can do the real-time recovery first when there’s opportunity for improvement,” Bennick says.

Better Staff Engagement 
By gauging real-time sentiment among patients, apps provide an opportunity to give employees a virtual pat on the back -- a boon for healthcare providers who don’t always intercept positive feedback. 

For employers who are looking to increase engagement, this level of transparency can be a big boost to the healthcare team.

With Humm, discharge surveys (the management equivalent of the exit interview) capture information about how patients rate their experience; Briggs says his organization has found that about 70 percent of comments are positive. 

Before technology was introduced, this information wasn’t always tracked or readily available to healthcare employers. Now apps make it easier to quantify and share survey information.

At Yale New Haven, Bennick says a dashboard displays encouraging comments to providers. “It creates an atmosphere of celebrating the positives, which is useful when people are talking about burnout and a lack of engagement,” he says. 

Being able to respond quickly to feedback and successes has led to quarter-over-quarter improvements in Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems measurements, he says.