- Keeping healthcare professionals connected requires more than pagers.
- More efficient communication is key to addressing patient care.
- Alert fatigue is real and needs to be considered when evaluating your communication systems.
Before Dr. Jose Barreau donned a white coat, and long before becoming the CEO of Halo Health, he sat in waiting rooms with his grandmother. Jose would often take his grandmother to oncology appointments to treat her Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It was hearing the physician map out her treatment plan that eventually led Jose to become an oncologist. His grandmother fought her cancer, and made a full recovery. And Jose fought against cancer as a physician for 15 years, before starting Halo Health.
Jose recalls his time in medicine with the Healthcare de Jure podcast and discusses the future of healthcare communication.
“By practicing medicine and working with patients, I realized that healthcare communication was a big problem,” says Jose. “It was a real reason physicians were frustrated with their work and sometimes why patients didn’t get the best care possible.”
Jose saw the field of medicine evolve through technology. “Obviously, electronic health records swept in,” says Jose. “[But they] still left a void between communication and documentation.”
The gap that Jose saw was between healthcare workers and machines. The lag time that comes with gathering test results manually, finding the right person on-call to page, then contacting that physician draws out what could be a nearly instant process. Jose believes that closing this gap is one of the foundations for efficient patient care.
“The next frontier is communication and collaboration,” says Jose. “We jumped in to tackle it.”
Taking on the medical tech beast — the pager
“The issue [of medical communication technology] might go back 70 years to the pager,” says Jose. He explains how the pager was a sign of prestige for doctors, and at the time, in the 1950s and 60s, it was a very efficient machine.
The problem with pagers is that they are one-directional forms of communication. They were never intended for ongoing communication in real-time. And yet, a 2017 study also found that 80% of hospital-based clinicians are still using pagers. Health care workers cannot use pagers to communicate in real-time like more advanced medical communication solutions — like Halo Health. The Halo Health Platform is a unified communication and on-call scheduling platform for healthcare providers.
A Change in Patient Care
Jose also notes that the flow of patient care has transformed the needs of medical communication. “The requirements for patient care have evolved,” says Jose. Typically in the past, a patient would have one doctor. Today, it’s common to have an entire team of specialists attending to one patient. The need to collaborate wasn’t there like it is today. In a given day, patients could have nine people around them at any point, rotating in and out of shifts.
“A lot of communication is with people you don’t know,” adds Jose. One of the needs in healthcare communication technology — and a limitation of pagers — is contacting specific roles, like the cardiologist on call, not individuals. Healthcare workers need to get the correct information to the right people at the proper time.
“Communication is the final frontier,” says Jose.
Fighting Alert Fatigue
One of the downfalls of pagers was the inherent lack of evolution. Jose explains how unified communication platforms should use text and voice capabilities while bridging notifications between people and machines. For example, a lab could come back with alarming results, and that machine could immediately alert the physician. The future, says Jose, is finding the right balance between too much communication and not enough.
How much interruption is good? How much is too much? Halo Health Jose has navigated wrestled with the fine line between the two. Connecting the proper alerts and the settings of those alerts is essential to prioritization, but too many alerts can be draining.
Unique to the Halo Health platform, With platforms like Halo, you can see the holistic workflow of providers and study it. This allows providers and leaders to see if too many alerts are coming through or not enough for optimal patient care. “Now we can capture [that data], act on it, and make communication more efficient,” says Jose. Being able to measure how much a particular department or person is being alerted can help bridge communication gaps and break down the silos of healthcare, and ease symptoms of fatigue.
One of the goals of the Halo Health platform, says Jose, is to protect people from over-communication. The Halo Health Platform can screen calls, mark someone as off-duty, and go into do not disturb mode. All of these settings protect healthcare teams from alert fatigue.
Jose goes on to explain how the ability to prioritize in a medical setting keeps everyone moving efficiently. “When you feel more efficient, you are happier, and your quality of life goes up,” he notes. With the help of the Halo Health platform, clinicians can say, “Quality of life is definitely going up, and alert fatigue is going down.”