Why Are Clinical Collaboration Platforms Essential to Healthcare?
- What elements a clinical collaboration platform entails and how it can unify your health system.
- What roles have access to a clinical collaboration platform and why.
- Why your healthcare system may need a clinical collaboration platform, not an EHR texting module.
Clinical collaboration platforms in healthcare are essential. Multi-disciplinary collaboration in healthcare is about sharing ideas to come up with the best treatment for the patient. It’s critical to share your thoughts—I can’t tell you how many times I’ve changed my mind about something after collaborating with another doctor. But if you can’t collaborate easily, you don’t tend to share your ideas with other doctors.
What’s in a name?
The healthcare industry uses the terms clinical communication platform, clinical communication and collaboration platform, and clinical collaboration platform. Clinical collaboration platform focuses on the inherent value offered, clinical collaboration.
What is a clinical collaboration platform?
The term clinical collaboration platform (CCP) describes a single platform that unifies fragmented healthcare communications across an enterprise or community, making communication and collaboration between clinicians fast, easy, and secure. CCPs integrate with existing clinical systems to provide secure messaging from mobile devices and desktop computers within a healthcare setting.
However, a CCP can be more than a messaging system providing access to patient information— a CCP can unify all aspects of the information chain to ensure better medical care for patients and a superior experience for the clinical staff. What elements of the information chain does a true CCP unify—and how? Let’s take a look at the seven most essential components of a real clinical collaboration platform.
Multi-disciplinary Collaboration Improves Care
Clinical collaboration platforms facilitate multi-disciplinary conversations, making convenient and secure communication between clinicians from multiple disciplines not only possible but easy.
Multi-disciplinary collaboration in healthcare, the ability to hold discussions, and share ideas with clinicians from various disciplines provide significant benefit to patient care and the healthcare organization itself.
The conversations may be intra-facility (within one hospital or medical facility) or inter-facility (occurring between two or more medical facilities.) These communications involve every person who handles patient information, from doctors, nurses, emergency staff, specialists, and lab technicians to administrators and department heads.
Today’s clinical collaboration platforms provide secure access in real-time to electronic health records, images and scans, test results, and clinicians themselves—from within the healthcare setting and extending to external locations outside the healthcare campus.
What are the essential elements of clinical collaboration platforms?
Healthcare organizations are trying to meet the needs addressed by a CCP by adding functionality to their EMR and patchworking together a variety of solutions that address voice, secure messaging, and scheduling. While every organization must determine the best answers to meet the needs of its specific situation, a true CCP can provide a broad range of powerful benefits and unifying functionality on one platform.
How do you know that the solution your group is considering is a true CCP? The following checklist will help you.
- A true CCP is cloud-based. A true CCP scales to thousands of users and implements rapidly. Healthcare organizations must ensure that their technology solutions can support the increasing numbers of users, growing numbers of off-premise healthcare provision, and a widening range of mobile devices in use by clinicians and patients alike.
- A true CCP unifies all communications channels in use in a healthcare setting. The true CCP replaces on-call scheduling systems, pagers, MDM, VoIP, mobile devices, alerts, critical teams, messaging apps, feature phones, smartphones, Legacy PA system speakers, fax machines, nurse calls, patient monitors, and more. A true CCP levels up communication and streams all channels into secure and easily consumable messaging.
- A true CCP is HIPAA-compliant. HIPAA compliance is an essential aspect of all clinical collaboration. HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) established a national set of standards protecting certain health information. “A major goal of the Privacy Rule is to assure that individuals’ health information is properly protected while allowing the flow of health information needed to provide and promote high-quality health care and to protect the public’s health and well being,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
HIPAA compliance extends well beyond the communications between a physician and patient. HIPAA guidelines impact all communications between clinicians and patients, between clinicians about a patient, third-party storage of all ePHI, all connections used to convey ePHI, all health insurers, all covered healthcare providers, healthcare clearinghouses, Medicare prescription drug card sponsors, and all administrative employees with access to ePHI.
With the advent of telemedicine, the government has issued guidelines for the protection of ePHI within telemedicine platforms. The HIPAA Security Rule stipulates:
- Only authorized users should have access to ePHI.
- A system of secure communication should be implemented to protect the integrity of ePHI.
- A system of monitoring communications containing ePHI should be implemented to prevent accidental or malicious breaches.
“Communicating ePHI at distance with secure messaging ensures that messages are communicated to the correct recipient, reduces the amount of time that is wasted between sending a message and receiving a reply, and protects the integrity of ePHI in compliance with the HIPAA guidelines on telemedicine,” according to the HIPAA Journal’s Guidelines on Telemedicine, Communicating ePHI at Distance.
- A true clinical collaboration platform enables secure messaging that extends well beyond the confines of the primary healthcare setting to include members of the extended community. In healthcare, secure messaging is one of the foundational elements of collaboration. Secure messaging extends beyond voice and text messaging to include sharing images and test results, updated on-call physician schedules, pharmacy reports, and more. As an increasing number of organizations provide care in ambulatory settings outside of the primary campus, sending and receiving secure messages is imperative.
- A true clinical collaboration platform provides voice calling within the platform, adapting to an organization’s existing VoIP-enabled telephony infrastructure. Providing instant access to secure voice communication on the same device clinicians are using for HIPAA-compliant messaging, and scheduling reduces device overload and increases platform adoption.
Unifying calls and messages in the same application streamline communication and save time.
- A true CCP includes native scheduling functionality within its platform. “Connecting to scheduling data helps organizations improve communication by eliminating the need for physicians to self- identify or nurses to hunt down phone numbers,” state the authors of the KLAS Clinical Communications Platforms 2020—Advanced Users Insights. (KLAS, page 6) Native scheduling functionality enables its workflow management system to deliver time-sensitive, patient-centric information to the right person, role, or team in real-time—including affiliated community clinicians. This powerful aspect of the true CCP eliminates layers of confusion and wasted time as scheduling information updates in real-time across all devices.
- A true clinical collaboration platform provides role-based messaging and the ability to assemble teams from within the platform. Why are role-based and team messaging so critical? Role-based communication, getting messages to the right person or group of people at the right time, ensures that all critical updates and messages are delivered to the right person or team instantly. Instead of trying to track someone down by name and ascertain where or when that person will be available, the message can be delivered to the role or team responsible.
In a true clinical collaboration platform, teams can be assembled to represent individual roles such as charge nurses, department residents, or ancillary services such as RT, OT/PT, case management, or entire healthcare facility floors. A true CCP will provide role-based messaging and the flexibility to build multiple teams within the platform.
Who should have access to a clinical collaboration platform?
Access to a healthcare facility’s CCP should include all clinicians, nurses, pharmacy, roles within the facility such as X-ray technicians, administrative staff, and certain representatives from the healthcare facility’s IT department. Also, any specialists or care-givers from related ambulatory settings. In a true CCP, the organization will have the ability to make the platform available to any of the individuals with a role in providing healthcare to the patient.
How is a CCP different from a mobile EHR texting module?
Some organizations consider adding mobile EHR texting modules instead of a clinical collaboration platform. From a distance, the two can appear to have similar capabilities, but there are significant differences that will factor in the ultimate decision.
Most EHR texting modules only integrate with other alert inputs, such as nurse call and patient monitors, that are already integrated with the EHR. A true CCP integrates a wide range of alert inputs (i.e., nurse call, patient monitors, EHRs) regardless of the organization’s EHR.
Clinical communication for patient care is a mission-critical activity that cannot be disrupted. However, in most cases, the texting module will not be available when EHR or other on-premise platforms are offline for planned or unplanned downtime (product updates, network failures, application failures, hardware failures.) A true CCP because it is cloud-based will be available 99.9% of the time to support critical client communications.
Most EHR texting modules (and other on-premise solutions) require multiple apps to connect to the entire care community. At the same time, a true cloud-based CCP has a single application and directory that ties all users together.
Finally, cost considerations are significant. The ongoing true cost of an on-premise solution like an EHR texting module includes the following:
- Cost to acquire, maintain and update on-premise servers.
- Cost to connect various facilities in the organization’s network.
- Cost for FTE maintenance of servers and product upgrades. (EHR vendors require the latest version of the EHR and IT resources to implement and maintain.)
Compare the previous on-premise cost considerations with the minimal costs of cloud-based CCP:
- No on-premise servers to acquire, maintain or update.
- No additional cost to connect facilities. All facilities are connected through the cloud.
- Minimal FTE cost. Updates are pushed through the cloud and are independent of the EHR.
Help in evaluating CCPs
Each organization, considering whether or not to deploy a clinical collaboration platform, has specific requirements the tool must supply. Reviewing the current report from KLAS, Clinical Communications Platforms 2020—Advanced User Insights, can provide helpful insights. This year’s report details the findings from in-depth evaluations of ten industry-leading vendors of clinical communication and collaboration platforms. The report has a real emphasis on clinical communication workflows and offers insights into best practices for utilizing this technology.
A true cloud-based mobile clinical collaboration platform offers healthcare organizations the best of all worlds, making multi-disciplinary collaboration a daily reality. Among the benefits a CCP offers is its easy and speedy setup, its use of the mobile devices clinicians are already working with (especially those CCPs that are device-agnostic, as Halo is), and the reduced maintenance required from the organization’s IT department.
In addition to facilitating multi-disciplinary collaboration, healthcare organizations stand to realize cost savings from eliminating outdated equipment such as pagers, overhead paging systems, legacy phone systems, whiteboards, fax machines, and more—as well as improved workflow efficiency and reductions in related fees and expenditures.
Thank you for reading – let us know if we can help you with your clinical collaboration!