Beating the phone-tree game with comprehensive, secure clinical communication

By Scott Raymond  /  11 Aug 2014

At Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center (OCMMC), we recognize that communication among providers is crucial to our daily workflows, particularly given our six-hospital integrated delivery system. With physicians, nurses and other members of our care team dispersed across various sites, efficient communication can be a tough task to manage. More importantly, in the digital age, anything that has patient data in it is a tremendous security concern – the demands of HIPAA compliance on top of a high volume of network traffic can be a source of concern for any leadership team.

A couple of years ago, our methods of communication were quite antiquated – we realized that the phone-tree game wasn’t very effective, so we set our sights on enhancing the communication experience to beyond the one-way approach. With that, we took a particular look at where electronic patient health information (ePHI) was most at risk to be lost in the cracks or breached in translation, particularly honing in on complex, multi-user processes where data monitoring is crucial.

In order to identify opportunities for improvement, we implemented a time motion study to track what was actually occurring at our various sites and communications exchanges. The results were eye opening – the back-and-forth loop of communication sometimes took as many as six hours – so we knew a change needed to be made.

Since implementing a secure, clinician-to-clinician communications strategy, we’ve seen drastic improvements across all of our sites. Physician call-back time was shortened substantially, from an average of 45 minutes to an average of 14, and the proportion of call cycles completed within 2 minutes increased from 11 percent to 22 percent.

These results indicate that our teams are able to do their jobs at a higher level of efficiency and ease, so our physicians have been eager to adopt new best practices to streamline communications and in turn eliminate costly bottlenecks in the care delivery process. We’ve eliminated the middleman in communications transactions, allowing our teams to deliver the highest quality of care with the resources they need at their fingertips. Effective and secure internal communication is key for hospitals, and I am therefore eager to continue to implement new ways to manage our workforce.

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