The future of clinical communications – bright but busy

By Jeff Brown  /  13 Jun 2013

I’ve been talking with a lot of providers lately, not only about how they can improve their clinical communications tools and processes now, but also about how they can set themselves up for future success in a world where communications modalities and devices seem to be ever-changing. I’m definitely excited about the future for clinician-to-clinician communications, and while I don’t hold a crystal ball, see a number of opportunities for the industry in the years ahead.

  1. The mobility movement – Sometime soon I believe every physician will carry some type of tablet as a way to stay better connected with hospital and practice information systems, other clinicians and office staff. I was recently impressed with a group of residents who all carry iPads and are using Apple’s iChat to communicate with each other. Nurses are also on the go with any variety of smart phones and devices that enable them to exchange critical information. Supporting all these new communication modalities with one-off applications will make it impossible for providers to keep up, but if they instead take an enterprise-wide view and implement a full platform along with the right process improvements, they’ll set themselves up for success.
  1. Optimizing clinical communications around the EMR – Providers of all kinds have invested millions in EMR installations, but they’re starting to realize that an EMR isn’t the end-all-be-all. In fact, when it comes to communications, in some cases the EMR has actually had an adverse effect. While the EMR is effective at capturing and storing data, it’s definitely not optimized to communicate that data to the appropriate provider. There is an opportunity for providers to look at communications solutions that integrate with EMRs to automatically push relevant clinical information to the right physician, at the right time, in the right way – helping further untether these mobile clinicians from the EMR.
  1. Integrated care coordinationAs the industry moves to more integrated care delivery models, communication between providers both within and outside the hospital will become increasingly important. I’ve talked with clinical leaders who are expanding their care management teams, not only in the inpatient setting, but in the ED and the field to help with care transitions. The patient’s entire care team will need to be connected to one another – both by documenting in an EMR for all to see, and by real-time communication about the care path for this patient. Providers are starting to make this shift, and I can already envision a world where clinicians have the opportunity to message with another person on that patient’s  care team (e.g. the hospitalist, cardiologist, or care manager ) or the entire care team (e.g. to obtain discharge orders).
  1. Virtual care delivery models – To expand the reach of their services and to increase the speed of care delivery, some health systems are already looking at telemedicine and in-home medical devices and technologies as strategies for creating “virtual” care environments. These solutions are collecting and storing critical clinical information just as they would in the hospital, and will need “smart” capabilities that allow them to notify the appropriate provider(s) when there’s a change in the patient’s condition that needs attention. As this trend continues to unfold, better communication between man and machine will become a necessity.

What other trends are you seeing that you think will impact clinical communications in the years ahead?

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