This year at HIMSS, the floor buzzed with talk of moving beyond just collecting data with an EMR, to connecting and sharing that data and information across multiple facilities and analyzing that information so that we have a better picture of our unique patient populations. And while I agree that this vision is an exciting one, we’re still neglecting one big piece of the puzzle: making sure all clinicians using all this data have the means to consult, collaborate and actually talk about it.
According to the recent 2013 HIMSS iHIT study – which aimed to assess the impact of healthcare IT solutions on communications – 80 percent of respondents indicated that the information provided through the HIT tools available at their organization improved access to data needed to provide safe patient care. But only half of respondents felt that these solutions provide adequate assurance that interdisciplinary colleagues are receiving appropriate communications. This tells me that clinicians are getting the information they need, sure, but they still aren’t talking to one another enough, so how much of this information is lost in translation?
This issue was also brought to light during our own recent analysis of an isolated group of physicians who were given the option to initiate communication via either a voice call or a text message. I thought we’d see at least two to three text messages per voice call – especially given all the hype around secure text messaging. But it was actually the opposite, with voice calls far surpassing the number of text messages. This tells us that even with the wide range of communication options available to them, the conversation still reigns supreme when it comes to physicians consulting about patient data.
I’m excited by the industry’s ability to collect and share patient information. But no matter how much technology we implement and integrate, consults still need to exist, and they are much richer when accompanied by a real-time conversation. The value of shared data will never be realized if clinicians can’t be reached at the right time to be able to talk about it – and this is still a major problem in healthcare today. We have to remember that at the end of the day, it’s those physician and nurse conversations about patient data – not the data itself – that will ultimately move the needle on care quality.