Recently, we conducted a focus group discussion with over 15 physician leaders from healthcare providers from across the country to learn more about what they think the role of clinical communications will be in easing their workflow. The single, key theme that was gathered was that physicians are looking for solutions that are simple to use and efficient. While in 2013, clinical communications conversations focused on a single piece of the puzzle (secure text messaging), based on my conversation with these physicians, there are some additional topics that I perceive will dominate the discussion over the next year:
- Rise in mobility among nurses: Just like physicians, more and more nurses are going mobile. While the days of the Rolodex are long gone, the use of smart phones and mobile devices has not been as universally accepted among nurses as it has been among physicians. Mobility for nurses will bring new challenges to unified clinical communications, because along with maintaining the workflow for all clinicians, nurses are constantly receiving alerts from patient monitoring systems too, which will require a new layer of process management. While security in clinical communications will continue to be an important need, with the rise in nurse mobility, the industry’s conversation will have to shift toward improving workflow, not just security.
- Enhanced role of clinical communications in patient care coordination: No matter how well documentation is managed, until clinicians can seamlessly communicate with each other about critical patient information, care coordination and transitions will continue to break down. As the demand from patients for improved care coordination rises, more providers will turn to unified clinical communications as a strategy to improve clinical workflow and create seamless patient hand-offs.
- Stronger demand for understanding clinician workflow: The days of responding to a workflow issue with technology upgrades are over. More and more providers are realizing that communications is not a technology issue, it’s a process issue. As an industry, there will be a renewed focus on understanding clinician workflow and processes, rather than addressing issues with temporary technological solutions.
- Demand from providers for a unified vendor solution: With all the aspects of clinical communications in play, along with the need to manage compliance requirements, providers can no longer work with numerous vendors providing a patchwork of different solutions. Most providers are tired of situations where an upgrade by one vendor impacts another vendor’s usability, causing the entire clinical communications system to crash. The industry is shifting toward a single, comprehensive, unified vendor model – one that manages security, tackles compliance and improves workflow through a simple and efficient platform.
As we head into 2014, more and more providers will realize that they need longer-term, easier and sensible solutions that improve clinician workflow and processes, and those are the kinds of conversations I look forward to.