The Life of a Healthcare Professional with Modern Unified Communications
Medical professionals are trained and driven to work hard for long hours in order to make people’s lives better. However, studies show that burnout is a looming issue that only seems to be getting worse. A 2015 study reported that 54% of surveyed physicians reported symptoms of burnout (Tait D. Shanafelt, 2015).
“The spike in reported burnout is directly attributable to loss of control over work, increased performance measurement (quality, cost, patient experience), the increasing complexity of medical care, the implementation of electronic health records (EHRs), and profound inefficiencies in the practice environment, all of which have altered work flows and patient interactions. The result is that many previously well-adjusted and engaged physicians have been stressed to the point of burnout, prompting them to retire early, reduce the time they devote to clinical work, or leave the profession altogether.” (Harrison, 2017)
Hospitals are hiring more staff, a great deal more in fact, in order to cover increased demands on physicians’ time, but this solution has become a major factor in healthcare’s rapidly ballooning costs.
“In our workshop, the Hopkins team pointed out that 20 years ago, the 1,000-bed, academic Johns Hopkins Hospital employed 3,000 people to care for its patients. Today, it employs just below 12,000 people, with the same number of beds and approximately the same number of discharges. Although the patients may be more acutely ill and the treatment more complex, no other industry has had this type of growth in labor costs.” (Ravitz, 2019)
With costs outstripping people’s ability to pay them and providers’ profit margins shrinking, there’s only so much that can be achieved by working harder. The only viable solution is to work smarter.
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How Unified Communications Can Revolutionize Healthcare
Opportunities and Challenges for UC in Modern Hospitals, Doctor’s Offices, Labs & More
Unified Communications to the Rescue
Improving communications within the workplace can reduce stress, free up staff time, and even save lives. To illustrate what a difference UC can make, let us follow a hypothetical MD, Dr. Karen, through her day at a major municipal hospital.
The Morning Commute – Harnessing Transit Time
Assuming a given doctor can’t see patients through telemedicine, commute time is a mandatory part of their day. However, there is a way that it can be harnessed to free up more time (and thus reduce stress and overtime) onsite.
Thanks to her facility’s investment in modern communications, including Personal Assistant software, Dr. Karen is able to effectively use this time to make progress on critical work without violating hands-free eyes-free driving laws. As she drives, Dr. Karen is able to check her schedule for the day, make changes to it, and listen to emails (provided via text-to-speech technology). If an idea occurs to her that she needs to pass along to her staff, she can ask the software to place a call based on their entry in the hospital’s address book.
By the time she parks in the garage, Dr. Karen has caught up on her email, has rescheduled a clinic appointment to make room for an emergency consultation, and has told her assistant about a new treatment strategy that occurred to her while waiting for a traffic light to change. She’s prepared to jump into her day with the latest information on how her patients have been doing and knowledge of everything on her schedule.
During the Day: Communications Accessible Anywhere
A hospital is a big, busy place. Whether in a clinic or on rounds between various wards, it’s important that Karen be able to access the latest communications from her team. Unified Messaging makes it so that every time a lab report is faxed to her or a consulting specialist leaves a voicemail, all the information goes to the same inbox, accessible from Karen’s mobile device anywhere in the facility. Voicemail transcription can provide those voice messages in an email, allowing her to check them without trying to find a quiet place to listen to the recording.
One study found that nurses spend over 19% of an average day communicating with other staff (Johanna I Westbrook, 2011), which included trying to track down people in complicated facilities. If Dr. Karen’s mobile device gives her all the information as it comes in, her assistants don’t have to chase her down with a chart.
Let’s imagine that Dr. Karen’s waiting for a critical consultation call, a conversation about whether a patient is ready for a particular procedure, for example. She doesn’t want to play phone tag; she needs to talk to the other doctor ASAP. Smart Call Forwarding is the answer. Not only can the system intuit what phone is best to contact her on based on location, schedule, and other factors, but it can also provide silent alerts via a Mobile Client. That way if she’s in a meeting when the crucial call comes in, she can see who it is and step outside.
Providing Information While Preventing HIPAA Violations
Of course, whenever patient information is involved, privacy concerns must be kept in mind. Providing medical staff greater access to work communications and records on the go can dramatically boost efficiency and the quality of patient care. Unfortunately, making private health information portable can also open the door to breaches through lost or stolen devices. Implementing a Secure Messaging solution can help reduce this risk by allowing network administrators to cut access to voicemails remotely, without needing to retrieve the device first.
Worst Case Scenarios: Getting the Word Out
Let’s imagine Dr. Karen’s day takes a darker turn – some major catastrophic event hits near her hospital, and patients start pouring in. All hands must be on deck to perform triage and treat the injured. However, there’s just one problem: patients with non-emergency appointments are still going to be coming to the hospital.
There’s no time for receptionist staff to calling each and every patient to reschedule, but a modern outgoing Notification system can take care of all of that. Staff can plug a list of numbers into the system, or (even better) point it at the appointment database so each notification can include relevant details for the recipient. Notification can then go down the list and notify each patient (via a phone call or text message) that there is a situation and that their appointment will need to be rescheduled.
The local government could use the same technology to put out an announcement to the surrounding community in the event services are interrupted or some other information needs to be passed along.
Tie Your Critical Healthcare Communications Together with XM Connect
Better lines of communication in healthcare not only boost efficiency and reduce employee stress, they can literally save someone’s life. Modern Unified Communications applications, including the ones described above, can be easily integrated into your existing infrastructure with XM Connect. This solution features industry-leading interoperability, ensuring that it will work with your current hardware, along with systems acquired through expansion or acquisition of other facilities.
Harrison, J. N. (2017, March 28).
Physician Burnout Is A Public Health Crisis: A Message To Our Fellow Health Care CEOs.
Retrieved from Health Affairs: https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20170328.059397/full/
Johanna I Westbrook, C. D. (2011).
How much time do nurses have for patients? A longitudinal study quantifying hospital nurses’ patterns of task time distribution and interactions with health professionals.
BMC Health Serv Res. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3238335/
Ravitz, P. P. (2019, March 26).
Improving Hospital Productivity As A Means To Reducing Costs.
Retrieved from Health Affairs: https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20190321.822588/full/
Tait D. Shanafelt, O. H. (2015).
Changes in Burnout and Satisfaction With Work-Life Balance in Physicians and the General US Working Population Between 2011 and 2014.
Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 1600-1613.