The importance of fast, accurate and trusted communication came into sharp focus during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. From sharing patient information across a multi-disciplinary team to making rapid decisions regarding admitting a patient or referring them back to the community for outpatient care, the ability to rapidly share concise, effective and consistent information has been critical.
Of course, the value of excellent communication throughout health services has never been in doubt; but as working models change and patients’ complex conditions increasingly demand collaboration across departments and care providers, that communication needs to be underpinned by both up to date, trusted information and a robust audit trail.
Yet effective communication is extremely difficult to achieve, especially at scale. From the recent addition of remote working and virtual consultations, to the perennial problems of language barriers between practitioners and patients and ineffective collaboration between multi-disciplinary teams, healthcare providers face significant challenges in embedding robust communication into proven, repeatable processes.
Simple changes, such as the use of email and messaging services such as WhatsApp by clinicians to gain second opinions, make referrals and move towards mobile working look effective at first glance. But, as a recent white paper reveals, the risks to patient safety and clinical liability are significant. Messages are insecure. There is no audit trail. Critically, without integration with patient records there is no managed follow up – or even a way of confirming the correct patient identification. The value of immediate communication is undermined by the lack of control and the associated risk to patient safety.
Making it Work
Effective communication is fundamental not only for patient safety but also the patient experience. A health care provider that can enable effective, secure sharing of patient data can deliver enhanced access to services and reduce the risk of medical errors. Providing everyone within a multi-disciplinary team with access to the complete depth of medical record can enable more accurate diagnosis, better treatment pathways and improved patient adherence.
Collaborative working across shared care settings must be supported by ensuring secure and clinically safe communication between patients and clinicians, as well as across multi-disciplinary teams. Across care settings, a range of technologies are now being deployed to facilitate this collaboration.
Secure, clinical-system agnostic apps that provide healthcare professionals with 24/7 remote access to patient records on the device of their choice allow clinicians to share and update patients’ records in real time. Working with or without an internet connection, such apps allow consultations to be carried out in a clinic or away from the practice. With the ability to view and update patient records remotely, they support the delivery of care in the community or during extended hours, and offer assisted data entry for ease of use and drug decision support to facilitate safer and smarter prescribing.
Reliable collaborative tools for use across multiple organisations help community teams to stay connected. They can be used with or without the implementation of a full clinical system, providing links to the patient record, conversations, attachments and full traceability of assigned tasks with to-do lists for each user, providing the GP and other healthcare professionals with full visibility of conversations relating to each patient’s care pathway. Electronic caseloads, direct GP referrals and shared patient notes enable teams to plan and monitor patient care quickly in a way that is safe, secure and reliable as well as inclusive of the wider care team, providing a complete picture.
Innovative apps which enable patient appointments to be booked, amended or cancelled across multiple organisations from one screen also assist in delivering a more responsive and efficient service to patients. Staff can quickly search for available appointment times, using multiple viewing options – such as named doctor or service – to speed up the process and empower the wider team to manage patient appointments.
Collaboration in Practice
These technologies transform communication, improving efficiency whilst safeguarding patient well-being. All team members have access to a shared patient record, and secure collaboration tools for managing tasks and appointments across the team, whilst critically ensuring the patient’s clinical record remains up to date. The use of these digital tools ultimately revolutionises every aspect of the health care communication, from the reception desk to conversations between patient and doctor, bettering both clinical and patient experience.
– Gianpiero Celino, Clinical Director, Cegedim UK