Optimizing the patient care pathway: A four step transformation towards a next generation Healthcare Communication System

The need to improve long term quality care for patients is a main driver behind consolidations occurring in healthcare.  It’s happening in multiple forms ranging from grouping some regional hospital resources, to activities based on merger and acquisition amongst hospitals, including IS/IT resources.

As someone on the technology side but who engages with healthcare providers regularly, what I’m seeing is that technology, via a modular communication architecture, enables a smooth and affordable transformation of a care pathway for patients, physicians and nurses. This might just be the next holy grail for patient care.

Cost is the biggest healthcare issue that most countries face in 2016 and possibly beyond. This means transformation and digitalization of communications is an opportunity to improve profitability by encouraging ambulatory surgery, while meeting increasing demands for acute activity.

Following are four steps to explain how technology can help create the possibility for successful patient care.

Step 1: Transform the core of your real-time communication infrastructure with redundancy based on minimized recovery time objectives (RTO)

Migrate your telephony infrastructure to IP to save on WAN costs.
In order to maintain the exact same 99.999% availability for telephony services, the communication servers may remain in each hospital and may be virtualized. Consequently, it is recommended to centralize the management. As a single image of all the systems can be offered, this results in additional savings on system management costs. 

Step 2: Secure and track the patient ’s progress, location and status in the form of calls or text based notifications to nurses

Nursing staff may represent up to 50% of the hospital staff. Communication challenges for the nursing role have always carried a cost in terms of lost productivity, insufficient time with patients and longer lengths of stay.

Notification services may encompass a wide number of forms ranging from nurse calls to patient wandering detection. A notification system should take into account situational awareness such as location, calendar or availability.

To further improve nurse services you may also include instant messaging capabilities between the nurse and the physicians smart phones, this would unlock the discharge processes while managing time-sensitive interruptions.

Open APIs could also integrate hospital applications, creating powerful workflows that add a richer context to the notification workflows.

These applications can be rolled out in the data center and provide flexible and secure alarm workflows to mobile nurses across all the hospital locations.

Step 3: Augment the quality and depth of patient services to increase satisfaction and support clinicians’ efficiency

Government agencies and insurance companies have a pivotal role as a payer and market-shaper in the healthcare industry. However, across geographies there is an increasing competition between private and public care providers.

There are multiple opportunities to increase patient satisfaction through:

  • Innovative patients services are available from the touch screen fixed phone, to applications such as weather forecast. Additional services might include access to hospital services and information, or turning the patient smartphone into a room phone.
  • An easier process to take and confirm appointments with physicians. Patient no-shows at consultations can reach 10-20% in urban areas, resulting in a cost of several billions for the health care system. A more automated appointment reminder process significantly reduces patient no-shows. In addition, a study has shown that some interventions have to be cancelled at the last minute because patients haven’t respected the protocol. Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise developers and a team of hospital physicians were awarded in March 2016 for their ability to innovate in enriching the patient appointment process with this type of information. Hospitals may also deploy applications optimizing their communication processes in case of  mass casualty incidents

These applications can be shared across hospitals and rolled out in a central data center.

Step 4: Empower physician multi-disciplinary meetings

Physicians and other clinicians need real-time communication tools to better collaborate while managing time-sensitive interruptions. 

Services may range from telephony applications for non-resident physicians to desktop sharing, empowering multidisciplinary team meetings (MDT) with voice, IM as well as screen and document sharing. This helps physicians, nurses, therapists to agree on patients’ protocol through virtual meetings.

In order to speed up discharge, in 50% of the cases physicians often ask for a complementary analysis. Nurses, often challenged to locate the physician can roll out IM containing a link to lab results or other data that pulls up patient data for review solves this. This can speed up patients discharge and save millions each year as beds will no longer be temporarily blocked.

To open desktop and document sharing to external physicians across the Internet, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise provides the infrastructure including Session Border Controllers and additional or dedicated reverse proxies.

In closing, I’ve tried to share here how technology can truly be helpful to improve patient care and the pathway to that care. If you have other ideas that you’ve seen work, feel free to mention them here. 

 

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