With the trend of smartphone implementation and increased mobility across health organizations over the last decade, clinicians have more communication methods available to them than ever before. From just one device, clinicians can send and receive texts, pages, calls, alerts, one-to-many broadcast messages and more. This variety of communication tools has offered a degree of flexibility to healthcare employees who frequently need to collaborate across units and departments.
The being said, there is one communication method that remains critical to advancing patient care: calling. After face-to-face conversations, phone calls are the preferred medium for coordinating care. Busy providers don’t need to type out several sentences on their phone or worry about being glued to their smartphone screen—they can simply pick up the phone. For time-sensitive situations, too, calling remains the best way to get the right information to the right colleagues, quickly.
We’ve outlined below four workflows that rely heavily on the immediacy that calling provides.
1. Promoting Safe Transfers
Patient transfer workflows are one of the most common causes of medical errors, with up to eight in 10 serious medical errors traced back to a communication breakdown during patient transfer. Each patient’s story is unique and often necessitates sharing important details between care team members in multiple departments. Colleagues with different workflows or departmental protocols need to rely on calling to facilitate comprehensive and holistic communication to make sure all relevant information is accounted for during a handoff.
2. Facilitating Orders
Orders—including medication, activity, diet, frequency and depth of assessment—are another workflow often facilitated by phone call, though with different circumstances from patient transfer operations. Most healthcare organizations require clinicians to have verbal confirmation before putting orders through. If a provider is too busy or otherwise unable to put in the order themselves, they need to be able to confirm with a clinician either face-to-face or over the phone.
On especially busy days, having reliable phone service with good call quality is critical to having orders fulfilled in a timely manner.
3. Sharing Critical Lab Values
Some organizations have policies in place allowing critical lab result communications to be shared via text message with the care team, but by and large, this workflow is facilitated by calling. The urgent nature of critical lab values means that lab technicians need to reach the care team immediately so they can develop or amend their care plan for the patient.
4. Fortifying the EHR
The EHR is at the center of many care coordination workflows, and physicians often need to reach colleagues while working within or referencing information in the EHR. Especially for EHR systems that allow for communicating directly within the application, the ability to reliably call colleagues can be invaluable. Some EHRs facilitate secure messaging, but the calling functionality is either unreliable or missing entirely.
Improving the Calling Experience
Despite the utility of reaching colleagues in seconds during urgent situations, many physicians feel that calling is a double-edged sword: When colleagues in the organization are unsure who’s on-call or unaware of which physicians are assigned to which patients, providers can become the recipients of nuisance calls by clinicians trying to find the right person. These calls can come at all hours of the day and night, disrupting precious off-hours and contributing to the physician burnout crisis.
There are a few steps your organization can take to protect the privacy of your providers, though:
- Opt for calling applications that can mask telephone numbers so that their personal phone lines are not subjected to nuisance calls.
- Leverage a calling integration within your EHR to minimize phone calls directed at the wrong colleague.
- Use a real-time enterprise directory and status updates to signal to care team members when providers are on-call or offline.
Calling is here to stay—for time-sensitive situations and longer, important discussions, calling is the preferred mode of communication. By leveraging cutting-edge VoIP integrations and unified collaboration tools on existing smartphone devices, organizations can support physicians by making calling easier and more reliable.