The Benefits of Unified Communications in Healthcare

April 11, 2019
Dietmar Kraume

Author

Dietmar Kraume

Director UC Technology & Presales at SoftwareONE | Linkedin

Unified communications (UC) transforms how healthcare organizations operate and serve their patients. By connecting systems of communication devices and applications, unified communications enhances business communication, collaboration, and productivity across the entire organization. This framework integrates various asynchronous and real-time tools that allow clinicians to access a wide variety of communication modes depending on which is most effective.

UC helps administration, clinicians, and patients communicate anytime, anywhere. In today’s healthcare environment, doctors can expect to better connect with their patients and other members of their organization by implementing UC. Read on to learn some of the benefits that unified communications can bring your healthcare facility.

Increase Productivity

One way that utilizing UC benefits healthcare organizations is by enabling their staff and clinicians to work more effectively. Did you know that 52 percent of physicians say pagers are their greatest source of communication frustration at work? In this case, pagers merely point to a looming structural issue within healthcare operations. By using outdated technology like pagers, clinicians waste 45 minutes of every work day just trying to communicate with peers and coworkers – over ten percent of their day.

Outdated communication technology costs hospitals more than $900,000 annually per hospital, and added time to patient discharges as a result of outdated technology costs more than $550,000 annually per hospital. In total, it is estimated that obsolete devices and technological infrastructure costs hospitals in the United States over $8.3 billion per year. When these expenses are identified, healthcare organizations may realize that they cannot afford to not implement unified communications.

While lost productivity has fiscal consequences, it can also reduce the efficacy of care. By implementing unified communications, clinicians and staff will be able to give quality care as quickly as possible. UC creates an accessible line of communication across the facility, enabling all workers to be able to answer patient and interorganizational questions much more efficiently. This ease of communication can also reduce confusion over the state of patients, where a misunderstanding not only wastes the clinician’s time, but also negatively impacts the patient’s course of treatment. By connecting doctors and staff together, your organization can use unified communications to significantly reduce inefficiencies.

Improve Patient Experience

When lives could be on the line, unified communications should be a priority. By using real-time methods of communication, UC empowers care teams to respond quickly to crises and unpredictable client conditions. Additionally, UC cuts down on unnecessary and redundant data entry. Currently, clinicians spend about 43 percent of their time doing data entry tasks, while only spending 28 percent of their time with patients. By keeping all clinicians and staff on the same page, healthcare organizations can expect clinicians to spend less time on data entry, and more time communicating with their patients. This ultimately enables a better standard of care.

Unified communications also give easy access to patient data to all privy parties. Patients are now able to log into patient portals and access a wealth of information about their health at their fingertips. Previously, learning this information meant calling the doctor’s office and being placed on long holds. Then, staff members would initiate the tedious process of finding, copying, and giving the patient their records in person. Now, between text reminders, emails with links to secure data, and the ability to refill prescriptions online, pressure on care staff has reduced. Patients and providers both benefit from UC’s optimization on quality, safety, speed, outcomes, and cost of care across the organization.

Unite Teams with Interoperability

Healthcare providers will benefit from UC allowing collaborations across not only just their office, but also across the country or globe. Although the majority of hospitals have invested in electronic health records (EHRs) to improve communication, team members believe it’s not enough. In fact, 94 percent of nurses do not believe that EHRs have positively impacted communications between doctors and nurses. This is partially attributed to how complicated and dense many EHRs are. Using UC, team members can easily share complex data like EHRs and answer questions as needed.

While this prospect is exciting, don’t forget about privacy and compliance concerns stemming from GDPR, HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, or other relevant local privacy laws. It is important to always transmit these messages on an as-needed basis with the help of compliance and security experts.

Enable Video Conferencing and Telemedicine

One of the most revolutionary ways that UC can transform your healthcare organization is by integrating video conferencing into telemedicine efforts. Due to greater access to broadband internet and to UC capabilities and the ubiquity of video technology, video conferencing is becoming a feasible extension of telemedicine. The integration of video conferencing and telemedicine has untold potential in its future, but many healthcare organizations are presently utilizing video conferencing to improve their operations and patient experience. Patients can video call their doctor and receive a quick evaluation of certain common health issues. This is especially helpful for follow-ups, questions and answers, teletherapy, and evaluating visual symptoms.

All healthcare organizations should be aware of the competitive advantage telemedicine can bring. Telemedicine and video conferencing are not just trends – this technology will likely continue to grow due to a combination of factors:

  • A large segment of the world’s population is aging. This will put additional medical on healthcare providers.
  • Broadband is becoming more accessible, especially in rural areas. Rural patients will be interested in minimizing travel time and receive care from a range of doctors.
  • Adoption of smart devices and video devices is on the rise. This enables the spread of UC and telemedicine as a result.
  • EMRs are becoming more commonplace, allowing transmission of medical data easily.
  • Interested in a telemedicine initiative within your organization? To implement this technology as effectively as possible, there are a few undertakings that should be made a major priority. First, replace any aging PBX systems. Then, create a roadmap to move to Cloud PBX, and pilot that roadmap from start to 18 months. From there, determine any shortcomings in your anticipated telemedicine goals, and adjust accordingly. To implement telemedicine right the first time, it is best to have a skilled team that can make unified communications simple with in-depth experience and deep knowledge of mediums such as Microsoft Teams or Skype for Business.

    Moving Forward with Your UC Plan

    From improved care, to innovations like telemedicine, unified communications can deliver a range of benefits to your organization. To learn more about how SoftwareONE can integrate a unified communications solution, visit our UC Simple solution page. Or, if you would like to speak to a unified communications expert, contact us today.

    If you’re in the New York area on join us at our event on Friday April 19 to learn more about ‘Understanding the Roadmap for Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business.’

    Leave a Reply