Skip to content Skip to navigation

Putting the Pieces Together: IT’s Role in Care, Collaboration and Communication

February 3, 2016
by Kayt Sukel
| Reprints
A Conversation With Terry Edwards, CEO of PerfectServe

Communication and collaboration are at the crux of successful healthcare delivery in the value-based era. Clinicians need to be able to quickly — and securely — communicate with other care team members within and outside their home organization to ensure patients receive the care they require.

With this pressing need to connect clinicians, technology has advanced to the point where dozens of secure messaging solutions are now available. So why does it seem that true collaboration is more elusive than ever?

Terry Edwards, chief executive officer of PerfectServe, talks with Healthcare Informatics about the problem of fragmented healthcare communication, why secure messaging is only part of the solution, and how information technology that enables true care team collaboration is the “next frontier” in healthcare.

Healthcare Informatics: From your perspective, what is the state of healthcare communication and collaboration today?

Terry Edwards: It’s interesting that you posed the question with both communication and collaboration, because I believe there should be more collaboration happening within care teams that simply isn’t.  And the reason is that given the nature of healthcare and the differing workflows of the respective care team members, there has not been a successful technology solution that has been able to overcome all the long-standing obstacles to communication.

Unfortunately, today’s fragmented technology market only exacerbates this situation.  For example, communication vendors have tended to focus on only one aspect of the industry — providing solely a physician or nursing solution, or simply a nonclinical secure messaging product.  Consequently, there is a lack of a care team collaboration platform that is able to unite the entire care team, provide immediate connection, and facilitate timely interaction and collaboration.

Healthcare Informatics: PerfectServe recently commissioned a Nielsen study looking at healthcare communication and population health strategies. Did any of the findings really stand out for you?

Edwards: The Nielsen study confirmed things we had already observed, especially concerning challenges to care team collaboration and how that affects the emerging population of health-focused business models.  Accordingly, the overwhelming majority of physicians and nurses attributes delays in patient care and patient transitions to lower-cost care settings to communication obstacles. One of the main reasons is that more than 50 percent of responding clinicians stated that they didn’t even know who they were supposed to contact for a given clinical situation, while another 61 percent reported that they were erroneously contacted when they were not the right clinician for the particular situation. In fact, nurses and physicians both acknowledged that attempting to communicate with the care team consumes valuable patient care time.

One of the most surprising findings, however, was that only 12 percent of respondents cited use of the electronic health record (EHR) for communication across the care team. And when one clinician needs to coordinate with another clinician outside of his own organization, the EHR was very rarely used. The telephone was the primary means of communication. And we all know the frustrations of trying to reach people in real time by calling an office, facility or unit.

*Visit to download the full report and methodology.

Healthcare Informatics: Many healthcare organizations are exploring the use of secure messaging products. Is that the solution that will mitigate these communication challenges?

Edwards: Secure messaging is certainly part of the solution, but it is not the solution in and of itself. This is an area where the industry has been somewhat misguided. That’s been driven by the change in the HIPAA omnibus rule, which put more teeth into the rules around HIPAA security. It’s all good stuff, but it compelled organizations to seek a secure messaging solution to be HIPAA-compliant.

However, being HIPAA-compliant is much, much more than secure messaging. It’s about mitigating risk across all communication modalities, of which secure messaging is just one.

Importantly, secure messaging does not successfully address the recalcitrant communication and collaboration obstacles impeding care today. Specifically, secure messaging alone depends on clinicians being available 24/7 and wanting to be contacted by everyone in the same manner for all situations. That simply is not the case. Rather than facilitating the workflow, it can hinder it — creating more problems than it solves since it does nothing to provide connection to the right team member in the right manner for the given situation.

The good news for healthcare is that many of the providers that implemented a simple, basic secure messaging product have since realized that it neither meets their communication needs nor overcomes their collaboration issues. The market is shifting to the benefit of the patient.

Healthcare Informatics: Tell us more about dynamic intelligent routing and what it can do for the care team.