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Care coordination tools bring physicians, data together

An ideal care coordination tool should be user-friendly and integrate with EHRs and other external data sources, as well as offer real-time communication capabilities.

The healthcare market has seen significant progress in the adoption of electronic health records in the last decade....

Most clinicians use their EHR platform on a daily basis to capture patient data or review existing data. However, the need for better collaboration tools is becoming critical, with the ongoing push for collaborative care between multiple physicians. Physicians are finding it more difficult to rely solely on their hospital EHR, especially if they are working with physicians outside of their network. 

Much of the current policy push from the Department of Health and Human Services encourages care coordination as a key initiative to improve patient outcomes and control healthcare costs. The thought process is that when providers from different specialties work together and with the patient, it leads to improved health for patients with complex conditions. To accomplish this goal, many physicians recognize that they need to collaborate with other physicians more efficiently, regardless of which EHR system they use or where they are located. This is one of the primary drivers that encourages the clinical team to seek care coordination tools.

Many of the collaboration platforms available today fall short on delivering meaningful value to physicians looking to collaborate on patient care, as some simply focus on delivering audio, video communications and instant messaging. What healthcare is looking for goes beyond those baseline features. In fact, physicians need a care coordination platform that includes a common workspace in which they can review a patient's charts; track different tasks and activities; and that supports integration with external systems, such as EHRs. 

When evaluating products like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Spark and Huddle, one can conclude that these vendors offer many of the key capabilities that most teams look for to collaborate and share data efficiently. However, most of these services have not gained tremendous adoption yet amongst physicians. As hospitals begin to define the key components and challenges that these applications must offer, hospitals must prioritize some key features. Here are the top features that hospitals should look for when evaluating care coordination tools.

HIPAA compliance

Any application that interacts with patient data must meet HIPAA requirements. If the platform does not include HIPAA security and safeguards, healthcare organizations should not consider it during their evaluation. This is one of the must-haves before looking at any other features in potential care coordination tools.

EHR integration

Another valuable capability for physicians is integration with external data sources, such as EHRs. For physicians to collaborate on patient care, they need access to medical records and other patient data that resides in different hospital systems. That data must then be accessible or downloadable into the collaboration platform to provide visibility of the data without requiring clinicians to switch systems.

Real-time communication

Clinical teams working together on a patient case are typically not going to be meeting face to face or gathered within the same facility. As a result, the collaboration platform must be able to offer video, audio or instant messaging options to ensure all parties can participate, regardless of their location.

Patient-centric

Many of the collaboration tools available today are not customer- or patient-centric. Instead, most tools focus on offering a platform in which team members post and discuss content. However, when it comes to healthcare, the tool that would offer the most value to physicians would be one that has the ability to build conversations around a patient. This would allow physicians to pull all of the files containing all relevant conversations, content and tasks related to an individual patient.

User-friendly

With physicians and nurses already spending more time in front of their screens, according to many published studies, the collaboration tool should not require them to spend even more time entering and interacting with data in the system. Instead, the tool must be easy and simple to use in order to encourage clinical adoption. A hospital must ensure the platform is accessible not only from a desktop through a web browser, but also a responsive and easy-to-use mobile app.

Most teams choose collaboration applications that allow them to share files, manage tasks and communicate with each other. However, healthcare requires specific features and capabilities that truly facilitate teamwork between clinicians and allow them to interact with and share patient data. Unlike collaborating on projects, healthcare demands tools that can support conversations around medical images, lab results and patients' treatment plans. Hospitals would need to either invest in customizing some of the popular tools accessible to them today in the marketplace, or adopt some of the specialized care coordination tools that are available.

Next Steps

Microsoft previews a tool for healthcare collaboration

Twine's care coordination platform helps manage chronic conditions

Iora Health's collaborative care platform combines humans and tech

This was last published in May 2017

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