beawolf - Fotolia


Care collaboration tools must address interoperability, security

In order for healthcare providers to effectively work together on patient care, collaboration tools must be interoperable and comply with HIPAA to protect PHI.

There is certainly no shortage of chat and collaboration tools in the market today. Organizations outside of healthcare are working together using tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Spark and the upcoming  Facebook Workplace. These tools have been popular choices for teams looking to collaborate in real time or offline on different projects, which begs the following questions: Will healthcare professionals from different groups ever consider adopting these tools for care collaboration, and what are some of the compelling reasons why they should not?

Collaboration platforms have moved from being plain text chat and document repositories, to full-blown communication and collaboration platforms that support real-time audio, video chat and data sharing. Users within the enterprises can connect from anywhere and from any device and have immediate access to relevant information, as well as communicate efficiently with other team members. Collaboration tools offer valuable functionality that care providers can benefit from to collaborate on patient treatment plans, lab results and other health information. However, despite the appeal of that functionality, there are several reasons these care collaboration platforms may not be the right tools for clinicians.

Collaboration tools are not patient-centric

When you look at how providers use an EHR, you can quickly see that it is patient-centric. A provider can look up the patient and see all the relevant data associated with that individual is then displayed in different formats. This patient-centric model is a must when it comes to managing and interacting with health data. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many of the collaboration platforms, as none of them provide an easy way to collaborate and interact around patients specifically. While there are ways to create different channels that can mimic a patient, it would be difficult to manage centrally and make it work the way a traditional EHR or patient-centric system would.

Interoperability is a major obstacle

Another area that proves to be a major roadblock for the successful use and implementation of care collaboration platforms in healthcare is the lack of interoperability across all EHR systems. With the recent policy changes to the requirements around certified EHR platforms, it is doubtful vendors will prioritize interoperability first, making it more challenging for health data to be easily extracted or exchanged across different platforms. Without the ability to access health data from an EHR, providers' collaboration on the care of a patient would not be possible as they may not be able to exchange or review patient health data in the platform.

Cloud collaboration platforms pose security challenges

Security is another concern for many when it comes to using third-party collaboration platforms that host their data in the cloud. Without the adequate protections and considerations for HIPAA, many of these online platforms prove to be somewhat of a security risk for healthcare IT as they would require specific security safeguards relating to protected health information.

Hospitals can still use the capabilities of leading collaboration platforms in areas outside of patient care.  Physicians, nurses, IT, billing, executives and other individuals within a healthcare organization can collaborate on different projects efficiently when adopting collaboration tools. These tools will continue to improve over time, but for now physicians are likely to turn to their EHR vendors or HIEs for care collaboration platforms.

Dig Deeper on Health information exchange implementation and management