Many healthcare organizations are adopting “bring your own device” (BYOD) policies that let physicians use their personal smartphones to exchange text messages with other members of the care team. To comply with HIPAA regulations that protect the privacy of personal health information (PHI), it can be tempting to turn to a basic secure messaging solution that merely meets the minimum requirements of the law. But beware that doing so won’t enhance your care team’s ability to provide high-quality care. It also won’t make a dent in managing alarms or alleviating alarm fatigue. And it definitely won’t allow you to scale to accommodate your future needs.
Here are some of the most common complaints I hear about these “quick fix” texting solutions:
Basic messaging apps don’t improve communication across your organization. When some members of the care team, like physicians, are using a basic messaging app while others, like nurses, are not, communication is still fragmented. With respiratory therapists, lab technicians, nurses and others working inside the hospital, and physicians, residents and many managers typically working outside, you need a communication platform that connects the entire team. Without a solution that stretches across the care continuum, you will soon find yourself back to square one.
Basic messaging apps don’t fit within established clinical workflows. Unless a secure messaging app makes the lives of caregivers easier and fits seamlessly into their clinical workflows, they are not going to use it. Care team communication requires a solution that takes into account the way caregivers work, with a unified directory that makes it easy to find the right person at the right time, no matter where they are. In particular, caregivers need advanced search functions to find the person they are looking for, whether by role, team or name. Making it easier to send text messages to someone who isn’t available doesn’t help anyone.
Basic messaging apps can’t easily expand to address complete care team collaboration and integration with other systems. With hundreds of vendors offering basic messaging apps, it’s important to choose wisely. Most won’t be able to offer additional capabilities as your needs grow. As Gartner found in a recent report, “Healthcare providers that have purchased pure-play secure text messaging products have found that secure text messaging addresses only part of their secure communication needs.”
Instead of choosing a basic messaging app to fill a compliance hole, today’s hospitals and health systems need a comprehensive healthcare communication platform that supports secure messaging, voice over IP calling, and robust alarm and alert integration. Be sure to choose a platform that also includes a proven implementation strategy that fits within your larger approach to workflow and communication. By taking a little extra time, you can adopt a communication platform that fits all of your needs and will grow with you, now and into the future.
Alex Brown is Directory of Strategy at Voalte.