“Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust?”
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
What better time than Halloween to warn of a monster lurking among us? As I visit hospitals throughout the country, I’ve noticed an alarming trend: IT departments creating piece-meal communication systems to avoid investing in a comprehensive clinical solution.
Just as Mary Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein harnessed the power of a lightning strike to bring the non-living to life, these IT professionals try to harness the power of smartphones by patching together assorted systems. Rather than creating the ultimate communication solution, they wind up with a monster that’s impossible to manage.
I understand their rationale. With many hospitals already using smartphones for administrative and other staff, why not extend that unified communication system for clinical communication? Why not download free or inexpensive apps to existing phones for an on-the-fly communication solution? Here’s why:
- These cobbled-together systems don’t take clinical workflow into account. It’s not sufficient to simply hand out smartphones to nurses on the hospital floor without also analyzing how these new tools fit in with existing clinical workflow and patient flow processes.
- Free and inexpensive texting apps work only among groups of people who have downloaded the same app. While some physicians may be able to text among themselves, they can’t reach nurses inside the hospital, or communicate with Pharmacists, Radiologists, support services and others. And, of course, they still need to carry pagers so nurses can reach them.
- Electronic medical record apps don’t integrate with a piece-meal communication solution. To take full advantage of the EMR, hospitals must integrate their communications with apps from EMR vendors such as Epic, Cerner and Allscripts.
- Smartphones for clinical use must work reliably in a Wi-Fi-only environment. Phones used in other areas of the hospital are largely dependent on cellular connections.
- Nurses and other caregivers work long shifts, so they need battery packs to extend their smartphones’ charge. Without that extra boost, nurses could potentially miss important communications or alerts when their phone battery dies.
For these and many other reasons, beware of the temptation to bring a pieced-together communication system to life. You might just wind up with a trick instead of a treat.
Oscar Callejas is Chief Experience Officer of Voalte.