I have been blessed in my life to have engaged and collaborated with many providers of care both in Canada, and around the world, and I have yet to meet anyone who does not care deeply about their patients and the state of their health. The BC Ministry of Health says the following: “Patient-centred care puts patients at the forefront of their health and care, ensures they retain control over their own choices, helps them make informed decisions and supports a partnership between individuals, families, and health care services providers”.
I believe that providers of care would welcome the opportunity to enhance and improve the experience for patients at the centre of their work, and as technologists who care equally about patient experience and outcome, what can we do to support patients and their healthcare team in such a patient-centred care model? The Ontario Medical Association introduces this wonderful two-concept approach to patient centric care, which is that we must address the issue at the system level and at the health care professional level? We, as innovators, strive to provide patients and caregivers systematic tools, tools that integrate into workflow and medical outcomes, to achieve deeper patient centric experiences, and we must engage the care team in the development of these tools.
If communications is at the heart of providing meaningful, productive, and timely health services, coupled with the fact that after a 10 year study it was found that two thirds of harm was caused by a communication breakdown (Institute for Healthcare Communications), then I believe that communications is one of the key tools to providing the highest quality of patient-centric care:
1. Communications between both Healthcare Service Providers, and Healthcare Service providers and their patients: we can, with a simple click, collaborate with likeminded people today on almost any topic imaginable. Hashtags, video collaboration, content sharing allows me to find people the world over to connect perhaps on “who recently has a Cavalier puppy and how do I ensure he gets along with my 5 year old”, and yet if I attempted to connect on “who understands why after 3 hip surgeries a 40 year old woman might still be having lower back and leg seizing 10 month post-surgery”, the path I, or my Healthcare Service providers, would have to undertake to get involved in meaningful discussion could be insurmountable today. Putting flexible communications technology into the hands of the Healthcare Service providers, offering them the ability, for example, to instantly click-to-collaborate together with the patient could help. Text, voice and conferencing technology could enable the care team to have a discussion, enabling remote consultancy services on devices of preference, at a suitable time. Bringing the patient actively into the discussion, providing care when and where the patient needs it most, and where it is most cost effective, is enabled by embedding and fully integrating communications services into the patient experience and the Healthcare Service provider workflow.
2. Integration with clinical systems is critical: I cannot begin to tackle what are the appropriate clinical systems, how should they be digitized, how can we leverage the Internet of Things to enable smarter, more dynamic health services, but I do know that when over 100 physicians and nurse managers were asked by Avaya what mobile solutions would allow them to improve patient care services, they asked for communications in and out of clinical systems. As an example, they requested accelerated notifications when urgent results for a patient were available. They wanted to know where, why, and when a consult was being requested. This has me thinking about all the information we can extract and inject into clinical systems to drive improved, contextual patient centric care. If the clinical system, EHR, or HIE has the knowledge about all services associated with the patient, then how are we engaging, informing, or notifying the providers and patients in that system? What if we communicated your medicine plan in real time with you as a patient? Could we reduce the #4 killer in the US, which is incorrect prescription drug deaths? What if we notified the most suitable and available providers of care when a patient had a critical result? Could a PCP who understands the patient’s history provide insight to the specialist as to why that result might have come back the way it has? If with a simple click we could provide a contextual, timely explanation, would we facilitate vital insight into a specific patient diagnosis? Open interfaces, deep understanding of workflow, and the right communications infrastructure makes all of this possible, today.
There are countless ways we can support patients and care givers to enable improved patient-centric care. At Avaya we choose to focus on the communications aspect of the solution, because that is where the opportunity and expertise aligns. I cannot wait to further the discussion at the Healthcare Summit in Kelowna to understand others’ opportunities and expertise to continue putting the patient at the heart of what we all do….