Study reveals clinicians' tangled web of communications

By Bernie Monegain
12:00 AM
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MENLO PARK, CA – A new study out today shows that paper-based workflows and the lack of standardized tools and processes hinders physicians and nurses from having effective communication with patients and colleagues.

Clinicians are experimenting with a wide variety of mobile devices including pagers, cell phones, smartphones and VoIP phones, the study found. Sixty-seven percent of clinicians interviewed for the study carry multiple mobile communications devices to manage communications with different groups of people or to handle specific job functions.

The Spyglass Consulting Group, a market intelligence firm and consultancy based in Menlo Park, Calif., conducted more than 100 in-depth telephone interviews with physicians and nurses working in inpatient and outpatient settings across the country. The interviews were conducted over a four-month period beginning July 2006.                   

The goal of Healthcare Without Bounds: Trends in Mobile Communications Study, said Gregg Malkary, founder and director of Spyglass, was to better understand how mobile communications devices could be used to improve clinician mobility and responsiveness, enhance patient safety and reduce communications costs.

Clinicians interviewed said they lack tools to filter, manage and prioritize communications with colleagues and patients. Clinicians create artificial barriers to prevent unnecessary interruptions and tend to prioritize communications based on whom they know.

They said it is difficult to communicate with patients because clinicians are overworked and have limited time to spend with their patients.

The situation described by the study is precisely what prompted Paragon Development Systems to target the healthcare sector with what was last summer a fledgling mobile data service. The Wisconsin-based company buys, installs and maintains mobile devices, such as smartphones or personal digital assistants. The offering also includes staff training.

“We walk them through it so they really know how to use it,” Carl Wilhelm, director of business development for PDS, said last summer when the company was promoting its new service. “Otherwise, they just wind up being expensive phones.”

Healthcare, more than any other sector, is ripe for this new service, says Barry Runyon, a research director with Gartner Inc. With the advance of clinical automation, ubiquitous wireless access, and added cellular services within hospitals, the need for experts to manage it all, is obvious, he said.