What's the future of healthcare? It's collaboration

By Marc-Alexis Remond
11:57 AM

In the United States, healthcare providers are teaming up to provide coordinated and seamless patient care which reduces medical errors, and improves healthcare quality while lowering costs by avoiding unnecessary duplication of services. How can accountable organizations succeed both in delivering high-quality care and spending healthcare dollars more wisely, so that they can share in the savings they achieve for the Medicare program?  Collaboration technology is the answer. It connects the dots between patients and health providers regardless of distance while it improves workflows.

The right video, voice and content collaboration solutions can meet both clinical and nonclinical needs within an organization. They improve communication across the entire healthcare delivery system by connecting clinicians, administrators and patients in a more personal and cost-effective manner. For example, a patient may need help from a specialist who is in another city or state.  With the help of a video-enabled mobile app on their smartphones or tablets, the two can defy distance by connecting “face-to-face” in real time and have a high quality consultation. Collaborative technologies can also support their internal communications needs. It opens the doors for more hospital employees to receive live professional training from anywhere. Clinicians and administrators alike can provide timely and clear updates to their teams from afar.

It is easier to realize the power of this technology when we look at an example of how it’s being used.  Orlando Health, a system of nine Florida hospitals, relies on collaboration technology to provide the best stroke patient care possible. Time matters when caring for a stroke victim. It requires a quick response and clear communication, so Orlando Health is using video solutions to help neurologists better serve their patients. Using a live video feed on their tablets, neurologists are able to interact with their patients, asking them the necessary questions and performing test exercises to better diagnose their patients’ conditions. Patients can get quality care in real time, and doctors save valuable time by eliminating their commutes to the hospital.

Because this is a relatively new phenomenon for healthcare, it is important organizations understand all aspects of the solution before moving forward with the right one. Here are seven elements to consider when choosing a collaboration solution:

  1. Integration and interoperability – Beware of proprietary or siloed solutions that do not work with other third-party platforms, devices or networks used widely by healthcare institutions, universities, payers, patients and partners. Use a solution built on open, standards-based communication technologies which gives users the freedom to communicate over any device, such as mobile devices (iOS, Android), desktop computers (OSX, Windows), unified communication clients (Microsoft Lync, IBM Sametime), business-to-customer and remote browser-based video or telehealth-specific systems. Not researching this ahead of time can cause a stressful and costly correction for your organization down the road.
  2. Scalability – Consider the size of your organization and which solution will work best to support your number of users, regardless of network, protocol, application or device. Make sure the solution fits your needs, providing high-quality, multiparty HD video, voice and content collaboration. Also keep in mind that bandwidth compression and lost packet recovery technologies can help your organization get more “bang for the buck.”
  3. Flexibility – Take a look at your organization’s care delivery model and determine whether a hardware-based, software-based or hybrid system (mix of both) would integrate best with your current processes.
  4. Quality – High-quality audio is essential in healthcare. Not only do the conversations between clinicians and patients need to be crystal clear, but also the sound of the patient’s heart and lungs from an electronic stethoscope.
  5. Simplicity – Evaluate new comprehensive offers that combine the complete collaboration platform with software endpoints and optimized services all for a yearly subscription fee. You will enjoy the benefits of the collaboration platform combined with the perks of consolidating video data centers into a virtualized video network.
  6. Mobility – Carts with telehealth solutions can transform a room full of technology into a simple, mobile workstation. Peripheral devices easily connect to the mobile video conferencing system, allowing medical professionals to share, high-definition images of a patient’s eyes, throat or skin in real time. They can also be used for broadcasting medical procedures as a means of education or mentoring.
  7. Compliance – After using a video collaboration tool, your organization will likely want to save videos for future reference. Some examples include consultations, procedures, training, meetings and customer interactions. To save, organize and share these files, you will need a video content management solution that may or may not come as an adjoining product. These solutions sometimes even offer speech-to-text capability that creates notes from the speech in your videos, making them easier to find in the system later.

With geographic barriers, new healthcare reforms and rising costs, providers need to adapt with faster and more cost-effective means of delivering together the best service possible to patients. Adopting a standards-based collaboration solution is one important way that healthcare providers can reach this goal. When evaluating a vendor, think about the multiple ways you could use the collaboration platform in your organization and don’t waste another minute with an outdated system!