Getting Siri-ous About Ending Miscommunication in Healthcare

arunmirchandaniBy Arun Mirchandani, Senior Vice President of Products, Vocera Communications, Inc.
Twitter: @VoceraComm
Twitter: @ArunVocera

The mobile knowledge navigator Siri, and her counterparts such as Cortana and Google Now, have brought a new level of convenience to mobile users. If we are using these digital personal assistants for tasks such as “Call Mom,” or, “Tell me the winner of the 1908 and 2016 World Series,” why not take advantage of easy voice commands and intelligent app interfacing for something even more important? Both have tremendous power to strengthen communication in healthcare environments and significantly improve care and the patient experience.

Consider the extent that communication breakdowns among care teams in hospitals and health systems can jeopardize patient safety. One report concluded that such errors accounted for at least 30 percent of malpractice claims filed between 2009 and 2013. The cost in money and lives is immense—$1.7 billion dollars and 2,000 lives lost during that time frame, for example. According to the report, these deaths could have been prevented if important information hadn’t gone “unrecorded, misdirected, never received, never retrieved, or ignored” [Source: Malpractice Risks in Communication Failures, 2015 Benchmarking Report, CRICO Strategies, a division of The Risk Management Foundation of the Harvard Medical Institutions Incorporated].

Fortunately, voice-controlled technology via smartphones, hands-free communication badges and smart watches can keep vital information from falling through the cracks while saving valuable time. No longer does calling a care team member inside or outside the hospital require knowing a phone number. Now it’s a simple matter to instantly connect with the right person just by saying the person’s name, function or group.

Closing the gaps with an enterprise communication platform
Just as Siri’s power is drawn from the Apple platform, voice command technology in the hospital is most effective as part of an enterprise-wide communication platform. As convenient as voice commands can be in many scenarios, other care settings may be more conducive to instant texting, video or a voice call on different devices. A robust software platform will support and apply HIPAA compliance safeguards to all of these means of communicating, giving care team members the flexibility they need to sustain continuous, unbroken conversation.

Similar to how Suri relies on different apps and systems to respond to any number of voice commands, an advanced enterprise communication platform can integrate with numerous systems to broadly leverage communication between care team members. Linking to the electronic health record (EHR) system, for example, can document certain care-related communication, which keeps care team members across the enterprise on the same page about a patient’s current condition. In yet another example, integration with nurse call apps and emergency and security communications can improve response times by as much as 90 percent.

Giving voice to patients
Better care team connectivity and coordination also translate into an improved patient experience. Satisfaction surveys often reveal patient complaints about insufficient communication with clinicians, noisy hospitals, incessant alarms, slow staff response times, long waits and more. As today’s patients have more information and providers to choose from, eliminating the sources of these complaints can become a valuable competitive strength.

Voice commands, along with other instant communication methods supported by an enterprise communication platform, can end loud overhead paging while dramatically increasing responsiveness. The impact of such newly efficient communication is nothing less than seamless care in a healing environment—a patient experience we should all speak up for.