Hospitals and health systems today face a range of complex challenges as they take on new levels of risk and innovate around different models of care. But a new survey identifies a much more fundamental problem to improving population health – doctors and nurses struggling to get in touch with each other to coordinate care among themselves and with their patients.
The survey of 955 healthcare professionals, conducted online by Harris Poll and commissioned by PerfectServe, represents a broad cross-section of the healthcare provider ecosystem: physicians (hospitalists, primary care physicians in large offices, specialists in both hospital and office settings); nurses in hospitals; case managers; and, hospital administrators and office managers.
While 98% of respondents (both clinical and administrative) feel improved communication with patients is required for effective population health management, and 95% believe that successful care collaboration leads to reduced readmissions, clinicians (physicians, nurses and case managers) feel hindered by a patchwork of antiquated or underutilized communication technologies, wasted exchanges and concerns about privacy and security.
“Policy makers, hospitals and health systems are rightly focused on improving population health, but these survey results demonstrate a very real pain point that needs to be addressed before the industry will ever succeed in making that a reality,” said Dr. Jennifer DeBruler, medical director of Advocate Health Care’s Contact Center. “Without unified communication across providers, boosting population health, and realizing the associated cost and care benefits, will be impossible.”
Key Survey Findings
Communication breakdown: The long and winding road to effective clinical connections
- 69% of clinicians feel patient care is often delayed while waiting for important information about the patient;
- More than half of clinicians (52%) admit they don’t always know the correct care team member to contact in a given situation;
- 71% of responding physicians indicate they have wasted time trying to communicate with the broader care team;
- Only 25% of physicians strongly agree with the assertion that they can usually contact colleagues for collaboration or consults in an effective manner; and,
- Nearly half of physicians (48%) report being frequently contacted erroneously when they’re not caring for the patient in question.
Dated technologies: Clinicians left wanting more
- The most common current communication technologies used in optimizing population health management represent the tried and true: Phone calls (83%) and online patient portals (74%) lead the pack.
- Newer and more detailed remote and mobile technologies such as telemedicine (39%) , remote coordination (36%), video conferencing (36%), remote monitoring (32%), mobile care team communications (32%), and remote consults (31%) lag these more traditional communications mechanisms.
- Among clinicians, when there is a need to communicate with a physician within the organization around complex or in-depth information or to obtain answers to questions, the electronic health record (EHR) is used as the mechanism only 12% of the time.
- Nearly three in 10 medical professionals (29%) are not satisfied with the technology their organization uses for secure communications. Of those who are dissatisfied, that dissatisfaction largely arises from the fact that different members of the community use different technologies (68%) and/or that not all team members have access to secure communication technology (55%).
Security Challenges: Is HIPAA compliance a roadblock to better communication?
- About three in five respondents (61%) believe that HIPAA regulations pose an obstacle to communication and collaboration within the care team.
“The diversity of clinical communications technologies in hospitals has exploded in recent years, but in many cases these mechanisms are not helping clinicians do their jobs better – in fact, they are creating more barriers to collaboration in the care of their patients,” said Terry Edwards, president and CEO of PerfectServe. “This survey reflects the sentiments of providers who share a deep commitment to making healthcare better and improving population health, and confirms that robust secure communications will be critical to meeting their needs.”
The complete research findings are available at perfectserve.com/survey.
 “Clinicians” includes all physician categories surveyed, nurses and case managers, and excludes hospital administrators and office managers.
 Hospitalists, primary care physicians and in-hospital and office-based specialists
About the Survey
The PerfectServe survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of PerfectServe between February 12 and March 6, 2015. The research was conducted among 955 healthcare professionals in the following occupations: hospitalist (n=150), primary care physician in an office (n=150), specialist physician in a hospital (n=102), specialist physician in an office (n=101), hospital administrator (n=170), office manager/practice administrator (n=81), nurse in a hospital (n=101), and case manager (n=100). Office-based respondents work in an office with 25 or more physicians. Hospital-based respondents work in a hospital with 200 or more beds. Physician respondents are duly licensed in the state in which they practice. Data were not weighted and are only representative of those who completed the survey.
 9 Office Managers/Practice Administrators work in an office with fewer than 25 physicians.