Why secure messaging isn’t enough

In today’s health systems, secure messaging is a must-have, but it’s only one piece of a much larger clinical communication strategy.

For hospitals around the country, secure text messaging has represented a major step forward for simple care team communication. Compared to overhead paging systems and outdated medical pagers, HIPAA-compliant texting apps are much more convenient for clinician communication.

For health systems, though, secure messaging apps have always been a half measure. They make clinical communication easier and greatly reduce the risk of accidentally exposing PHI, but they aren’t robust enough to coordinate care teams and manage hospital resources.

Secure messaging is a must-have tool, but it’s only one piece of a much larger clinical communication strategy that must also interoperate with the hospital’s ecosystem, including the EHR, alerts, notifications and nurse call systems.

How secure messaging apps are like pagers

The appeal of secure texting apps is simple enough: they’re convenient, they keep all clinical conversations on a single secure platform and they have intuitive user interfaces that feel familiar for end users.

Unfortunately, secure texting platforms also carry on one of the major problems of yesteryear’s direct-to-provider pagers: lack of situational awareness. Like physician pagers, secure texting applications can’t prioritize notifications and route messages to the right person at exactly the right time.

For practicing physicians, this lack of situational awareness has real consequences. Routine text notifications become a distraction at the patient’s bedside and an annoyance at home when the physician is off-call.

Secure texting applications provide nurses with another way to get messages to physicians, but they don’t help to simplify a nurse’s complicated and fractured workflows. The nurse is still responsible for figuring out who’s on-call and how to contact that person.

In a workplace full of alerts, alarms and notifications, unprioritized secure messages simply add to the noise.

Making secure messaging meaningful

High-quality patient care depends on two things: the accuracy and timeliness of communication. In other words, every member of the patient’s care team must be able to communicate quickly and efficiently.

Secure messaging apps foster highly fragmented communications that move across complicated workflows.

Alone, secure messaging can’t account for situational variables that make it difficult to know who’s available and ready to take action to advance patient care.

Clinicians must first figure out which group is on-call, which provider within that group is managing patient issues “right now” and then relay the issue using the secure messaging app. And if that provider happens to have been called into emergency surgery, they must figure out whom to message next.

Making secure messages meaningful takes an intelligent notification routing system that organizes, prioritizes and directs messages to the right care team member at the right time. Combining secure texting with intelligent automation is the only way to reduce the noise and make notifications more useful – and reduce care delays.

Secure texting is a step in the right direction, but improving the patient’s experience and the clinician’s satisfaction requires building an intelligent communication framework  that connects clinicians to clinicians, as well as clinicians to the organization’s technological ecosystem.

Evaluating your processes and redesigning your communication strategy around a full-service clinical communication and collaboration app will give secure messages meaning and eliminate the friction that slows down your care team and gets in the way of your organization’s strategic goals.

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