Docs say they're wasting time on care coordination lapses

From the mHealthNews archive
By Eric Wicklund

More than 70 percent of physicians in a recent survey say they've wasted valuable time trying to get in touch with all the members of a patient's care team. And more than half say they don’t even know which care team member to contact in certain situations.

The kicker? According to Terry Edwards, CEO of PerfectServe, which commissioned the survey, 88 percent of clinicians surveyed say mHealth tools and solutions could solve these communications issues, but only one-third are using them.

[See also: Spotlight on: Mobile care coordination platforms]

"The industry isn't moving very fast on this," Edwards told mHealth News. "The available technologies are not being appropriately utilized to address the obstacles to care."

The survey of almost 1,000 health professionals, conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the Knoxville, Tenn.-based developer of communications platforms, finds that just about everyone (98 percent) feels that improved communications with patients is required for effective population health management, while 95 percent say effective communications reduces the chance of a readmission. But only 25 percent of those surveyed say they can usually contact a colleague when needed to collaborate or consult, and almost half say they've been contacted "frequently" about a patient for which they're not even on the care team.

In other words, if doctors and nurses can't talk to each other in real time about a patient, they're wasting time and increasing the chances of a negative clinical outcome.

[See also: Making care coordination a one-device job]

"Policy makers, hospital 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," Jennifer DeBruler, MD, of Libertyville, Ill.-based Advocate Condell Medical Center, said in a press release issued by PerfectServe. "Otherwise, boosting population health, and the cost and care improvements we need to make to achieve those improvements, will be impossible."

According to Edwards, doctors "are in the vanguard of (adopting) of mobile health technology," but their supervisors are lagging behind, and that leaves clinicians wanting more out of their care coordination platforms then they can get. According to the survey, almost 30 percent of clinicians aren't satisfied with the technology used by their organization. Of that number, 68 percent say the problems arise from different people using different technologies – those technologies might not work well together or create gaps that lead to security issues - and 55 percent indicate not all members of the care team have access to the communications platform.

Another telling statistic: For clinicians needing to communicate with another clinician about a patient's medical condition, the EHR is used as a communications platform only 12 percent of the time. And according to the survey, only 32 percent are using mobile care team communications tools.

In terms of population management, phones (83 percent) and patient portals (74 percent) are the most prevalent among providers, but mHealth tools are gaining ground. According to the survey, some 39 percent use telemedicine, 36 percent use remote care coordination tools, another 36 percent use video conferencing, 32 percent use remote monitoring and 31 percent use remote consults.

Edwards says the technology is not always to blame. Care teams change frequently, so the problems lie in creating a workflow that keeps everyone up to date, taking into account scheduling and role-based routing. "You have to look at the problem more holistically," he said. "Sometimes there are care providers who don't even know what their strategies are."