June 20, 2024

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The Ins and Outs of Healthcare Communication Platforms

9 min read

Communication is the key to making anything work – including your organization. But when dealing with all of the many things that providers do and the highly important health information about patients, something as simple as selecting a communication platform becomes a very tricky situation. What’s the best way for providers to coordinate the many different areas and people they have to handle? How many communication platforms do you even need to accomplish the goals of your organization without making it overcomplicated? How do you maintain the security and privacy of your patient’s health information as cyberattacks continue to climb?

In the search for some of these answers to help ease your burden, we have reached out to our incredibly brilliant Healthcare IT Today Community for their insights on communication platforms. The following is their insights on the aforementioned questions.

Care Coordination

Amit Phadnis, Chief Innovation and Technology Officer at RapidAI

Communication platforms enable providers to significantly reduce inefficiencies and collaborate more effectively to deliver timely, coordinated care. With acute conditions, such as stroke and pulmonary embolism, time can mean everything for patient outcomes. It’s crucial to have secure communication platforms that enable care teams to align quickly on patient status and care, eliminate roadblocks in their workflow, and ultimately reduce time to treatment. For acute care in particular, the patient’s full care team – which includes various specialists, nurses, EMS, and others – must have access to the platform from anywhere at any time, including via mobile devices, to collaborate and communicate faster throughout the entire patient journey, not just at one specific point of care. Providers need to have a complete spectrum of input from the entire care team to deliver the best possible patient care.

Where many platforms are currently falling short, ironically, is that they are just platforms for communicating between providers, largely based on patient information and imaging. In order for a communication platform to be truly valuable, it needs to provide the context physicians and care teams need to make decisions. Providing this context and 360-degree view of the patient can be done by aggregating data from a variety of sources — imaging, patient records, labs, etc.

Additionally, enabling these platforms with artificial intelligence can provide immense value. One example of leveraging AI as a tool to integrate new information sources could be by integrating natural language processing to both recognize audio, visual, and written communications and provide additional context or patient information from their EHR in real-time. Finally, to maximize results, communications platforms must seamlessly fit into and optimize existing workflows, not require providers to reinvent what they do best.

Mike Relli, Principal at Knight Consulting, LLC

The automation of care management is slowly improving and becoming more prevalent. As cases are automated on communication platforms, there is a growing need to interoperably share care plans for patients/persons beyond the case worker team and out within the community’s ecosystem of stakeholders. Many clinical data records can be exchanged between providers and regional public health agencies through health information exchanges. Moving beyond health system-wide or regional interoperability has been a challenge due to several financial and operational hurdles.

However, there have been some promising indicators that FHIR-enabled care coordination could be changing the game. One such example was the successful pilot care and case management project for the CMS-funded New Jersey Integrated Care for Kids program (NJ InCK). Using an open-source care coordination platform from Zane Networks, NJ InCK allows case workers and community organizations to communicate with children and their families, ensuring an integrated approach to needs-based social services and care that optimizes child outcomes. Beyond the initial goals of the program, NJ InCK is now able to exchange interoperable care plans across state lines, paving the way for other states to improve care coordination.

This one initiative evolved from a proof of concept for interoperability within the state, into a repeatable structure that extends their ability to build new educational and wellness care pathways that frame out the overall plan of care and share the record interstate. A similar initiative is coming out of the state of Connecticut where their Care for Kids program (CT InCK) is leveraging the integrated care platform to address the opioid crisis and its impact on children, youth, their caregivers, and expectant mothers.

Kamal Anand, Chief Product Officer at TeleVox

Communication platforms in healthcare play a crucial role in improving care coordination and collaboration among healthcare teams, enabling patients, doctors, nurses, specialists, and other care providers to share information seamlessly to make informed decisions. By adding an AI-powered platform, providers can facilitate real-time conversational communication through secure messaging while integrating with electronic health records (EHRs). This helps in reducing delays in care delivery and improving patient outcomes.

Communication Platform Consolidation

Rahul Sharma, Chief Executive Officer at HSBlox, Inc.

Ideally, a Healthcare Organization should consolidate communication platforms to streamline operations, reduce costs, improve security & implementation, and enhance collaboration. Besides the assessment of existing systems, an organization needs to consider the following when settling on the choice of a communication platform: Understand workflow-based needs, Identify redundancies, and understand ease of user training & adoption, scalability, security and compliance needs, and interoperability of data. The right approach for consolidation starts with defining the communication needs, selecting a communication platform, laying out the migration & integration plans, user training, security auditing, and putting an iterative improvement process in place.

Abhi Sharma, Chief Product Officer at Loyal Health

While there is no perfect number, consolidating your amount of communication platforms is key to improving the overall patient experience. Much like with meal delivery and mobile banking apps, patient consumerism has arrived, and tools like text appointment reminders and chatbot services can provide patients with a more seamless way to be involved throughout their entire healthcare journey, while also allowing providers to educate and resonate in a non-intrusive way. When too many platforms exist under one roof, this opens healthcare organizations up to compliance, privacy, and security issues. Auditing your healthcare systems can be a useful way for organizations to sift through existing platforms, removing any added clutter. This approach will take time and patience, but the overall result is heightened patient engagement and stronger healthcare outcomes.

Jonathan Sachs, CEO at WUWTA

Just like most effective communication today, healthcare organizations need to think about omnichannel approaches to communication. These channels include email, text, app, social media, web, and SEO. This includes mediums like video, infographics, and even entertainment. Communicating through these various channels should happen in a CRM system that runs connected to the EHR but is separate from it. This system serves a patient-centric function rather than a billing-centric function.

Jonathan Goldberger, Senior Vice President, Security Practices & Strategic Sales at TPx

The number of communication platforms each healthcare organization needs is unique – there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Before consolidating platforms, providers must determine how and where data will be housed, what systems will have access to what type of data, and how systems will interact with technology inside and outside their network. Not all communications platforms may be used for personal health information (PHI), so the regulatory requirements could differ dramatically. Depending on the existing infrastructure, it could be more cost-effective and easier to maintain separate systems to communicate PHI and non-PHI data.

Security and Privacy

Ali Davis, SVP at Zeno Group

After a global cyberattack targeted multiple government agencies, including the HHS, it’s clear that healthcare-related information is valuable to attackers. It’s important for physicians to be aware of the medical liability implications for healthcare systems, especially new devices with a limited track record. It’s especially critical to have an understanding regarding patient use and how the analyses and/or diagnoses are made with new devices. Additionally, the FDA requires medical device developers to include a plan in their submissions or applications for regulatory review. It’s equally important for physicians to stay up to date on standards for third-party programs and software security to ensure patient safety – both in terms of data privacy and medical risks.

Kathryn Ayers Wickenhauser, Senior Director of Community Strategy at DirectTrust

In a healthcare landscape filled with many communication platforms and technologies, Direct Secure Messaging stands out as an affordable, secure, and widely available means for sending protected health information between providers and organizations. With over 70 million secure messages sent and received each month, it’s clear that Direct Secure Messaging has become an integral part of modern healthcare communication. Its applications include transmitting referrals, continuity of care documents (CCDs), and more, all while maintaining the highest level of security.

Direct Secure Messaging’s adaptability is evident in the many use cases it serves, such as facilitating transitions of care between providers or settings, managing referrals, enabling provider-patient communication, supporting public health reporting, and expediting the transfer of patients from EMS to the ER. Hospitals, primary care physicians, clinical labs, health systems, and various other healthcare providers all rely on this critical communication method to enhance patient care and streamline operations. As a result, Direct Secure Messaging has become an indispensable tool for ensuring the efficient flow of critical health information, ultimately benefiting both patients and healthcare providers.

Rahul Sharma, Chief Executive Officer at HSBlox

When considering communication platforms, the security considerations fall under the broad areas of

  • Access Controls
  • Authentication & Authorization Mechanisms
  • End-to-End Encryption
  • Audit Trails
  • Data Integrity

The Privacy considerations include

  • Consent Management
  • Secure Data Storage
  • Secure Protocols for Communication Transmission
  • Data Minimization
  • De-Identification

In addition, companies should enforce regulatory compliance through SOC 2 Type II, NIST, and HITRUST certification processes that cover HIPAA controls, employee training, and incident response plans — in addition to the controls pertaining to the different control objectives of those audits.

Preston Duren, Vice President, Cybersecurity Operations at Fortified Health Security

Security and privacy are paramount concerns in healthcare IT due to the sensitive nature of patient health information (PHI) and the constant need for systems to be operational. When considering communication platforms in healthcare IT, several aspects come into play, including documenting what data will be transmitted, where it will be stored, how long it will be stored, and who will have access to that data is key. Once you understand this, you can focus on which regulations have to be considered, such as HIPAA and GDPR.

A few measures to help protect sensitive health information are strong encryption, good access control, secure communication channels, and third-party risk management. Encryption is vital while the data is being transmitted and when it is being stored. Having role-based access controls and regular access reviews should be a part of your standard operating procedures. Understanding how vendors and Business Associates impact your risk profile will allow you to deploy controls to minimize the impact of a security incident. Having good audit logs and monitoring for threats and unauthorized access is a must-have in today’s threat landscape.

Doug Parent, CEO at RingRx

Security and privacy considerations are paramount in healthcare IT communication platforms. To protect patient health information (PHI), these platforms must adhere to stringent security measures and comply with regulations like HIPAA. Measures that should be in place include

  • HIPAA Compliance: The platform should fully adhere to HIPAA regulations, ensuring the confidentiality and security of PHI
  • End-to-End Encryption: All communications, including messages and files, should be encrypted to prevent unauthorized access
  • Access Controls: Role-based access controls should be implemented to restrict access to PHI, ensuring only authorized personnel can view or modify it
  • Audit Trails: Maintaining audit logs helps track user activity, providing transparency in case of a security incident
  • Employee Training: Staff members should receive training on HIPAA regulations and best practices for handling PHI
  • Business Associate Agreements (BAAs): BAAs should be established with service providers to ensure compliance with HIPAA regulations
  • Data Backups: Regular data backups and disaster recovery plans should be in place to prevent data loss

RingRx, in particular, offers built-in security and compliance features, making it a suitable choice for healthcare practices like Eugene Psychological Assessments. This ensures that patient health information is protected during transmission and storage, instilling confidence in both the practice and patients.

So much to think about here in regard to communication platforms! Huge thank you to everyone who took the time to submit a quote in to us and thank you to all of you readers! We could not do this without your support. What are your thoughts on communication platforms? Let us know in the comments down below or over on social media, we’d love to hear from all of you!

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