Team communication and collaboration is the lifeblood of the health industry. Clinical teams—doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and care coordinators—spend about 80% of their time communicating. Regardless of whether those clinical teams work in a small practice or a large tertiary hospital, their ability to easily and quickly communicate on the move between patients, rooms, the office or the hospital can make the difference between a rapid recovery and a life threatening complication.
The team collaboration conundrum—is cloud-based communication right for my practice?
Unfortunately, most healthcare delivery work environments still rely on antiquated methods of communication and collaboration—think pagers and overhead pages, touch tone phones, rolodex directories, phone tag, voice mail, multiple phone numbers for the same person, paper memos and in-person meetings. Every additional minute spent on phone tag is one less minute focused on patient care. With the vast majority of clinics and hospitals still reliant on these outdated analogue forms of communications, it should come as no surprise that poor communications and poor patient hand-offs are still the most common causes of adverse events.
But is there a hard business case to be made for even a 5-physician family practice to make the move to a HIPAA-ready
cloud-based communication and collaboration service like Microsoft Office 365
? If you haven’t yet heard of Office 365, think of it as online communications (instant messaging, presence awareness, voice, video, email, calendar) and collaboration (workspace, workflow, audio-
conferencing, desktop file/app sharing) capabilities that can work alongside your EHR and enable your staff to continuously communicate and work together as a team anywhere, anytime, and on any device.
Why is a hard business case for small practices to adopt cloud-based communication and collaboration services so important? Because small practices are still the backbone of the US healthcare system. If small practices can’t make the business case, patients won’t benefit from the improvements in care quality, safety, speed, and cost savings of cloud-based communications and collaboration services.
Mihills Webb gets it right
Award-winning 5-physician family practice, Mihills Webb Medical
has proven the cost, productivity and security benefits of Office 365 alongside their EHR. Based in Fort Worth, Texas, Mihills Webb specializes in providing preventative services, acute and urgent care, and chronic disease management to patients of all ages. I recently spoke with Dr. Cody Mihills, board-certified family physician, Mihills Web Medical about why they chose Office 365 and the cost savings, productivity, and quality improvements they’ve realized as a result.
Schmuland: What business and clinical imperatives were you hoping to address when looking for a productivity and team collaboration solution?
Dr. Mihills: Our approach to patient care is to allow patients to feel like they’re at home. We maintain a familiar environment that supports the free flow of communication between the members of our staff as well as between our staff and the patients we serve. That said, before deploying Microsoft Office 365, intra-office communications was relatively chaotic with most information-sharing being done by phone. In order to continue providing award-winning patient care, we worked with US Medical IT to adopt Office 365 to streamline our communication between office staff, medical assistants and physicians.
Schmuland: What kinds of efficiency gains have you experienced?
From the deployment and staff training perspectives, Office 365 services and tools are very familiar and easy-to-use. Ramping up with the solution required minimal training and there was a short turnaround before our employees were being more productive.
With just one receptionist manning the front desk, relaying important patient information to doctors and nurses used to require placing calls that didn’t always get answered right away. Now, the receptionist can instant message nurses and doctors through Microsoft Lync Online as soon as a patient walks in the door to begin the triage process, a practice that improves speed and also enables employees to provide a better patient experience. We’ve calculated that this turnaround has resulted in a savings of 30 days of medical assistance time which means we can see more patients and our patients can be seen more quickly.
Office 365 has given us a big productivity boost that’s helping to enhance the way we care for patients. Our bottom line has improved significantly, and our patients are having better experiences.
Schmuland: How important was HIPAA privacy, security and compliance in your decision?
Dr. Mihills: Deploying Office 365 was cost-effective for all the benefits we’ve seen from the communications and compliance perspectives. But compliance in particular was critical for us and it’s a non-negotiable requirement that we demand from our technology solution providers. Because Microsoft cloud services are HIPAA-compliant and came with a HIPAA business associate agreement, we’ve used Office 365 to unify communications across the office with confidence. Tasks like coordinating schedules between employees and collaborating with peers outside the office who support patients now can be executed in an efficient, HIPAA-compliant manner. Office 365, from a business standpoint, has been a winning proposition.