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Addressing Digital Connection Challenges in Healthcare

Everyone has been talking about the pandemic and its impact on the world of work for some time now. While there’s no denying the influence the outbreak had on our lives, it’s worth remembering the pandemic has, in a lot of ways, accelerated acknowledgment that digital benefits to healthcare. Yet as digital is not a given we observe still a lot of challenges ahead. 

According to ALE’s Patrick Hourtoulle, the Communications Solution Marketing Manager for Healthcare, while epidemic waves might come and go, digital trends in the world of healthcare are really starting to become mainstream. As demands on healthcare providers continue, ALE is demonstrating what’s possible when we connect people, applications, processes, and objects more effectively. 

Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise is currently one of the world leaders in real-time communications and cloud technology. The focus of the company, on “connecting everybody (All stakeholders’ patients, staff, facilities, territories) and everything” to optimize care pathways is, according to Patrick, crucial to the future innovation of healthcare.   

What Has Changed in Healthcare Communications? 

To get a feel for the transformation happening in the healthcare space today, I asked Patrick how important communication was in healthcare before COVID-19.   

“Healthcare companies have always needed good collaboration and communication tools. They’ve always wanted access to the right apps and data in the same space, and innovative interactions have always been essential, but innovative projects had a lot of trouble getting off the ground: lack of resources, difficulty in finding relays in the professions, administrative complexity, regulatory uncertainty and so on… What’s different now, is the speed at which these changes are happening.” 

“Many countries and governments are now pushing for innovation in the healthcare space, which means more funding for digital transformation programs, public hospitals and social care resources. These funds should enable healthcare institutions that are less advanced in terms of digital solutions to have the minimum:  

  • Move to a paperless world for patient or nursing homes resident’s forms through business tools (EHR/EMR)
  • Equip with a network and communication infrastructure to take advantage of these applications on the move inside and outside the building walls 
  • Allow for physical distance to protect patients and staff (telemedicine)

For other healthcare institutions, these funds should address the need for process automation, which may involve connectivity to IoMTs or even AI, to compensate for the lack of clinical teams and reduce the risk of errors due to fatigue and stress. They will also provide advanced applications that make life easier for patients and clinical teams, such as 

  • Location-Based Services solutions to help patients find their way around huge hospital buildings 
  • Asset-tracking solutions allowing nurses to quickly find a wheelchair or an oxygen tank  

What is Most Important to Healthcare Providers Right Now? 

As demand for innovation in healthcare accelerates, I asked Patrick what seems to be the priorities for healthcare. He told me that ALE believes the key to success is in “connecting everyone and everything”, and this starts with connecting people. 

“Three strong communication needs emerged during the pandemic because voice is matter when we have to interact with patient or clinical colleagues in a crisis period.     

The first need was to improve the patient welcome and greeting. During the different waves of covid, the hospital’s reception desk was saturated with calls related to this virus, preventing other patients from making appointments. This could be avoided by automating the pre-qualification of calls in order to route them to the right reception service. 

The second need was the demand for a consistent level of care for patients. Even when teleworkers in the healthcare organisation, like medical secretaries and managers are using different tools, communication needs to remain strong. Softphones connected to an on-premises communication can be helpful for continuity of mission critical services” 

The third need, according to Patrick, is to ensure ongoing collaboration inside and outside of the healthcare establishment. Teams need to be and remain “connected” with colleagues, peers, suppliers and partners of the healthcare ecosystem at all times and have the tools required to properly coordinate care teams. Rainbow collaboration services are the perfect answer to this second requirement. It helps to enable proximity between essential professionals to provide a constant social link and help prevent burn-out and turnover” 

 “Teams are beginning to use more mobile devices and smart systems to access all the applications they need in one place, and Rainbow collaboration services can help with this.  Technology is one thing, but the compliance is “a must-have”: ALE recently introduced Rainbow HDS certification (Health Data hosting for France) and are working on HIPAA certification for US 

How Can Healthcare Organizations Further Empower Clinical Teams? 

“The pandemic has given doctors and medical professionals an insight into the benefits of teleconsultations and remote working opportunities. Going forward, groups will continue to leverage these tools to boost efficiency and patient care, but the right solutions need to be implemented into the business applications of healthcare providers to ensure success. To address the current situation, more and more healthcare providers are implementing CPaaS (Communications Platform as a Service) solutions to bring applications together with communication solutions. The creation of a comprehensive application with its own communication functionality can even open the door for telemedicine opportunities, and better tracking of information in the healthcare digital workplace.  

 Healthcare organisations are also investing much more in automation. “Automation has become a priority today. With so many complicated processes to manage, healthcare groups are relying on automation to make activities more efficient and scalable.” 

Rainbow’s unique CPaaS solution allows groups to connect multiple platforms together, creating a scalable, and highly secure environment which links with apps, IoT, and machine learning. Combined correctly, tools like this could even pave the way to better diagnosis and patient care. A good example would be creating a system which allows: 

  • A bot to take information from a human for a healthcare registration process in a matter of seconds, 
  • Citizen application to get expert health advice using chat, and have questions answered by a chatbot about vaccinations and health centres opening hours 
  • Peri-operative application connected direct contextual care service keeping the hospital link and IoMT automating the monitoring of patient conditions and avoiding data entry errors or misuse of measurements 

What’s Next for Healthcare Communications? 

 To thrive in the modern world, healthcare groups are getting more involved with disruptive concepts. ALE has even seen a growing interest in things like the digital twin, to provide real-time status insights into the healthcare institution, or more accurate insights into patient waiting times.  

The smart device is becoming more widespread, “Smaller, smarter devices are emerging to embed all of the applications nurses need, from patient data, to alarms and communication tools into one system. This system can even be enhanced by automation features which allow for the better flow of information in  a new nurse digital workspace reducing the time wasted on walking, searching and using business application. Therefore, the device must be connected to an any-to-any message broker monitoring system whole healthcare ecosystems (medical object/system, smart sensor,) in real-time, delivering time-critical clinical alerts to the right staff members working in and beyond your facilities for fast action.  

Now our nurse digital workplace strategy is a consultative approach. It’s fine to talk about technology, it’s our job, but we are aware that this technology can be implemented and bring the benefits it promises if it is worked on alone with the needs expressed by the health establishments in the territories they operate in, by the users and this is done with the users and the ecosystem because digital is not decreed. 

Whatever the trends might be in the healthcare environment right now, and whatever the evolution of technology might look like, there will always be a basic need to connect people, applications, processes and objects, to create a more efficient care delivery.

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