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Video: Effective comms and opportunities to save clinician time

Time is a precious resource, particularly for frontline clinicians – so how can we save some for them? This was the theme of our lunchtime webcast on the third day of HTN Now June 2021.

To discuss this, and the different types of communications that take place within hospitals and other healthcare settings, we were joined by Matt Gauler, CEO of Alertive, an integrated comms and workflow application, and by Jas Cartwright, STP Digital Lead for Herefordshire and Worcestershire STP.

The chat covered potential opportunities and ideas for improving hospital comms, what the difference is between responsive and reactive comms, and how to keep frontline workers informed of real-time developments.

Matt got straight to the heart of the subject matter in his introduction, explaining, “I want to focus mainly around the use and effective use of communication within the hospital setting, and the wider healthcare sphere.”

“This session, really, is to try to open up a conversation between myself and Jas, and obviously open that up to anybody else…I really wanted to explore…the different types of communication that we all rely on, that we all use every day. And then start to look at some of the inefficiencies that have crept in over time, about how these various different forms of communication are used and managed through a professional setting,” he said.

“I think some of the opportunities, then, that either we or the wider technology industry [provide] allows professionals to start to learn how to make some of these forms of communication even more efficient.”

Presenting the three types of “key communication that occur in the hospital setting”, Matt highlighted: urgent, unstructured, reactive comms; structured comms, also known as process flow; and proactive updates, real-time ‘pushed’ information.

“The reactive or the destructive type of communication that happens…if a situation arises, we’re quite reactive about it; maybe we’ll shout down a corridor, maybe we’ll communicate with the immediate people around us, perhaps we’ll pick up the telephone, or we’ll use a bleep or other type of technologies to try to engage with people in that more reactive type of communication,” he explained.

“Some of the challenges we’ve looked at here…in those reactive settings, we’re extremely dependent on everybody who needs to take part in those conversations to be there, present and available. From a technology term, it’s a very synchronous chain of events.”

Jas jumped in to provide some real-world context and experience, adding: “In a hospital environment, you’ve got clinicians needing to speak to clinicians, you’ve got nurses needing doctor support, you’ve got the bed teams needing to understand where capacity is at. But it’s knowing who do you need to talk to, where are they because it’s not always by a desk, and it’s about how do you get hold of that person in a way that’s responsive?”

“We’re a three-site organisation,” she added, “so it’s ‘what number do I get them on? What’s their bleep? What’s their extension number? And are they going to be there when I ring them?'”

Moving on to structured comms, which Matt explained some people might not even view as a type of communication, Matt highlighted that this more organised and planned type of engagement could be anything from a form to an email, which could then be followed up by more proactive comms, such as setting a date or time, or requesting to know when something would occur.

“It’s a bit more energy or a bit more effort put in upfront, because typically there is a pre-defined process that is going to happen anyway…it’s less disruptive,” he said, “it’s about the clarity of the information that’s shared.”

In regards to this, Jas commented, “it’s about how do we make it more efficient and streamlined, really, to make sure that we’re delivering the right systems to people?”

“Technology is one of those things that can help with that,” said Matt, “in all of those forms of communication, what’s really important is that the content, what I’m asking you, is really clear and is well articulated; we haven’t got time to to-and-fro…be quite succinct, be very clear on what needs to be done…is it a cardiac arrest for the emergency response team? Is it a patient admission? Is it that the temperature in one of the cooling fridges has been detected and something needs to be done?”

Matt went on to talk about the importance of technology in packaging up information and presenting it accurately and clearly at the point when it is needed.

“The second part…is the confidence that the person that needs to see that information has seen it.”

Matt said: “What technology can do there is to give this real-time – society in general is becoming a lot more demanding of that real-time status…absolute transparency about where things are, that everybody is doing what they need to do.”

“You talked about Teams, you talked about WhatsApp,” he said to Jas, “and we can talk about Alertive and the stuff that we’re doing at Worcester – they’ve got the same objective, which is to provide that absolute real-time connectivity between the requester and the doer.”

Focusing on specific scenarios, Matt and Jas, ran through request for help processes – and opportunities for risk and delay. “What we need to do is recognise where the current processes fall down and where technologies…can start to contribute,” Matt said, as Jas highlighted examples, such as tasks being sent to the wrong person, and questioned the right tools to use.

Using Alertive’s Hospital@Night technology as an example, Matt then went on to illustrate how time savings could be made for ‘requesters’, ‘co-ordinators’ and ‘recipients’ through better support from technology to capture and share information –  focusing on the potential for superior task allocation, better visibility of staff availability, updates on job progress and the swapping of tasks. This would result in clear instructions, data included from integrations, and ultimately, a better fit of jobs with availability.

Jas agreed, saying, “there’s a huge opportunity here – you talk about the handover; you can have doctors who are looking after two wards or a hospital at night and they’ve got a multitude of tasks they have to have handed over to them from the day team…sometimes it’s a scrappy couple of words.”

“Traditional comms just don’t allow you to have that visibility,” she added, in regards to who is available, who is on a break etc. “It’s a huge challenge,” she said.

“It’s how you make that digital handshake…that says yeah I am available and I now know that’s my responsibility,” added Matt.

On the future, Matt questioned how there can be a more proactive approach: “If there could be a system in the world that could get an algorithm of everything that’s possibly going on and, accurately, always give me a ‘just in time’ what the next task needs to be, and everybody be totally aligned with that…that would be an absolute nirvana for all of us.”

We may not get to that, he admitted, “but what we can do is just be as informed as we possibly can at all times.” Knowing bed capacity and A&E admission numbers, Matt suggested, could make a huge difference to prioritisation.

“Solving this and solving it well…once we can get to that point…I think we’ll make a big leap forward,” he concluded.

Catch up on the full session via the video below: