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How Effective is Secure Messaging in Healthcare Communication?

Secure messaging is often seen as an efficient way to communicate, but a recent survey shows face-to-face meetings are still preferred in healthcare.

Healthcare communication survey shows prevalence of secure messaging

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth Snell

- Healthcare communication is ever-evolving, as more organizations continue to implement BYOD options and secure messaging or secure texting platforms. Providers want to have effective ways to communicate that do not compromise patient information.

A recent survey from Everbridge indicates though that while secure messaging is an effective option, it is not necessarily the preferred method for how covered entities choose to communicate.

Everbridge interviewed 158 emergency department employees about communication challenges that arise during patient care coordination.

Eighty-two percent of respondents said face-to-face discussion was the most effective form of communicating with co-workers about patient care, while 80 percent reported that secure texting was the most effective.

Delayed communication methods were cited as the least effective communication means, with 30 percent of those surveyed rating voicemail as a poor option. Twenty-nine percent said that pagers were a poor form of communication and 24 percent cited faxes as a lackluster option.

Twenty-two percent of respondents also reported that more than 1 in 5 hand offs involve communication errors that could endanger patient care outcomes.

Handing off patient information is more likely to occur in the emergency room, according to the survey, as those teams are often larger. Over half of those surveyed – 59 percent – added that there are more hand offs to other care team members than for treatments originating elsewhere in the hospital.

Everbridge Healthcare Solutions General Manager Eric Chetwynd explained that emergency department staff should not be focused on what communication method would be best.

“There should never be any worries about whether patient care instructions were correctly received and understood,” Chetwynd said in a statement. “With the growing acceptance of mobile technologies in emergency departments, there is an excellent opportunity to make co-worker communications more efficient and effective – reducing the potential for errors that could affect patient care.”

Mobile technologies are increasing in popularity, the survey found. Three-quarters of respondents said they are using mobile phones, while 49 percent use secure messaging to enable mobile real-time communications.

Emergency department staff are also more likely to use a personal mobile device for communication, as 76 percent of physicians and 45 percent of clinical staff can now use personal devices in the emergency department.

There are multiple challenges with patient care coordination during hand offs, the report explained. Waiting for physicians to respond to hand off requests was the top issue, while deciphering handwritten information, deciphering handwritten information, and delays receiving information were also key challenges.

However, there was no clear “best” method of communication found, as 89 percent of respondents admitted that they must use five or more different channels to communicate with co-workers about patients.

Secure messaging can greatly improve healthcare communications, giving providers another option for sending information quickly, efficiently, and securely. However, there are potential adoption barriers that covered entities need to address before implementing a new system.

DirectTrust addressed some of these barriers in a white paper earlier this month, stating that vendors must standardize and enhance their users' experience in handling inbound and outbound Direct secure messaging.

A DirectTrust workgroup made more than 50 recommendations for EHR vendors and HIT product vendors in how they can work toward overcoming usability issues with their secure, interoperable clinical messaging products.

With regard to HIPAA regulations, the workgroup recommended that organizations prevent information forwarding.

“The receiving system is able to prevent the forwarding or resending of behavioral health, substance abuse treatment or other information as required by state and federal law, unless appropriate patient consents are documented,” the workgroup stated. “[This] prevents the inappropriate distribution of patient information that would be in violation of existing law.”


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