The volume of information created in healthcare is expected to grow faster than in any other sector over the next seven years, leaving healthcare organizations challenged to manage an ever-growing amount of information. It’s also creating a gap between healthcare providers and patients.
That there is a communication breakdown between Canadians and healthcare providers is not breaking news, but it can be potentially deadly. Between 2009 and 2017, there were 134 “medication incidents” in the Institute for Safe Medication Practices Canada Community Pharmacy Incident Reporting program — with 58 per cent of these incidents involving a communication gap.
This gap has widened during the pandemic. “Healthcare providers have many interactions with citizens now, and they’re going to have even more during the vaccination phase of this current crisis,” said Avaya Healthcare Digital Transformation Leader Tara Mahoney. “Of late there has been a rise in mental illness — and you also have all these elective surgeries that have had to wait. Healthcare providers need to clear their backlogs in an efficient and prioritized fashion.”
Mahoney said that while citizens may crave meaningful interactions, most healthcare providers don’t have the resources to make it happen, especially as the impact of COVID-19 lingers.
“We’re faced with not only getting healthcare on track, but also with people’s expectations and the problems arising from such things as side effects from vaccines. People are going to need assurances that any side effects they have are normal, and that it’s important they come back on a certain date to get their second dose of the vaccine. All this requires communications.”
Mahoney believes the key to healthcare communication, particularly as the pandemic plays out, boils down to one word: deflection. Contact tracing is fine, she said, but healthcare support coming into 2021 also includes bump lists, COVID and non-COVID screenings, referral management, appointment reminders, pre- and post-procedural instructions, logistics, and general and vaccine symptom checkers.
“You have to have the ability to deflect at least some of that through automation,” she said. “If you are, let’s say, an independent pharmacist, you just don’t have the bandwidth to call hundreds of people every day and provide post-vaccination followup. This is where automation and deflection comes in.”
“Healthcare organizations are not only facing the ‘everyday’ of patients dealing with non-COVID issues and illnesses but also with COVID and vaccinations, from tracking to symptoms and side effects. It was challenging enough before the virus. How can it possibly work now? There is simply too much to handle.”
A communication platform for today and tomorrow
As difficult as these challenges are, they are not impossible to overcome. More healthcare organizations today are looking at Communication Platform as a Service. “Avaya is supporting health systems in this critical area, giving providers a highly efficient way to track patients and to automate interactions that up to now have presented, from a time and resources perspective, an all but insurmountable problem.
“Of course everything can’t be automated, but with what we at Avaya offer, healthcare providers don’t have to make countless phone calls and send countless emails — tasks that become all the more costly when you consider that only some will return your calls or reply to your emails. In the context of COVID, you might have someone who receives a clear screening and wants to return to work but first must answer a series of questions. This is just one of so many situations where we can and do help.”