A breakdown in communication is often cited as one of the biggest causes of ineffective care coordination today. As healthcare professionals discuss ways to improve communication in care coordination, the conversation tends to fall into two distinct categories that rarely overlap: (1) improving communication between health information technologies and (2) improving communication between care providers. Lack of communication of any kind can cause a ripple effect of adverse outcomes and ultimately compromises a patient’s well-being, so as healthcare continues to move toward a health IT-supported care continuum, it’s important to discuss how information technology can be better utilized in improving communication between providers coordinating care.

A good place to start in better utilizing health IT to improve provider communication is physician scheduling software. Such software is rarely included in the conversation surrounding health IT-supported care coordination, but it’s important to bring it into the dialogue since such software maps healthcare’s most valuable resources who are responsible for coordinating patient care.

Physician scheduling software provides easy access to physician schedules.

One of the simplest ways to facilitate communication among care providers is by giving providers easy access to the physician schedule. Web-based physician scheduling software allows on-the-go medical staff to access the schedule from a desktop as well as via mobile apps and mobile-friendly browsers on phones and tablets, which makes it easy for providers to look up who is scheduled now and who is coming on after them. Knowing the latter information is beneficial in patient hand-offs as it makes it possible for one care provider to better tailor hand-off material to the next, resulting in effective communication and a streamlined care continuum.

Physician scheduling software ensures schedules are accurate and always up-to-date.

 While providing easy access to physician schedules is beneficial to communication in care coordination, access to accurate and up-to-date schedules is equally so. An easily accessible schedule with inaccurate data facilitates communication in care coordination no more than a difficult-to-access schedule with accurate data. Maintaining an always up-to-date physician schedule is nearly impossible without scheduling software, and last minute schedule changes are one of the top reasons medical staff find themselves referring to stale scheduling data. Organizations utilizing printed copies of physician schedules, for example, are at a particular disadvantage when it comes to ensuring all care providers are relying on the same scheduling data. However, with web-based scheduling software, any changes made are reflected in real time, resulting in a schedule as one source of truth for all care providers.

Without one source of truth, effective care coordination is jeopardized in the event that a physician needs to contact another physician involved in a patient’s care. Reliance on inaccurate schedules poses a significant risk for a care provider to contact the wrong provider and, more importantly, experience a delay in contacting the right provider in coordinating patient care. Accurate physician schedules support effective care coordination in provider-to-provider communication so that a patient’s well-being is not compromised because the right physician is able to deliver the right care at the right time.

Physician scheduling software makes communication convenient.

Physician scheduling software ensures schedules are easily accessible and accurate, and with communication tools available within the software’s user interfaces, it also makes communication convenient. For Lightning Bolt users, simply clicking on a provider’s name on the schedule displays any relevant contact information, and users accessing the schedule from Lightning Bolt’s iPhone app have the added ability to call or text directly from within. The flexibility and scalability of optimal physician scheduling software such as Lightning Bolt allows integrations with other vendors to provide secure messaging and other health IT communication solutions. Such tools effectively facilitate provider-to-provider communication in a health IT-supported care continuum.

–Rachel Worsham