Healthcare News & Insights

Critical text messaging: Apps hospitals really need

144110363Regular text messaging doesn’t cut it in today’s hospital environment for security and safety reasons. 

More often than not, text messages among healthcare providers need to be seen and acted upon promptly, if not immediately — a patient’s life could depend on it.

One message the white paper “Texting at Your Hospital: Six Amateur Mistakes” is preaching: “Not all messages are created equal.”

That’s very true. “Can you bring home a gallon of milk?” doesn’t even compare to “Newborn A is in distress!”

That’s why hospitals need a messaging system that can accommodate high-priority needs and demands.

The white paper by Spok, Inc., provides six reasons why hospitals can no longer rely on regular text messaging and why they need critical messaging.

Here are three of the six reasons:

1. Integration

The regular text messaging system can’t integrate with your hospital’s system because it exists outside the hospital’s IT structure. Therefore, if a doctor changes his number, that information my not get spread to all the people who need it within the hospital. So when a nurse needs to send a patient’s doctor an urgent message, the physician may not get the message and the nurse doesn’t realize it for some time. This can compromise patient care.

There are smartphone apps that can integrate with a hospital’s database and scheduling system, and instantly updates whenever a change is made. Thus, when nurses need to message physicians all they need to do is select the name from a list or enter a category, like oncology, and the physician on-call will get the message immediately.

2. Separating notifications

When critical test results are sent to a physician’s smartphone, the last thing anyone wants is for that message to get lost among unimportant, everyday texts. But with regular text messaging systems, that can easily happen.

One way to avoid this very risky situation is using smartphone apps designed to separate and communicate urgent messages from nonurgent ones. Critical communications get delivered to a secure inbox reserved only for work-related emails of the highest priority.

In addition, these apps can be set up so that when a critical communication is sent, it takes over the recipient’s phone screen and demands a response. This guarantees that urgent messages are seen immediately and won’t be overlooked.

 3. Traceability

We live in litigious times, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the hospital setting where the death or serious injury of a patient can easily result in a lawsuit. Often in these sentinel events, many medical professionals are involved and getting the real story can be difficult.

Without an audit trail of the messages, finding out what truly happened is often a game of “he said/she said.”

But with a smartphone app that tracks when a message is sent, delivered, read and responded to, all of that is tracked and recorded.

While some regular text messaging systems can track when messages are sent and delivered, they can’t tell you if the message was acknowledged. They also can’t escalate the message, meaning if the first on-call physician, Dr. A, can’t or doesn’t respond in the allotted time, the message automatically gets sent to the second on-call physician, Dr. B.

All of this provides a hospital’s legal team a detailed list of who said what and when, and who did what and when.



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