Healthcare News & Insights

Leveraging communication & collaboration in the cloud for health care

ThinkstockPhotos-482391282Patients today expect to use digital tools to enhance their interaction with healthcare providers and improve the quality of their care. In this guest post, Brendan Ziolo, head of large enterprise strategy at a multinational communications and information technology company, details what’s involved in creating a patient-centric digital workflow – technology foundation built on a strong network that uses the cloud, and open communications and collaboration (C&C) tools. 


With the increased use of mobile devices by patients and hospitals’ focus on patient experience, chief information officers (CIOs) are examining their C&C systems to enable care teams to collaborate more effectively in the delivery of patient care.

Communications platforms are moving from the back office into clinical workflows to enable collaboration and efficiency, while bringing many benefits to patients.

To provide a C&C platform that can improve care quality, clinical workflows, patient experience and response times, CIOs will need to consider moving it to a cloud-based model that fits into their overall digital and cloud strategies. For the IT department, a cloud-based C&C platform will enable faster innovation and service delivery, on-demand scalability, increased operational agility, disaster preparedness and greater cost efficiency.

CIO challenges

The challenge for healthcare CIOs is that today’s unified communications solutions lock them into one vendor that may not provide all the required functionality, resulting in disparate technology silos. Issues such as the inability to interoperate with existing or legacy PBX systems, difficulty using or integrating third-party apps and failure to support needed services on mobile devices, create more barriers to effective communications.

As a result, a healthcare provider may have desk phones, soft clients, video conferencing, mobile phones and collaboration services all provided by different vendors, using different technologies, which most likely don’t interoperate.

Other challenges the CIO faces are the need to scale quickly and efficiently, and to ensure the network remains secure and addresses regulatory requirements. These challenges directly impact the ability of the CIO to provide consistent communication services to practitioners and patients.

New approach to C&C

What the healthcare CIO needs is a new approach to C&C that enables them to take advantage of advances in technology and communications solutions, while helping to reduce costs. A cloud-based software communications platform is needed to cap the investment in traditional PBXs. This frees up budget to move the organization forward with one communications backend that includes global routing, session management and fully-featured communications services.

Once this framework is deployed, you can think about communications capabilities in new ways and deliver tools that meet the needs of the users, rather than having to train users to use the tools. For example, you can customize the communications workflow so that it makes intuitive sense for the nurses or radiologists – each of whom will have different needs than doctors – rather than taking a “one size fits all” approach.

An added benefit is that CIOs can start to meet patients’ expectations set by consumer apps and the “bring your own device” (BYOD) trend, so that the facility’s apps “just work,” and people want to use them. This reduces the likelihood they’ll side-step the IT organization and use unauthorized consumer apps that can introduce issues around security and regulations.

Ability to be innovative, flexible

By providing communications tools with different capabilities but a common back-end infrastructure, users can take advantage of communications capabilities inside of application X, Y or Z, using their corporate sign-on and enjoy the same security privileges. This capability – combined with the framework being deployed in the private cloud – goes a long way toward ensuring the strict healthcare regulations are met, while delivering a more consumer-friendly experience.

This approach frees the CIO from waiting for vendors to develop and deploy new services, as they can now either develop them in-house or use best-of-breed applications readily available from third-party suppliers.

It also offers the ability to build and launch new apps quickly and easily to meet employees’ needs, driving down the cost of introducing new services, all while allowing IT to be more innovative and flexible when it comes to the types of services they provide.

Unify technology infrastructure

For CIOs to evolve a healthcare IT infrastructure that will take advantage of the on-going advances in communications, they need to unify their technology infrastructure. They can do this by migrating from a proprietary, single-vendor solution to a private cloud-based C&C platform. It’ll improves how caregivers and patients interact, and enable better communications so that care teams can remain in sync.

Healthcare organizations must become patient-centric digital businesses. An open C&C platform can be more responsive to the needs of patients and clinicians to make care delivery more efficient and higher quality. A cloud-based C&C platform is an important operational enabler of patient knowledge and engagement that’s critical to meet revenue, cost, quality and patient experience expectations.

Brendan Ziolo is head of large enterprise strategy at Nokia. He has almost 20 years of security and technology industry experience. 





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