All sorts of industries are being revolutionized by digital technology, and healthcare is no different. Although the pace of change in this space is accelerating, this doesn’t mean that it’s without its challenges. In this article, we will discuss the importance of unified teams and how to overcome these challenges to drive better patient outcomes.
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Understanding modern digital healthcare
Even though face-to-face interactions will always be important, digital technology is continuing to shape modern healthcare. This shift has been propelled by an array of different tools and platforms that have become mainstream in providing healthcare services. Everything from electronic health records (EHRs) to telemedicine apps is part of this evolution.
With the prominence of these tools, the expectations of patients have also changed. The patients of today demand more convenience and accessibility. They also want their healthcare to be more personalized, and they expect increased transparency from their healthcare providers. Even simple things such as being able to schedule appointments online are important, as is the ability to consult with doctors remotely when necessary.
These tools are also helping healthcare teams to collaborate. A simple example is how EHRs enable all members of a patient’s care team to share important information quickly and easily so that everyone has a current snapshot of the patient’s situation. Similarly, digital communication tools allow for instant messaging between teams to make sure that no one is making decisions based on information that is old or no longer relevant.
The make-up of unified teams
In the world of healthcare, a unified team is one where everybody is working collaboratively together toward the same goal: the best patient outcomes. A team that is unified typically will have members with a wide range of different skills and specialties but share a commitment to how the team should operate. This will include the way that they communicate, the respect shown for one another, and shared decision-making and accountability.
In addition to this shared commitment, unified healthcare teams effectively leverage the skills of each member. They meet regularly, provide opportunities for discussion and feedback, and generally ensure that everybody knows and understands their role. You can think of these teams like a moving chain. As long as all parts of the chain are playing their role, everything will move smoothly. If one link in the chain breaks down, all the other parts are affected.
The digital landscape has changed unified teams to a degree, and it does pose some challenges. Differences in technological proficiency across members of the team could potentially hinder communication or slow down different processes. This may be an issue particularly for those who have done things a certain way for a long time and are now being asked to make a drastic change to the way that they work.
Healthcare institutions need to provide ongoing training programs to address these kinds of problems, and also create a culture that will help to facilitate it. The culture of the team should be one where everyone feels comfortable navigating through new technologies without fear of judgment. Adapting to new changes in processes and tools takes time, and teams need to be patient and not rush things.
Communication and digital healthcare
Whether it’s healthcare, business or professional sports, no team is going to be at their best if there is poor communication. In healthcare specifically, it is the linchpin for superior patient care. The fairly recent advent of instant communication tools has revolutionized team collaboration and allows for immediate information sharing. Any time that a member of the team needs to discuss a patient’s care with another member, these tools make this process seamless and easy.
Team members being able to communicate with each other easily is just one benefit of digital healthcare. Other benefits include the ability for real-time updates and alerts, the capacity to respond swiftly to emergencies, and the ability to collaboratively adjust treatment plans when new information becomes available. Digital tools also have a significant impact on communication by creating a bridge between remote and on-site teams. If your primary physician is in New York, they can still easily collaborate with a specialist in California regarding your treatment plan.
Digital healthcare allows for centralized patient dashboards that provide a comprehensive view of patient data. These dashboards can be accessed by members of a team to quickly see all of the relevant information they need in one place. Given their centralized nature, whenever there are updates to be made, it’s easy for this to be reflected on the dashboards.
These tools eliminate the need for time-consuming searches and multiple cross-references. They allow team members to quickly build a consensus on diagnostic or treatment plans, and in minutes make a decision that may have taken hours or days in the past. This not only improves outcomes by making things more efficient, but also leads to quick interventions that can be potentially life-saving.
Another area where digital healthcare helps with decision-making is in the research space. Long gone are the days when you had to manually search through physical copies of research findings. All of the latest research findings and current clinical guidelines are at your fingertips, and medical practitioners can use this information to make informed decisions.
Training and upskilling for the digital age
It is due to scenarios where a healthcare professional may struggle with having to adapt to a new way of doing things that training and upskilling around digital are now a necessity. Healthcare professionals must continuously adapt to new technologies and processes, and they require comprehensive training programs to help them.
It’s important to note that this doesn’t just need to happen at the professional level. Making sure that healthcare professionals of the future are coming into the workforce already equipped with digital skills is also now an important part of education. A good example of this is the Master’s in Nursing Family Nurse Practitioner (MSN-FNP) program offered by Walsh University. This course prepares those who will be part of unified nursing teams in the future with all of the skills they will need to succeed.
The main challenge here lies in bridging the gap between tech-savviness and clinical expertise. Not every medical expert is tech-literate, just as not every IT whiz understands the intricacies of healthcare procedures. Training initiatives should focus on creating a balance. They need to enhance technical skills without compromising clinical knowledge.
A simple example here is that learning how to use new technology tools for diagnosis should complement clinical competencies, not replace them. The goal isn’t to turn doctors into technologists, but instead empower them with digital tools that will help them deliver high-quality care.
Digital healthcare is not static. It’s changing and it will continue to change. Teaching healthcare professionals to be lifelong learners who can adapt to new technology is just as important as teaching them how to use the current tech stack.
Patient-centered care in the digital world
Patient-centered care must always be a priority. In the digital age, understanding and respecting patients’ digital journeys is crucial. Healthcare teams harness technology to deliver care that meets an individual’s specific needs, and they need to be unified to make sure that this goes smoothly.
Collaboration is at the heart of this approach. It’s much the same as it was when there were fewer technology tools available, but now these tools make the process easier. In addition to helping healthcare professionals work together, these tools can also offer patients direct control over their health information, promoting transparency and engagement.
As well as the increased transparency, these tools also benefit patients from a communication perspective. Video conferencing tools now allow for remote consultations with different members of the team when required. Instead of having to wait a long time or needing to travel long distances, patients can now quickly and easily consult with healthcare team members, even if they’re on the other side of the country.
Even though these tools offer huge benefits, healthcare teams still need to be aware of some potential drawbacks. The first of these is that not all patients have the same level of access or ability to use digital technology. This could be due to any number of reasons, and practitioners need to make sure that they are not too reliant on these tools in these scenarios.
Similarly, an over-reliance on these technologies can lead to care not being conducted in a patient-centered way. If a healthcare team is simply following what the digital tool says, then there could be other factors at play that they’re missing. The patient might also feel as though they’re being treated as just a number on a screen in this scenario, instead of a person with specific individual circumstances.
Unified teamwork is at the heart of effective healthcare, and this extends into the digital space. Healthcare leaders need to prioritize this within their institutions to ensure that they are getting the best possible outcomes for their patients.