Streamlining communication for optimal care provision

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Galina Datskovsky
Galina Datskovsky

As the country's population ages, more people look to independent living and retirement communities to simplify their lives and focus on wellness, or to assisted living facilities to receive around-the-clock attention.

According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau report, 14.5% of the population is aged 65 or more years. By 2033, that population will outnumber people younger than 18 for the first time in U.S. history. For this growing age group, which often depends on patient/resident care teams, efficient communication between care and service providers in hospitals, at home and in long-term care facilities and senior living communities must exist to ensure the best level of care.

Because text messaging is the preferred form of communication today — whether via native SMS text or through texting applications — many healthcare professionals rely on it to collaborate for faster clinical decisions. In fact, estimates show that roughly 95% of healthcare professionals use smartphones and tablets in the workplace. For healthcare workers who deal with sensitive patient/resident information, the use apps that provide features that maintain privacy and confidentiality, while achieving compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is critical. To help manage patient and resident health while ensuring privacy, care teams are turning to enterprise-strength texting applications.

Enterprise messaging apps

Privacy often is a major area of concern for providers. For those providing care for older adults living in a retirement community, an assisted living community or at home, communication about patient or resident status and care must be kept secure and private to meet HIPAA requirements. A secure enterprise messaging app can ensure privacy by offering sender controls that guarantee that messages, including images, cannot be forwarded, copied, pasted or otherwise shared with an unauthorized outside party.

With secure messaging, a nurse at a skilled nursing facility can communicate with physicians at an offsite hospital about a new resident symptom and receive an instant response on how to treat the resident. Both parties also will be assured that all information about the resident is secure and cannot be shared unintentionally.   

Many enterprise messaging apps also offer ephemerality. This means that a provider can set an expiration date for messages on the mobile device. Once that expiration timeframe is reached, no data remain on the device of either the sender or the recipient, or the message server, alleviating any concerns that information could be compromised. As an example, if a physical therapist traveling between assisted living communities loses her phone or has it stolen, an ephemeral messaging app can ensure that conversations no longer will exist on the lost device. What's more, if the agency uses a secure, ephemeral messaging app, then it has the capability to “shred” all remaining unexpired data from the device, on demand.

Some secure, ephemeral messaging apps also allow for patient/resident information to be stored in a secure repository of record as messages are sent between various members of the care team. It is important that the repository is of the client's choosing that the client controls and trusts. The repository enables care teams to have complete patient/resident records, meet HIPAA compliance standards and ease audit processes while removing the risk of texts remaining on devices or in third-party control. 

Enterprise messaging apps also enable family members, who generally are active participants in senior living and care, and the patient/resident himself or herself to securely communicate via smart device directly with healthcare professionals. Likewise, physicians can communicate directly with patients and residents to encourage behaviors that aid their care and overall wellbeing.

In a recent clinical trial conducted at Johns Hopkins University, it was determined that personalized text messages that encourage people to increase their physical activity resulted in just that. Enterprise messaging apps help healthcare professionals deliver a personal touch that can make all the difference in patients' and residents' quality of life.

For an aging population that depends on various healthcare professionals for assistance and guidance, collaboration among care team members is essential. By enabling quick, convenient and secure communication between all members of the team, enterprise messaging apps enable high-quality, efficient care, no matter where the older adult or care team members are located.

Galina Datskovsky is CEO of Vaporstream, a provider of secure, ephemeral texting to the healthcare industry.

McKnight's Senior Living welcomes marketplace columns on subjects of value to the industry. Please see our submission guidelines for more information.

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