by Mike Wilkinson

It’s been a few months now since I’ve been in healthcare so I thought I’d provide some perspectives on how the healthcare and communications industries interact and their potential long-term inter-dependencies. It’s a complicated and rapidly evolving picture but one that is increasingly converging.

Different Swim lanes: I think the first thing that struck me was how detached communications is from a vertical like healthcare. They are two very different swim lanes. Solutions like UCaaS and even contact centres really only scratch the surface of what is happening in a healthcare organisation today. I recently talked to a well-known contact centre vendor about what they were doing for a large Healthcare Organisation (HCO) and it was evident the degree of integration with the business was veneer thin. We got talking about what was possible and within a few minutes had come up with some pretty interesting enhanced solutions for services like Recall.

Inside-Out Thinking: Much of the swim lane issue has to do with communication vendors thinking inside-out. It really is not how healthcare can utilise your apps rather understanding the work-flow of a healthcare organisation and where communication and collaboration fit. The reality is that a lot of today’s UCaaS functionality is too bundled to be easily consumed by a HCO but by breaking the services down into smaller “micro services” and exposing them via simple APIs allows integration into the HCO work-flows. Companies like Nexmo, Twilio and Temasys will become foundational to the development of these use cases. At the moment the majority of early retail tele-medicine solutions have built their own voice and video communications, however this is changing very quickly. The next phase of high patient engagement uses cases like population health management will no doubt make far greater use of the established CPaSS vendors in the market.

Context is everything. Patient pathway management is rapidly developing to improve the ability to link communication to multiple points in the patient journey. Today, contact centres rely on agent intelligence, CRM and campaign management to work out the context of an inbound call or message. However, the CRM system does not hold all the patient data nor does it hold the administrative or clinical schedule of the HCO. By employing pathway orchestration across all the systems, including the EHR, the entire patient journey can be managed and communication is shaped into the context of how the patient is interacting with the HCO. As the market matures with the implementation of machine learning we could see pre-emptive pathway management start to develop based on patient interaction data.

Network Effect and Demographics. Healthcare is still in its infancy, interacting with patients both before or after they visit a healthcare facility. Costly missed appointments, readmissions and patient monitoring are driving increasing amounts of communication solutions into the patient journey. That communication can be via SMS, messaging, voice, video, natural voice processing, mobile apps etc. It’s not a case of either or, it is all about demographics, reach and picking the right communications solution with the best engagement potential. If a network allows a HCO to connect to millions or, in the case of Facebook and WhatsApp, billions of users who already understand how to message and receive calls via the respective app, then it makes sense to use it. If the average 60-80 year-old is receptive to SMS and voice calling then that is what should be used. Here the communications industry can deliver value by sharing its service demographic usage to allow the HCO to tailor their engagement strategy to ensure the highest level of engagement and ultimately compliance.

Digital Healthcare Needs Malleable Communications: To improve quality, value and patient satisfaction, healthcare needs to continually focus on innovation and invest in new technology that redefines how care is delivered. A foundation of that strategy will be increasing integration with a range of advanced communication services that are shaped around specific healthcare use cases.