Simplifying Unified Communications For NHS Organisations
The NHS focuses on digital-first forms of communication as a way to improve patient experiences and connect healthcare teams more efficiently. Using digital tools and online portals, such as the NHS App, patients can send secure messages to their doctors, check test results online, and schedule phone appointments to speak to a healthcare specialist without having to step foot in a hospital or surgery.
Once the pandemic hit, video-assisted virtual appointments and consultations became a popular and necessary option to allow patients to access care remotely when in-person options weren’t available — fueling the permanent transition to a more hybrid model of healthcare.
While these changes have improved patient-specialist connections, communication among healthcare teams, suppliers and partners, and governing boards and community members remains a challenge for many hospitals and healthcare organisations. This is especially true for the majority of NHS Trusts, with multiple hospital locations and dispersed teams spread throughout a region or country and a wide geographical population to serve.
If you’re already using Zoom Meetings for telehealth, see how you can implement the entire Zoom platform to enhance patient engagement and services. With one solution that meets all your communication and virtual care needs, you can streamline and improve both employee and patient experiences.
This guide will cover:
Unifying communications in healthcare
Healthcare organisations have unique needs when it comes to care delivery. Lots of niche solutions are designed for specific clinical applications like telehealth, requiring organisations to adopt a more general video solution for their day-to-day operations.
Adding to that, healthcare organisations are heavily dependent on telephony for a majority of their communications. Premises-based phone systems, however, provide zero flexibility for employees and healthcare teams who move between different clinic locations or are frequently on the go.
Staff members may have multiple phone numbers attributed to them (an office landline, pager, and personal mobile) and it can be difficult to remember where to reach providers on any given day. As your hospital has grown, and locations added, you might have multiple telephony platforms that don’t integrate together. With more employees working remotely or in a hybrid environment, this adds another layer of complexity to your communications stack.
But what if you could use one platform for virtual care and communication of all types — video, phone, and even chat?
A multipurpose platform can help streamline communications among your staff and make it easier to connect with patients and members for clinical or non-clinical services.
Enhancing patient care and services
If you’re using Zoom for telehealth, you’re probably familiar with one-on-one video visit applications between a patient and provider, either at home or in a clinic. Video-assisted virtual visits have become a staple of care delivery, helping to improve access to care while using resources more efficiently.
Healthcare organisations are using Zoom to enhance patient care in other ways, too. Here are a few examples of how you can connect with patients beyond the virtual doctor’s office.
Facilitate care coordination
Bring together all the people involved in a patient’s care, including primary and specialty care providers, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, therapists, family members, and the patient themselves. With virtual care coordination meetings, you don’t have to worry about finding a time when everyone can be in the same room at once. Family members can be more involved in their loved one’s care, even if they don’t live in the same city. And with features like screen sharing and annotation, you can make sure everyone is on the same page when discussing test results, imaging, patient charts, and other documents.
Offer group-based therapy & patient education
Remote mental health therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation sessions, nutrition classes — look into developing virtual programs that facilitate connections from afar. With remote group sessions, patients can find support systems and engage with clinicians and peers while in the comfort of their homes. This is especially helpful for those with limited mobility or a lack of transportation.
See how this NHS Foundation Trust designed remote group programmes to meet patients where they are.
Deliver real-time assessments
Telestroke programs have been established as an effective way to deliver rapid stroke response by allowing remote specialists to diagnose and consult on a patient’s treatment in critical care settings. Real-time video assessments can also be deployed in emergency situations to support mental health crises, disaster response, and other situations where it may be difficult or dangerous to bring experts directly to the scene.
Provide patient support services
Auxiliary and support services help patients manage or understand their care better, but you don’t need to have dedicated interpreters or staff onsite at a hospital to give patients access to the information they need. Support patients with a wider range of services by accessing interpreters, spiritual care, financial assistance, or other important services virtually.
At Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, Zoom connects young patients with family members and clinicians, creating a “hospital without walls” to deliver care during the pandemic.
Optimising hybrid workspaces for healthcare
More and more, healthcare and administrative interactions are happening among hybrid teams — clinicians joining a consultation from a different facility, staff meeting over video while working from home. Modern healthcare spaces must be designed with hybrid teams in mind.
Here are a few considerations for designing spaces that make hybrid healthcare collaboration easier and more effective:
Parity of communication
Remote participants in a video meeting may find it harder to see or hear their colleagues in a conference room, making it more difficult to follow the conversation, read facial expressions, and assess body language. Features like Zoom Rooms Smart Gallery can help bridge that gap and give remote participants a more equitable experience.
A consistent experience
If your consultants and staff work at multiple facilities, you want them to always have a consistent video experience, no matter what conference room or telehealth cart they’re using. With Zoom Rooms, you can join video calls or share content with one touch, so your staff can easily move between rooms or facilities without having to learn how different systems work.
Mobile carts for hybrid patient interaction
When a patient needs a telehealth consult or virtual interpreter, it’s often easier to bring technology to them than transport them to a room equipped with video capabilities. You can use Zoom Rooms and an all-in-one video conferencing device to build mobile carts that can go wherever your patients are.
Streamlining healthcare administration
While patients are at the heart of every healthcare organisation, administrators are the backbone, supporting care operations as well as staffing, compliance, budget and finance, training, and more.
How you manage operations and stakeholder communication affects every aspect of patient care and experience. That’s why your organisation’s clinical and administrative communication solutions should be one and the same.
A unified communications platform can support both business and clinical operations, streamlining connections between providers, staff, patients, family members, and administrators.
Strengthen communication & improve access to information
Keep your employees informed and engaged in what your organisation is up to, update them on new processes, and allow them to hear directly from leadership. Virtual all-hands and department meetings can help communicate important information organisation-wide, even if employees aren’t all able to gather in one place.
For hybrid meetings, where some attendees are in person and others are joining by video from a remote location, Zoom Rooms makes it even easier to connect, share content, and involve everyone in the conversation.
Between meetings, use Zoom Chat to send quick updates or share resources and info with select groups or the entire organisation.
Board & community meetings
Offering virtual options for board meetings can help directors, governors, trustees, and executive leadership, who often have full schedules and may find it difficult to attend a meeting in person. Hosting meetings, events, or educational sessions open to the public using Zoom Events or Zoom Webinars allows people to attend virtually, which can give members the opportunity to stay informed and connected.
Training & development
Virtual training and development can provide better access to those who live far away from training sites or have family commitments, allowing them to learn and grow their skills. You can decide whether to host training sessions on Zoom Meetings so all participants can interact on video, or Zoom Webinar, which gives the host greater control over who can speak or share their screen while still allowing interactivity with Q&A, chat, and polling. Record training sessions so staff who couldn’t attend can view the content on-demand when their schedule permits.
Enable flexibility & mobility
Telephony on any device
When all employees were working in an office, a traditional on-premises phone system might have made sense. Now that some employees are remote or hybrid, Zoom Phone provides them with a business phone line they can access from anywhere with an internet connection.
With Zoom Phone, employees can make or receive calls and texts using their business phone number (which traditionally would have been tied to their desk phone) on their mobile phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop. This allows employees to stay connected even if they’re working from home or from a different facility on any given day. Those who are constantly on the go can even place a call on hold and seamlessly pick it up on another device.
Keep personal phone numbers private
Providers or staff who need to make external phone calls to patients or family members while working remotely can choose which phone number gets displayed as the outbound caller ID — whether it’s their direct business line, the main hospital line, or one attributed to a specific department. Even if they are using their mobile phone to make that call, they do not need to expose their personal phone number.
Go from chat to phone to video, on the fly
Having your video, phone, and chat solutions on the same platform means you can be flexible in how you communicate with others, even as a conversation develops. If you’re on the phone with a colleague about a clinical matter and want to discuss a patient’s lab results, you can press a button to instantly elevate that phone call to a secure video meeting, where you can share your screen.
Drive connection along the continuum of care
One place where clinical and administrative communications overlap is with care coordination between multiple facilities or caregivers. You may have providers, discharge coordinators, social workers, and family members who all need to be involved in conversations about a patient’s next phase of care.
Whether a patient is going home or moving to a rehab or nursing facility, patients and their caregivers will need to be informed about their condition, immediate needs such as medical equipment, follow-up appointments or tests, and even financial resources. Set up a Zoom meeting so everyone, including the patient and their family members, can join at the same time for efficient, coordinated planning.
What to look for in a healthcare communications solution
Your communications platform can do more than facilitate telehealth appointments — it can help you prepare to meet the needs of a hybrid healthcare workforce, support employees, and build a positive culture that promotes flexibility, work-life balance, and career development.
If you’re looking to evolve your telemedicine solution to a comprehensive business, administrative, and clinical communications platform, look for the following qualities:
- Simple for providers and staffYour communications solution should be easy to adapt and fit seamlessly into the daily workflows of your providers and staff. That’s why a single-platform approach makes more sense for healthcare teams — because they don’t need to switch solutions depending on whom they’re speaking with.
- Intuitive for patientsAny clinical solution needs to be simple and intuitive for all patients (with varying technical abilities) to use with little to no training or support. It should work with low-tech devices and poor internet connectivity.
- SecureSafeguarding sensitive patient data and health information is a key priority for any healthcare organisation. Look for a solution that prioritises security and privacy and helps you maintain compliance through tailored features and encryption methods, including the option to enable end-to-end encryption for meetings if needed. Zoom’s NHS accreditations include being DTAC and DCB0129 ready, with a DSP Toolkit in place. We are also certified as ISO/IEC 27001:2013 and achieved UK Cyber Essentials certification.
- ReliablePatients need to be able to communicate with their health team without choppy audio or frozen video screens. Choose a reliable solution with proven quality and performance so you don’t have to worry about the technology affecting the patient experience or impacting your important decisions.
- FlexibleWith video, phone, and team chat integrated into one solution, you have the flexibility to choose how you want to communicate with different people, whether you need to call a patient to discuss test results, chat a colleague about rescheduling lunch, or attend a virtual budget meeting. A platform designed for clinical, administrative, and business needs enables greater agility in how you and your employees use it across the organisation.
- Ability to integrateMany healthcare organisations have a central EPR system around which processes and workflows revolve. A solution that integrates with these systems creates a seamless experience by enhancing or mimicking your existing workflows.
Connect your healthcare teams
A unified communications experience can help bridge the gap between clinical use cases and healthcare administration, strengthen internal and external communications, and support your hybrid workforce.
Learn more about our multipurpose platform for care, collaboration, and innovation.