Collaboration offers tremendous benefits to healthcare. Healthcare is, after all, inherently collaborative. Doctors, nurses and other clinical staff all constantly collaborate to ensure that patients receive proper care. When this goes well, patients get quality care at a lower cost. When it doesn’t, care suffers and costs go up.

The same goes for collaboration. It’s most successful when integrated into the workflow. Hospitals and clinics, however, can easily make the mistake of treating collaboration as a distinct technology silo. But collaboration that isn’t properly merged into the workflow usually fails. I’m going to share some tips here to help these organizations get their collaboration integration just right.

Why Collaboration In Context Is so Important

Healthcare workplaces can be pretty intense. Staff-to-work ratios are often lean — and with lives on the line, there is tremendous pressure to avoid mistakes and strong incentive to avoid risk.

In this environment, users typically aren’t inclined to change how they do things. If you just throw new collaboration tools at them, you typically get reluctant adoption.

If, on the other hand, users can launch chats or video calls easily, by just pushing a button from within the systems they already use every day, adoption will be much broader — and broader adoption means a higher return on investment as well as better patient outcomes. Win-win.

It also helps if, in addition to integrating collaboration with existing apps at the interface level, you integrate data and content. For example, a clinician chatting with a patient after an operation should be able to simply click on a menu to include a text block with instructions for self-care after a procedure. This kind of integration saves time for the user (thereby promoting adoption), and it also safeguards the accuracy of the information given to the patient.

Steps to Successful Collaboration

Based on my experience, I believe three key principles can help IT departments successfully integrate collaboration into their existing workflows:

  • Get developers and users together. For collaboration to work in a healthcare environment, technical project leaders have to understand exactly how clinical staffs use digital tools. This insight guides developers as they try to work the right capabilities into the right places with the right applications.
  • Adopt an open, API-enabled collaboration platform. Open architecture should always be one of the top criteria for selecting a collaboration platform. Flexible application programming interfaces (APIs) make it easier to insert collaboration capabilities wherever they’re most useful.
  • Establish an agile/iterative process. It would be great if users could tell developers exactly what they want — and if developers could get it right on the first try. But the real world doesn’t work that way. So IT leaders should keep their eyes on how collaboration is actually achieved over time to continuously improve the user experience.

It’s no coincidence that these principles involve people, processes and technology. Most successful IT projects do. But these keys are especially important in healthcare, where both potential benefits and resistance to adoption are significant. The combination of high upside and adoption-related risk make ease of use especially important in healthcare — and especially worthwhile.

Check out CDW’s webinar, Beyond the Patient Portal, to see how collaboration technology is transforming the healthcare space.

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