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May 28, 2018
Multi-disciplinary healthcare collaboration—In absentia
By: Corinne F. Baxter

It’s no news that a multi-disciplinary approach is crucial when treating acute, elderly or multi-chronic patients. Efficient, effective collaboration between healthcare professionals is necessary for quality care and patient safety. Amid the increasing pressures that NHS clinical staff are under, I’d like to suggest that the need for collaboration at all care levels is greater than ever. Crucially, secure collaboration tools are already available to everyone working for the NHS. The tragedy is that these tools aren’t being exploited in all cases.

Having the relevant tools made technically available is only the first step to improved collaboration. Individuals must understand and believe in the benefits and value that the tools will bring—picking them up and using them needs to be easy to do and immediately useful.

Missing out

The autonomous and widespread nature of the NHS means that many clinicians aren’t even aware that NHSmail is available to them. They are missing out on the benefits already felt by those whose organisations have taken a use-case approach to rolling it out. For example, in Leeds, clinical teams save time and money by conducting multi-disciplinary team meetings virtually. This makes physical travel or expensive teleconferencing facilities redundant, and instead enables virtual attendance simple for anyone with a smartphone, PC, tablet or telephone.

Multi-disciplinary health and social care teams that previously held face-to-face acute patient collaboration meetings every fortnight, now conduct virtual meeting and improve attendance. They also reduce travel time and costs. The result: the right people have the right discussion at the right time—in the most cost-effective and efficient way.

Leeds exemplifies how technology can negate logistical obstacles. Technology ensures that the meetings are productive, that communication and care outside meetings is as efficient as possible. Ultimately, that patients benefit from properly coordinated care that delivers the best possible health outcomes.

Questions to ask

Where tools are already available in a secure format, caregivers should be asking themselves: “How could this improve my workflows? How could this make my life easier? How could this contribute towards better outcomes for my patients?” Skype is a technology that millions use daily. Bringing that functionality into an NHS context gives clinical teams access to instant messaging and audio/ video capabilities that break down barriers in communication. It provides immediate access to colleagues who might be located miles away, as if they were in the next room.

Technology will increasingly connect disparate parts of the NHS, but its effects will be limited unless caregivers should actively embrace the tools available. Every-day, virtual collaboration in clinical practice will enable care to be seamlessly delivered across organisational boundaries. Geographically disparate clinicians, communicating easily in real time, is the only way to provide patients with access to the right expertise at the right time, regardless of location.

For ideas on how we can have your NHS team exploit the benefit of NHSmail, or for any other comments or questions, feel free to give me a shout.

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