Where does healthcare communication stand in 2021?

Smartphones and tablets are on the rise, while pagers fall out of fashion.

As physicians rely even more on smartphones for patient communications, questions remain about privacy on the devices.

According to a survey from communication company Spok, 79 percent of healthcare organizations utilize smartphones for communications 53 percent utilize tablets, and 65 percent utilize wi-fi phones. Meanwhile only 49 percent use in-house or on-site pagers, 35 percent use wide-area pagers, and 21 percent use encrypted pagers.

In 2021, 76 percent of responding organizations say they are some level of concerned about the transfer of patient information and proprietary health system data is being communicated over unsecure or personal communication tools while only 13 percent are not concerned. The year prior one 74 percent were concerned, an increase likely tied to the COVID-19 pandemic with 81 percent of respondents saying that the pandemic impacted the transfer of personal health information being transferred over unsecure or personal communication tools, according to the survey.

“With security and privacy issues on the rise in 2021, perhaps it’s not unexpected that survey respondents are concerned,” the study says. “Looking ahead, hospitals and health systems may need to bolster initiatives to meet HIPAA standards for PHI protection and to avoid noncompliance, reputational harm, and serious financial penalties. It could also signify the need for health systems to have in place an advanced, HIPAA-compliant critical communication solution.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has also had an impact on healthcare staff as 92 of respondents believe burnout has increased at least moderately since the onset of the pandemic. Among physicians, nurses, and other clinicians 95 percent have reported an increase in burnout, according to the survey.

All clinical executives and 84 percent of physicians, nurses, and other clinicians surveyed believe that the risk of clinician burnout is a public health emergency that demands action by institutions, governments, and regulatory authorities. Meanwhile 73 percent of respondents cite burdensome or increased workload not related to direct patient care as contributing to the risk of alarm fatigue or clinician burnout when dealing with clinical tools and technology. An additional 66 percent cite poor integration into clinical workflows, 41 say poor adoption or use, and 36 percent say poor implementation, the survey says.

Many healthcare institutions are also looking to the future of communications, with 48 percent of respondents saying they’re likely to pursue or are actively considering a change in devices or communication technologies in the next 12 months. Only 16 percent of respondents say they are not. The main motivations for seeking new communication technologies are improving patient satisfaction, improving workflows, enhancing system integrations, and leveraging/optimizing EHR, according to the study.