Evaluation Background: Care Coordination Applications

February 12, 2020 | Evaluations & Guidance


Here's background for our Evaluations of care coordination applications, outlining the key considerations for making wise purchasing decisions. Learn how the technology is used and what factors we test for. Also review our latest product ratings and ECRI Institute's data describing hospitals' interest in each vendor.

Care coordination applications are the software component of a communications system, made specifically for use in healthcare facilities. They help clinicians to coordinate care through voice or secure texting, allow for a common user interface for all messages, including alarms, and provide workflow management tools to configure and report on message distribution. Many also provide a web interface for use on desktop computers. Some suppliers also offer alternative outputs such as scrolling banners, pagers, and wearable communications devices.

The applications operate on handheld devices and communicate to servers via the hospital's wireless digital network (e.g., Wi-Fi). Oftentimes, the application may reside on consumer-grade devices that are provided by the institution or are the personal property of the clinician receiving the messages. The use of consumer-grade devices is often referred to as bring your own device (BYOD).

Another mobile hardware option is purpose-built communication devices. (See our Evaluation Background on these devices. ) They have removable batteries for nearly continuous operation and are ruggedized to tolerate drops and hospital-grade disinfectants. The hardware component is frequently sold through the application provider but may be purchased separately.

Although mobile phones have been used in hospitals for more than a decade for clinician-to-clinician communications, care coordination applications with purpose-built smartphones, as well as software-only offerings, are a more recent entry. A significant reason for their increasing use is to ensure that text is encrypted and not stored on the device, in order to comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements. Other uses include secondary alarm notification via integration to alarm sources such as nurse call and physiologic monitoring. This integration may be direct or through an intermediary. Care coordination applications have been developed from applications originally intended to suit either need.

Care coordination applications typically have the following components:

  1. The client application residing on the handset. This provides a single interface to:

a) Easily find other users based on association in...

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