White Paper

Meet the Challenges of Clinical Collaboration

Technology can help healthcare providers work together more effectively, but they must overcome these hurdles first.

Healthcare is changing rapidly, and technology is a major factor in this evolution. Tools that help care providers work together more effectively are enabling better care that leads to improved patient outcomes. 

Among the solutions that contribute to improved clinical collaboration are mobile devices and apps, video collaboration solutions, device management platforms, digital medical record systems and Internet of Things sensors and applications. These tools are helping clinicians to instantly and securely share updates on patients and respond to requests, helping providers and patients to connect around care delivery and helping patients themselves to become more involved in their own treatment and health.

Healthcare organizations face a number of issues as they seek to establish clinical collaboration solutions that will provide value to patients, providers and hospitals. These challenges include security threats, regulatory compliance mandates and adoption issues affecting the use of devices. Understanding these challenges and developing an effective plan are essential for healthcare organizations to overcome them. 


The percentage of healthcare IT decision-makers who say clinical care teams would benefit from a mobile device initiative

Source: JAMF, 2018 Survey: The Impact of Mobile Devices on Hospital Patient Satisfaction, April 2018

Key Challenges in Using Clinical Collaboration Solutions

Compliance: If healthcare organizations deploy new technologies in ways that run afoul of regulations such as HIPAA, they risk fines, along with a potential hit to their reputation. To identify compliance gaps, some healthcare organizations use the HIPAA cybersecurity “crosswalk,” which links various HIPAA rules with corresponding guidelines from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. 

Security: Compliance isn’t the same thing as security — an especially relevant notion in the healthcare space, where considerations such as HIPAA compliance can sometimes overshadow the threats posed by hackers. Becker’s Health IT & CIO Report identifies several data security challenges that plague the healthcare industry: low cybersecurity awareness, outdated software systems, lax access controls and the proliferation of mobile devices. This last factor, of course, is key to clinical collaboration, and organizations must strive to find a balance between enabling clinician productivity and protecting their environments from attack. 

Device management: To strike a balance between security and productivity, Becker’s advises, organizations should do the following: require data encryption on all devices, adopt management solutions that allow data to be wiped from lost or stolen devices, restrict the use of personal mobile devices on facility networks and allow only certain information to be stored on approved devices. Devices shared by multiple users can present additional challenges, and healthcare organizations must adopt user-friendly identity and access management solutions to facilitate device hand-off. 

Ease of use: Devices and applications must be simple and intuitive, or employee adoption will be a struggle. In fact, a lack of clinician buy-in can lead to the complete failure of a new initiative. Ease of use is especially important for solutions such as telehealth systems, which may be unfamiliar to many users. “Challenges to the success of [health IT] are largely due to non-technical issues such as poor usability that impact communication and workflow,” researchers wrote in the International Journal of Medical Informatics in 2018. “Therefore, HIT requires the design of user-friendly tools that are context appropriate. Implementation considerations including the impact on workflow must be addressed early in the initial planning and design stages if HIT applications are to be successful.”

Adoption and culture change: A user-friendly interface alone isn’t enough to drive IT adoption. Organizational inertia is a powerful force that must be overcome, and it will be challenging to change existing processes unless clinicians understand the value of a new IT solution for simplifying their work and improving patient care. Harvard Business Review advises healthcare organizations to involve clinicians in the early stages of solution design to ensure they buy into new initiatives and integrate them into daily practice. The publication gives examples of healthcare tech rollouts for which clinicians were consulted not only about solutions but also to identify problems that needed to be solved and to provide ongoing feedback during solution testing. “When the end user identifies the problem, participates in building in the solution and continues to engage during its refinement, adoption is inevitable,” Harvard Business Review writes. 

Infrastructure: Back-end networking, storage and computing infrastructure must be robust enough to support new IT initiatives. This can be especially challenging for healthcare organizations that have expanded in recent years, with IT staffers forced to support disparate systems at a number of different sites. Depending on a healthcare organization’s existing environment, its geographic footprint and the new technology tools it plans to deploy, IT and business leaders may explore solutions such as hyperconverged infrastructure, software-defined networking or public cloud resources. 

To overcome these challenges, healthcare organizations must develop an effective strategy to guide their clinical collaboration initiatives and surrounding support efforts. It’s important to identify key performance indicators before a technology deployment. These KPIs may include metrics such as average length of stay for patients, time savings for staff, reductions in the amount of time required for tasks such as lab processing and admissions, and a more efficient patient discharge process. For healthcare organizations developing a new clinical collaboration strategy, a trusted third-party partner is often a valuable resource for establishing these KPIs, as well as designing and implementing solutions and monitoring progress toward goals over time. 

To learn more about how technology can help connect patients and care providers, read the CDW white paper “Better Healthcare Through Clinical Collaboration.”