Hamilton doctors and staff using Secure Chat
August 3, 2022
HAMILTON, Ont. – As part of its recent deployment of the Epic digital information system, Hamilton Health doctors and staff have been using Secure Chat to communicate and collaborate, either one-on-one or in groups to exchange messages or discuss patient information. “It functions like text messaging or WhatsApp, but it’s a completely secure way of communicating,” said Dr. Alim Pardhan (pictured on left), an emergency department doctor and site lead at HHS’ Hamilton General Hospital (HGH). Pardhan led the team that introduced Secure Chat to HHS.
Nothing beats good, old-fashioned face-to-face communication, said Pardhan. But in a large hospital system, that’s not always possible, which makes a tool like Secure Chat so helpful. Secure Chat is a secure messaging tool included in the new hospital information system.
“This way of communicating is a huge step forward from just 10 years ago, when doctors would track down colleagues through paging and wait for them to call back,” he said. “More recent technology allowed for texting or WhatsApp messaging, but we had to be really careful about what we transmitted because those messaging tools aren’t secure. With Secure Chat, we can securely share information.”
Secure Chat has been very well-received, said Sarah Hayhow (pictured on right), clinical educator for HGH’s emergency department and HHS Urgent Care Centre.
Prior to Secure Chat, nurses would occasionally reach out to doctors by sending text messages to their cell phones, choosing their words carefully so as not to breech patient confidentiality. Otherwise, their only other option was paging and waiting for a doctor to respond back.
“Secure Chat gives more opportunities to get hold of different team members,” said Hayhow. “Texting was also fairly limiting because we could only reach out to doctors and other team members whose cell phone numbers we had. With Secure Chat, we can search any HHS doctor or team member by name and send them a message. We don’t need to know their cell phone number. We can also reach out to resident doctors via the team they’re with.”
Secure Chat is meant for non-urgent communication related to day-to-day work. For example, a nurse wanting to clarify instructions from doctors can send a Secure Chat message instead of trying to track them down in the hospital. “It’s much faster to reach them by Secure Chat,” said Hayhow.
Paging and phone calls continue to be used for urgent care or emergencies, said Pardhan.
“If a patient comes into the emergency department with chest pains, a doctor would get paged or called to respond immediately.”