Health Care Collaboration Platforms and their Data

There’s a transformation in health-care allowing professionals (nurses, care managers, pharmacists, social workers) to communicate among each other and with patients and their caregivers as easily as using instant-messenger.

Wait, what?

When thinking about experiences in health-care, it’s important to understand that most expenditures are geared toward healing sick people rather than keeping people from getting sick. The sickest 20% of patients in the U.S. consume 80% of health care costs and “Super-users” with complex medical needs make up a small fraction of U.S. patients, but they account for half of the nation’s overall health-care spending.

For this reason, most people reading this cannot fathom what our health-care “system” feels like when it’s in high gear, applied to a sick patient with complex care requirements. That’s fortunate, of course, though it’s possible you’ve experienced this in the role of a caregiver for a family member.

Care Teams

One thing that happens when a patient becomes the focus of “the system’s” attention is the formation of a care team. This is a team of health-care professionals assigned to the patient’s care, typically includes a nurse, a care manager, and can include specialized roles such as a pharmacist. Who pays for all of this? The insurance company (a health-care “payer”) does this to mitigate their risk, the real costs are in emergency room visits, readmissions, aggravated conditions because of not following doctor’s orders, etc. A care team working with a patient and their caregiver can contain and reduce costs, and that’s why the practice of care management has been around for decades.

The problem is — the way care teams collaborate is decades old.

‘Telephonic’, yes, the term itself sounds like something from the 80's.


When a group of individuals needs to collaborate on a project, and telephones are the primary medium of communication, several issues surface. Let’s list a few…

  • synchronicity is challenging, this gives rise to “telephone tag”
  • it’s difficult to speak with multiple people at the same time
  • cannot share links, images, documents, etc.
  • except what’s annotated, no way to refer back to what’s been said
  • some things must be written down manually, eg. phone #s, addresses, etc.

The reality is teams (not just in health-care) are:

  • working at different times (asynchronicity is crucial)
  • sharing digital pointers (eg. links)
  • sharing documents (eg. PDFs)
  • communicating individually and in groups
  • searching what’s been shared

But wait, this sounds familiar!

Messaging apps are everywhere, so-called “Messaging Apps” are already generating more online traffic than social media. In the workplace, collaboration apps such as #Slack are already worth $5B. These apps are about teams collaborating online. Yes there are phone calls, and yes people still meet in person, and yes once in a while there are paper forms necessary but much of the collaboration is happening online.

Why we built Vela

This is why we at Seniorlink built Vela, enabling care teams to collaborate and communicate online, in a secure environment (read: HIPAA compliance) with an experience suitable for care managers (with several patients in their case load).

The hype around so-called “Chat-bots” is tied to messaging apps because the messaging medium can facilitate machine response. Unlike voice ‘bots’ (think Siri, Alexa, et al.) we’re interested in an asynchronous dialog, one that can carry attachments and links, and support group conversations. Nurses are not going to be replaced by chatbots anytime soon but some repetitive and formulaic aspects of their work can be automated. Regardless the first opportunity is to facilitate online collaboration and communication, and according the Gartner Research, this improves care, reduces costs and improves patient experience.

There’s Gold in that Data

Healthcare informatics has always been rich with analytical potential but now with collaboration platforms we’re able to add data about the care conversation. Conversational data is a powerful amplifier to a patient’s medical records, it includes structured data such as:

  • use of app and user responsiveness trends over time
  • answers to questionnaires
  • completion of to-do items on a care plan

As well as unstructured data including:

  • the nature of the conversation
  • changes in tone or sentiment, particularly around significant events
  • engagement levels correlated to varying types of messages from the care team

The reality is that in today’s telephonic care conversation, most if not all of the dialog is lost, forever. Using online collaboration none of it is lost. The historical conversation about each patient is analyzable and used to amplify patient health information over time.

Once data analytics becomes a priority, and sufficient active users over time use the app, we approach what some refer to as the health-care Holy Grail.

The Holy Grail

The ultimate goal for a health-care data analytics team is the ability to predict adverse events, or at least generate a probability to stratify patient risk.

If the structured and unstructured data for a patient results in a predictive score that suggests a higher-than-average risk for some specific event, this can be leveraged in a variety of ways. A patient panel, for example, can be sorted by relative risk. Often what matters most is the relative risk trend-line and changes to that over time.

Capturing conversational data for engaged patients and their caregivers provides a data stream that fills in the blanks in-between in-person visits and phone call notes. Notes are often somewhat removed from the actual details of what was said/asked. This ‘movie’ reveals much about what’s going on with the patient over time.

Health-care collaboration platforms, like Seniorlink’s Vela, allow conversational data to be captured and analyzed. This creates a feedback loop for the user experience and surfaces crucial analytical yield that can be used to improve care and reduce risk.

Modern collaboration and communication among care teams is a game-changer, the data that emerges from this is not to be overlooked.