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Looking to Improve Patient Experience? Simple Options Can Yield Big Results.

Posted on September 18, 2018 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

Improving patient experience is a top priority. Instead of grandiose new programs, hospitals and practices would see better results by focusing on simple options that have a big impact – like an eConsent solution. eConsent makes it easier for organizations to treat patients with respect and gets patients involved in their care.

Over the past several years more and more attention has been placed on improving the patient experience. This is partly due to a recognition by healthcare organizations that experiences could euphemistically be called less-than-ideal and partly because of changes to reimbursements that tie $$$ to patient satisfaction (specifically HCAHPS scores). From a patient and patient champion perspective this attention has been a welcome change.

There is a tendency, however, for healthcare organizations to gravitate towards large-scale projects to improve patient experience. Although projects like renovating patient suites and implementing AI chatbots can indeed have a positive impact, these initiatives are resource-intensive and can take a long time to yield results. Instead, hospitals and physician practices should focus on doing small things better and reap the benefits of improved patient experience sooner.

According to a study published by BMJ Open in 2016, positive patient experiences were “closely linked to effective patient-health professional interaction and logistics of the hospital processes”. The authors of the study also found that “positive aspects of the hospital experience were related to feeling well informed and consulted about their care”.

In 2014 a study found that delays in healthcare (wait times) impacted the perceived quality of care received. The longer the delay, the more that confidence in the care provider eroded. Having confidence in the care provider is a key factor in the online ratings patients give to healthcare organizations. Online ratings are the new real-time way to gauge patient satisfaction.

Taken in combination, these studies tie patient satisfaction/experience directly to (1) interactions between patients and their health professionals; and (2) smooth hospital processes.

Interactions with Patients

So what can hospitals do to improve interactions between health professionals and patients? They could implement new communication tools (like real-time chat). They could renovate offices so that patients and clinicians can look at screens together. They could even hire navigators to help patients interact with health professionals. All of these are fantastic initiatives, but all of them will take time and in some cases, a lot of resources.

There are, however, a number of simple things that hospitals could do that do not require significant investments of time or dollars. One would be to train clinicians to ask patients: “Is there anything we have covered today that I can help clarify or that you have questions about” rather than the standard “Do you have any questions?”. Another would be to implement electronic forms during the intake process so that patients only have to enter their information once. There is nothing more annoying than having each department ask for the same information over and over again.

Along these lines, an often overlooked yet quick-hit improvement area, is the informed consent process. The American Medical Association defines it as follows.

“The process of informed consent occurs when communication between a patient and physician results in the patient’s authorization or agreement to undergo a specific medical intervention. In seeking a patient’s informed consent (or the consent of the patient’s surrogate if the patient lacks decision-making capacity or declines to participate in making decisions), physicians should:

(a) Assess the patient’s ability to understand relevant medical information and the implications of treatment alternatives and to make an independent, voluntary decision.

(b) Present relevant information accurately and sensitively, in keeping with the patient’s preferences for receiving medical information. The physician should include information about:

  • The diagnosis (when known)
  • The nature and purpose of recommended interventions
  • The burdens, risks, and expected benefits of all options, including forgoing treatment

(c) Document the informed consent conversation and the patient’s (or surrogate’s) decision in the medical record in some manner. When the patient/surrogate has provided specific written consent, the consent form should be included in the record.”

The informed consent process is a golden opportunity for hospitals to improve the patient experience. It is a chance for health professionals to engage patients in their care. This engagement has numerous benefits including:

  1. Reducing the anxiety patients have about the upcoming procedure, which in turn helps improve patient outcomes. This study published in the British Journal of Surgery, shows patient who are less anxious have fewer post-procedure wound complications.
  2. Demonstrating that the health professional (and by extension the hospital) care about the patient as a person.
  3. Mitigating the risk of malpractice. Lack of communication and feeling like clinicians didn’t care about them are common reasons cited by patients who decide to sue for malpractice. This New York Times article has an excellent summary of various studies into this phenomenon.

A simple way to improve the informed consent process is to move away from paper-based consent forms, which can be lost and are often confusing to patients, to electronic consent forms (commonly referred to as eConsent).

According to Robin McKee, Director of Clinical Solutions at FormFast, which offers an eConsent solution, “It’s the right time to be having the conversation about the costly risks associated with a paper-based process. Over 500 organizations recently experienced compliance issues due to missing informed consent forms according to the Joint Commission). Adopting an electronic solution is an easy and quick way to offer a better patient experience during the consent process.”

With an eConsent solution like FormFast’s, hospitals would be able to:

  • Have patients fill out forms on a user-friendly tablet
  • Pre-populate information on the forms with EHR data
  • Link to educational material that explains the procedure and risks in more detail
  • Quickly recall consent forms prior to the procedure by scanning the patient’s wristband
  • Provide a copy of the consent form (and links to the educational material) to patients

Smooth Hospital Processes

Feeling respected as an individual is key to a good patient experience. In fact, a 2015 Consumer Reports Survey found that patients who said they did not feel respected by the medical staff were 2.5 times as likely to experience a medical error versus those who felt they were treated well.  One of the easiest ways to show respect for patients is to value their time and prevent long delays during their hospital stay.

For patients, it is a horrible feeling to show up at the appointed time for a procedure, only to be carted to a waiting area in nothing but a flimsy robe and left to wait with no explanation. Now imagine how it would feel after 20 minutes of waiting to have a member of staff come and ask you to fill out another set of consent forms because your originals had been lost. Of course, while the patient is filling out the form, the staff member must review all the risks and implications of the procedure before you can sign the forms again. I know I would be about as calm as a palm tree in a hurricane.

This situation is referred to as “gurney consent” and is something that many hospitals are trying to eliminate. The National Center for Ethics in Health Care has a special guideline that prohibits gurney consent – VHA Handbook 1004.01 – Informed Consent for Clinical Treatments and Procedures. That handbook states that “Patients must not, as part of the routine practice of obtaining informed consent, be asked to sign consent forms ‘on the gurney’ or after they have been sedated in preparation for a procedure.” This clause was meant to ensure the consent does not occur “so late in the process that the patient feels pressed or forced to consent or is deprived of a meaningful choice because he or she is in a compromised position.”

Sadly, gurney consents are an all too common occurrence in hospitals that use paper-based consent forms. JAMA reports that missing consent forms cause 10% of procedures to be delayed, costing each hospital over $500K each year. This of course does not count the emotional toll it takes on patients.

It would be remiss not to point out that members of staff equally hate the need to have patients re-sign consent forms. It’s not comfortable to be the bearer of bad news and stand there while an upset patient vocalizes their displeasure. After all, the staff member is not the one that lost the form. Medscape’s recent National Physician Burnout & Depression Report found that the top contributor to physician burnout was excessive administrative tasks. Asking for another consent form from a patient certainly qualifies as an excessive administrative task.

“By modernizing document workflows, FormFast gives patients, their family member and clinicians the information they need, when they need it,” says Rob Harding, CEO of FormFast. “Digitizing the informed consent process helps ensure procedures go according to plan – no one is running around trying to find a paper document or asking for forms to be filled out yet again. A frictionless workflow makes for smooth operation which helps both patients and health professionals. eConsent is really a win-win.”

Conclusion

There are a myriad of ways to improve the patient experience. Big, bold initiatives and small, simple changes to existing processes. Although it is not an either-or situation, in the current economic and regulatory environment, hospitals should look for “small wins”, like eConsent, as an affordable and pragmatic way to improve the overall patient experience. As an added bonus, clinicians and administrators will also reap the benefits of lower stress and smoother workflows.

No matter what initiative, a hospital takes, ANY effort made to improve patient experience is a step in the right direction.

FormFast is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene.

Hospitals Struggle To Get Users On Board With Mobile Policies

Posted on August 6, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

A new survey has found that hospitals are having a hard time managing and tracking user compliance with mobile communications policies.

The survey, which was conducted in early 2018 by communications vendor Spok, collected information on mobile device communications strategies from approximately 300 healthcare professionals. Forty-four percent of respondents were clinicians, 10% were IT and telecom staff, 6% were executive leaders, and another 40% had a wide variety of healthcare roles.

Spok found that hospitals who do have a mobile strategy in place have had one for a long time, with 42% having had such a strategy for either 3 to 5 years or more than five years. Another 46% have had a formal mobile strategy for one to three years. Only 12% have had a strategy in place for one year or less.

Reasons they cited for creating mobile device strategies included the launch of a communication initiative (46%); a clinical initiative (25%); or a technology initiative (24%). Five percent of responses were “other.” Top areas of focus for these strategies included mobile management and security (56%), mobile device selection (52%) and integration with the EHR (48%).

Other reasons for mobile initiatives included clinical workflow evaluation (43%), device ownership strategy/BYOD (34%), mobile apps strategy (29%), mobile app catalog (16%), mobile strategy governance (14%) and business intelligence and reporting strategy (12%).

However, there’s little agreement as to which hospital department should monitor compliance. Forty-three percent of respondents said the security team was monitoring policies for the hospital or system, 43% rely on a telecommunications team, 43% said a clinical informatics team played that role, and 26% had monitoring done by a mobile team. Twenty-one percent said individual departments enforce mobile policies and 9% said they don’t have an enforcement method in place. Another 9% of responses fell into the “other” category.

Given the degree to which monitoring varies between institutions, it’s little wonder to learn that policies aren’t enforced effectively in many cases. On the one hand, 39% respondents said the policies were enforced extremely well most of the time, and one-third said they were enforced well most the time. However, 4% said the policies were being enforced poorly and inconsistently, and 44% said they are not sure about how well the policies are being enforced.

Hospitals are aware of this problem, though, and many are taking steps to ensure that users understand and comply with mobile policies. According to the survey, 48% offer educational programs on the subject, 42% use technology or data gathered from devices to measure and track compliance, 37% leverage direct feedback from users and 23% use surveys.

Still, 21% said they don’t have a way to validate compliance — which suggests that hospitals have a lot more work to do.

Pager Breach Exposes Patient Data From Six Hospitals

Posted on July 6, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

The IT worker was shocked. All he had done was buy an antenna and try to get TV channels on his laptop computer, but to his amazement, he inadvertently intercepted a flood of unencrypted pager messages chock full of private patient data.

The pager messages flooded in from six Kansas City area hospitals, including the University of Kansas Hospital, Cass County Regional, Liberty Hospital, Children’s Mercy Hospital, St. Mary’s Medical Center and Wesley Medical Center.  All told, the man had gotten access to information on hundreds of patients, in a fusillade of potential HIPAA violations.

According to an article in the Kansas City Star, patients who learned about the breach were horrified. “Who knows what else is going on, if it’s that easy for that information to get out there?” one woman told the newspaper. “There’s a big security breach there that needs to be stopped.”

When the paper spoke to the hospitals involved, some punted and didn’t respond to questions. Others shrugged off the problem or suggested that the breach was not a big deal.

For example, the University of Kansas told the reporter that the pager vulnerability was due to “a specific vulnerability in our paging system that may allow access to certain personal health information in limited circumstances.” It seems that an apology was not forthcoming.

Another hospital, Children’s Mercy, told the Star that the IT worker was to blame for the problem, contending that the pager data was only accessible to “local hackers with specific scanning and decoding equipment —- and technical knowledge of how to use it for this specific purpose.” In other words, the breach wasn’t really its fault.

As the article points out, the IT worker could be accused of violating the Electronic Communications Protection Act, which restricts the interception of electronic communications. For that reason, the paper never identifies him. But the article strongly suggests that he was surprised to see the messages and operated in good faith.

The worker, for his part, sensibly argues that the hospitals should have realized that the messages were in the clear. “It’s security by obscurity at this point —- and that’s scary,” he told the paper. “In my line of work you see a lot of ‘Let’s hope nobody finds it,’ [or] ‘It’s hard to find, so it’s pretty secure.’ That’s not enough. We can’t just trust people won’t stumble upon it. We have to assume that they do.”

Mobile App Streamlines Physician Query Process

Posted on June 28, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Most physicians would tell you that they already spend too much time on documentation and coding. Adding insult to injury, after the coding job is done we often have to explain their decisions to medical coders, a process which can take as long as 20 minutes, according to vendor Artifact Health.

Artifact hopes to take the pain out of the burdensome physician query process. It offers a mobile app allowing doctors to answer coding queries which it says allow them to resolve problems within just three clicks. Physicians can also access the platform on the desktop.

Its approach bears some relationship to a new product from vendor Change Healthcare, which has just launched RCM technology which helps doctors address claims documentation requests. Change’s Assurance Assist Module, which is part of its Assurance Reimbursement Management suite, can anticipate the documentation needs of eight payers, the company said.

I am interested in both of these approaches because I know that physicians are already struggling to manage medical coding within their own practices. Hospital queries are a challenging part of that mix and feels like a major chore for providers. In fact, if Artifact’s research is correct and each traditional query takes 20 minutes to resolve, physicians could conceivably end up a little time to do anything else.

So far, Artifact seems to be rolling along impressively. The vendor says that more than 50 hospitals have come on board with its technology, including five institutions from Johns Hopkins Medicine. According to the vendor, these hospitals solve physician response rate of almost 100% and average response time within 48 hours for all periods.

Meanwhile, the hospitals found that the time it took for claims to get paid (days in Accounts Receivable) fell substantially, Artifact reports.

Lest it sound like I’m an Artifact investor, let me raise the questions I ask every time I get a look at a new health IT startup:

  • What does the software cost?
  • How long does it usually take to go live with the platform?
  • How much man- or woman power will it take to install and maintain the software?

At the moment I don’t know. As we all know, not only the initial investment, but also implementation and maintenance can catch hospitals by surprise.

The truth is, it’s likely any vendor addressing aspects of hospital RCM will be somewhat expensive and somewhat complex to install. I wish there were workable benchmarks giving hospital leaders a preliminary sense of their potential investment.

Regardless, this is a worthwhile area for RCM vendors to attack. Even if all this technology did was give doctors some relief, it might reach ROI over time. When you consider that tools like these can help coders get clean claims out of the door, it’s even better.

Approaches For Improving Your HCAHPS Score

Posted on June 27, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Improving your HCAHPS scores gets easier if you make smart use of your existing technology infrastructure. To make that work, however, you have to know which areas have the greatest impact on the score.

According to healthcare communications vendor Spok, hospitals can boost their scores by focusing on five particularly important areas which loom large in patient satisfaction. Of course, I’m sure these approaches solve problems addressed by Spok solutions, but I thought they were worth reviewing anyway. These five areas include:

  • Speed up response to the call button
    Relying on the call button itself doesn’t get the job done. If calls go to a central nursing station, it takes several steps to eventually get back to the patient, it’s possible to drop the ball. Instead, hospitals can send requests directly from the call button to the correct caregiver’s mobile device. This works whether providers use s a Wi-Fi phone, smartphone, pager, voice badge or tablet.
  • Lower the noise volume
    Hospitals are aware that noise is an issue, and try everything from taking the squeak out of meal cart wheels to posting signs reminding all to keep the conversations quiet. However, this will only go so far. Spok recommends hospitals take the additional step of integrating the monitoring of equipment alarms with staff assignments systems, and as above, routing nurse call notifications to the appropriate patient care providers mobile device. Fewer overhead notifications means less noise.
  • Address patient pain faster
    To help patients with the pain as quickly as possible, give staff access to your full directory, which allows nurses to quickly locate provider contact information and reach them with requests for pain medication orders. In addition, roll out a secure texting solution which allows nurses to share detailed patient health information safely.
  • Make information sharing simpler
    Look at gaps in getting information to patients and providers, and streamline your communications process. For example, Spok notes, if communication between team members is efficient, the time between a test order and the arrival of the phlebotomist can get shorter, or the time it takes the patient transport team to bring them to the imaging department for a scan can be reduced. One way to do this is to have your technology trigger automatic message to the appropriate party when an order is placed. Also, use the same to approach to automatically notify providers when test results are available.
  • Speed up discharge
    There are many understandable reasons why the patient discharge process can drag out, but patients don’t care what issues hospitals are addressing in the background. One way to speed things up is to set up your EMR to send a message the entire care team’s mobile devices. This makes it easier for providers to coordinate discharge approval and patient instructions. The faster the discharge process, the happier patients usually are.

Of course, addressing the patient care workflow goes well beyond the type of technology hospitals use for coordination and messaging. Getting this part of the process right is a good thing, though.

Some Physicians Get Personally Identifiable Information Via Texts Every Day

Posted on June 22, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

A new survey has concluded that despite efforts to better protect patient data privacy, a substantial number of providers are still getting unsecured messages that contain patient information.

The survey, which was performed by Black Book Market Research, analyze replies from 770 hospital-based users and 1279 physician practices. Researchers looked at how care teams were retaining secure communications.

The market research firm found that 30% of respondents received texts that included individually identifiable data every day. This result should curdle the blood of healthcare cybersecurity experts since I’m pretty sure most of these patients haven’t agreed to these unsecured texts.

However, both hospitals and physicians are pressing forward with platforms that protect patient data while linking teams together. The vast majority of respondents (94% of physicians and 90% of hospitals) told Black Book that mobile technology, in particular, could improve patient safety and outcomes.

The majority of respondents (85% of hospitals and 80% of physician practices) reported that they were committed to investing in secure communications platforms capable of tying together care teams, patients and families. And they’re in a hurry. In fact, 96% of hospitals expected to budget for or invest in comprehensive clinical indication platforms before the close of 2018.

That being said, 63% of study respondents said they were finding it difficult to get mobile technology buy-in from colleagues. Actually, that’s not too surprising. If you ask physicians to switch from an easy-to-use, effective tool like texting to an unknown communications platform, they’re likely to resist. They probably understand intellectually why using secure, collaboration-friendly software is a good idea, but the truth is that these platforms might disrupt physicians’ routines substantially.

Meanwhile, 90% of hospitals and 77% of physician practices that participated in the survey said they were using intrusion detection systems and secure email. However, this news isn’t that encouraging, as the majority of existing physician portals already offer secure email, and intrusion detection systems are pretty much a given by current standards.

The truth is, with healthcare data growing more valuable than ever and the threat landscape expanding rapidly, both hospitals and medical practices will need to step up their game substantially if they want to avoid security breaches. Investing in secure communications platforms is good, but it only addresses part of their security problems.

Over the long haul, both hospitals and doctors will have to get better at protecting both their mobile and enterprise data assets. There are good reasons to focus on secure mobile communications now, but providers can’t let it distract them from enterprise-wide security problems.

 

Beth Israel Deaconess Launches Health Innovation Center

Posted on May 7, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

In yet another example of a health system bringing innovation home, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has launched an in-house center combining the feel of a startup incubator and the vast reach of a globally-known provider.

It’s not clear yet whether this emerging model will be more powerful than plain old incubators, but there are a lot of resources at play here. (It’s worth pointing out that only one of the factors that distinguish it is that the center will be based at a Harvard teaching hospital.}

The Health Technology Exploration Center will be led by John Halamka, MD, MS, chief information officer of the Beth Israel Deaconess system. As the health systems press release rightly notes, Halamka already has his fingerprints on many important advances in health IT, including patient portals, unique web-based medical records, and advances in secure patient data exchange. It also notes that he has brought together collaborations with global HIT thought leaders such Google, Amazon, Apple and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (Did we mention that the man is non-stop?)

The HTEC’s first focus areas will come as no surprise. They include helping patients manage their own health using mobile application; improving patient education and care through natural language interfaces; optimizing medical decision-making with dashboards and analytics; and enhancing patient/clinician communication using new devices and programs.

Though the press release doesn’t make a big thing of it, the website makes it clear that a lot of what its leaders would like to do haven’t been paid for just yet. However, the health system has already laid out its plans for when it gets enough contributions to support the program.

If the HTEC is fully funded, the system would make investments in faculty, staff and infrastructure that would help it take on local national and international partnerships. HTEC would also generate research intended to usher in breakthrough healthcare technology options.

I’d like to take a minute and say that not only is this great, it should be more commonplace than it is. Yes, few healthcare organizations have the clout and resources that a system affiliated with Harvard has, and that’s unlikely to change. But that doesn’t mean smaller facilities are out of the running.

What I’d like to see for virtually every facility to capture more of the value it creates during the process of everyday patient care. Given the extent to which healthcare data is shareable, recordable and integrable, providers don’t have to stop what they’re doing to amass data and expertise that benefit everyone in the profession. I believe it’s not only possible but necessary.

Henry Ford Rolling Out Analytics In Neuro ICU

Posted on April 25, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Not long ago, the chair of neurology at the sprawling Henry Ford Hospital decided it was time to bring his idea to life. Dr. Stephan Mayer, who had previously created a data analytics system at New York Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, felt he could bring what he learned to Henry Ford Hospital — and that it could save lives.

According to a story in Crain’s Detroit Business, Mayer was convinced that if the hospital analyzed data generated by patient monitors, it could reduce mortality and complications by predicting negative patient events.

“This is all about lost opportunity and making the most of the data we have,” Mayer told Crain’s. “There is nothing unique about the data we have. We have EMRs connected to pharmacy, radiology, billing, this and that, but there is a doughnut hole. The empty spot is the ICU, where the sickest  of the people are.”

Acting on that belief, Mayer put together an initiative bringing such tools to the health system’s neuro ICU.

After searching for a partner that could make this happen, Mayer settled on Medical Informatics Corp.’s FDA-cleared clinical intelligence platform, Sickbay, which monitors real-time vital signs issued by any connected device. The Sickbay product also comes with related apps such as Multimon, which allows clinicians to view multiple patients remotely across units, the hospital or multiple facilities.

Once deployed, Sickbay collects patient monitor data, stores and organizes it in a manner making it easier for clinicians to predict future patient events. For example, it can produce data on patient alarms that fall within specified critical ranges. This allows clinicians to see and act on patterns more quickly, Mayer said.

Working with Henry Ford’s IT Department, Mayer is rolling out Sickbay. Starting in June, Henry Ford will launch Sickbay and begin storing patient data. Over the next six months, the neuro ICU should collect data on 600 patients. Hopefully, this data will offer clinicians the insight and context they need to help patients.

If Mayer gets the results he’s hoping for, this could be just the first in a series of rollouts, potentially across the 22 ICUs operating across the five-hospital system. “Our organization is eager to push boundaries,” he told the magazine. “What we are doing, if it works as planned…it will change the way we round in the ICU.”

This sounds great, but Mayer is still lucky he’s at Henry Ford rather than other less-entrepreneurial organizations. The health system has worked to promote technology innovation for many years. Its efforts include an innovations program rewarding employees for standout inventions in areas like clinical applications for wearable technology.

UW Medicine, Valley Medical Center Reduces Medical Errors With Better Clinician Communication

Posted on April 20, 2018 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

Improving patient safety while simultaneously reducing clinician workloads, increasing efficiency and elevating the patient experience is an almost impossible task. Yet the team at University of Washington Medicine, Valley Medical Center found a way to do just that. Using a secure communications platform from Voalte, the Valley Medical Center team implemented processes that not only reduced the occurrence of pressure ulcers but also improved staff morale.

It is not obvious that improving the communication between patients, clinicians and administrators can lead to better outcomes, but for James Jones (BSN, MSN, NEA-BC), Vice President PCS & Nursing Operations at UW Medicine, Valley Medical Center, he believed it could:

“Being a nurse I realized that if you want patient care to be successful, better patient outcomes and improve the patient experience, you need to start with clinicians first. Without the clinicians, you cannot be successful. They are the entryway for the patient into the organization.”

Jones felt that by investing in clinicians and reducing their workload, they would have more time and energy to focus on improving patient experience as well as patient outcomes. To verify his theory and to gain buy-in from the organization, Jones and his team met with clinicians to ask what they wanted and how THEY would go about improving patient outcomes.

After many meetings, the Valley Medical Center team found that improving internal communications was high on everyone’s priority list. Many clinicians truly believed that better communication would lead to safer patient care – especially in the area of skin-integrity related adverse events (medical errors).

The impact of adverse events and medical errors on US Healthcare are staggering:

  • 10% of all US deaths, approximately 250,000 per year, are due to medical errors [1]
  • $20.8 Billion annually in additional (direct) healthcare costs [2]
  • $250 Billion annually in additional (indirect) healthcare costs [2]

One of the best ways to improve patient outcomes is to reduce the number of preventable adverse events. Pressure ulcers, skin wounds that are caused by sustained pressure on area of the skin – usually as a result of sitting or lying in the same position for long periods of time, are classified as a preventable adverse event.

“Prior to the implementation of Voalte there was a 10-step process to document and assess a pressure ulcer,” explained Jones. “With Voalte we were able to streamline the time and workflow related to pressure ulcers by 40%. Our Wound Care NRP is now able to be anywhere in the hospital and still be able to help patients and clinicians.” Something that would have been impossible with their legacy processes and communication technologies.

The streamlined process and improved communications not only improved patient outcomes, it also had an impact on staff morale and clinician burnout in two specific ways.

First, clinician workload is often cited as a leading cause of burnout. According to a JAMA study published last year, the 25% of physician that felt burnout cited the following contributing factors:

  • 1 percent felt their job environment led to symptoms of burnout
  • 1 percent felt a lack of time for documentation
  • 4 percent reported stress as a common factor
  • 1 percent reported spending time on electronic medical records (EMRs) at home was a significant contributor

When clinicians feel burnt out, it has an impact on patient safety. A Swiss study published in 2014 found a linkage between burnout and adverse events. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) issued the following comment on the study:

The investigators propose that the linkage between burnout and safety is driven by both a lack of motivation or energy and impaired cognitive function. In the latter case, they postulate that emotionally exhausted clinicians curtail performance to focus on only the most necessary and pressing tasks. Clinicians with burnout may also have impaired attention, memory, and executive function that decrease their recall and attention to detail. Diminished vigilance, cognitive function, and increased safety lapses place clinicians and patients at higher risk for errors. As burned out clinicians become cynically detached from their work, they may develop negative attitudes toward patients that promote a lack of investment in the clinician–provider interaction, poor communication, and loss of pertinent information for decision-making. Together these factors result in the burned out clinician having impaired capacity to deal with the dynamic and technically complex nature of ICU care effectively.

Second, by reducing the occurrence of adverse events at Valley Medical Cetner, Jones and his team were helping to reduce clinician anxiety and improve mental health. A report published in 2007 measured the emotional impact on physician that were involved in an adverse event or near miss (adverse events that were caught BEFORE harm came to a patient). The findings were stark:

Source: The Emotional Impact of Medical Errors on Practicing Physicians in the United States and Canada

This study, combined with the prior body of work, shows that there is a “virtuous cycle of benefit” when it comes to burnout and adverse events. Reducing workload and improving morale means clinicians are less likely to feel burned out which in turn means they are less likely to be involved in an adverse event, which means they are less likely to suffer the deep negative emotions associated with medical errors…and round and round it goes.

The team at Valley Medical Cetner is beginning to reap the benefits of being in this cycle. By focusing on improving communications, streamlining documentation requirements and reducing skin-integrity related adverse events, they are directly impacting a key contributing factor to burnout.

“Our goal is to help make it easy for clinicians to do the right thing for patients,” said Jones. “Clinicians are on the front lines. It’s the job of IT to give them the tools and the resources they need to be successful.”

For Valley Medical Center, one of those tools was the Voalte Platform which simplifies care team communication and collaboration. Deployed through smartphones, the Voalte solution gives physicians, nurses and administrators a secure way to communicate via voice and text within the walls of the hospital – eliminating the need for pages over the PA system.

Jones disclosed that Valley Medical Center chose the Voalte Platform because they believed “it was the best platform to help clinicians” and that culturally the team at Voalte was the one most closely aligned to Valley Medical Center’s patient-first approach.

“Voalte was really great to work with,” Jones stated. “They helped us through the transition and through the change management process. They were there in the command center, working alongside us during the initial roll-out. That was huge. It really helped with buy-in and with addressing the small changes that came up during that roll-out.”

In the three months following the roll-out, Valley Medical Center saved more than $50,000 just on their Renal Respiratory Unit and their patient satisfaction scores climbed to the 99th percentile.

Better patient experience. Improved patient outcomes. Lower costs. Reduced workloads. Valley Medical Center has definitely scored a quadruple-win.

You can watch my interview with James Jones on the Healthcare Scene YouTube channel or the embedded video below.

Voalte is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene.

Hospital Mobile Device Initiatives Can Improve Patient Satisfaction

Posted on April 17, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Without a doubt, hospitals have many reasons to implement mobile technology, which can offer everything from improved communications to logistical support. But the benefits of these rollouts may offer more than operational benefits. At least according to data gathered by the following survey, hospital mobile initiatives almost always improve patient experience and satisfaction.

The study, conducted by Vanson Bourne on behalf of Apple-based mobile device management company Jamf, draws on a survey of 600 global healthcare IT decision-makers based in the US, the Netherlands, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Respondents worked in both private and public healthcare organizations.

Researchers found that 96% of healthcare IT decision-makers currently implementing a mobile device initiative felt that it had a positive impact on patient experiences and satisfaction. Also, 32% reported that they saw a significant increase in patient experience scores.

The survey also found that among institutions currently implementing or planning to implement a mobile device initiative, the devices are most likely used in nurses stations (72%), administrative offices (63%) and patient rooms (56%). In addition, survey participants anticipate that mobile device use will expand to both clinical care teams (59%) and administrative staff (54%). What’s more, 47% of respondents said they plan to increase mobile device use in their institution of the next two years.

To exert better control over these efforts, hospitals can leverage a mobile device management solution. However, the survey found that only 48% of healthcare IT decision-makers had full confidence in their MDM solution’s capacity to do its job. That’s down from 59% in 2016.

Also, as data sharing increases via mobile devices and apps, data security becomes even more important. However, many health IT leaders aren’t sure they can pull this off. Their biggest challenges included data privacy (54%), security/compliance (51%) and keeping software properly patched (40%).

But they don’t think MDM tools can solve the problem. Ninety-five percent of respondents said their current MDM solution could stand to offer better security options, and almost a third (31%) of respondents thinking about mobile device initiatives were holding off because they weren’t sure they could secure the devices adequately.

Unfortunately, the health IT world seems to have made little progress in securing mobile devices over the past year. In a similar Jamf study conducted last year, 88% of respondents were concerned about managing security, data privacy (77%) and blocking inappropriate employee use (49%).