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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.

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.

Mobile Policy Enforcement Issues Could Expose Hospitals To Security Problems

Posted on June 15, 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.

Over the last several years, mobile device management has become a critical issue for hospital IT departments. As mobile use by both clinicians and patients has soared, hospitals have been scrambling to keep up. Now, a new study suggests that the policies hospitals develop to manage mobile devices are enforced inconsistently, a finding which should concern hospital leaders.

To perform the study, which was backed by mobile communications firm Spok, researchers collected responses from roughly 300 healthcare professionals from across the U.S. The survey reached not only IT leaders but also clinicians, who made up 44% of respondents. Another 40% included a wide range of professions, including pharmacists, medical technicians, business analysts, social workers and lab managers. IT respondents made up just 10% of those surveyed.

One of the results of the survey was that hospitals vary widely in the maturity of their mobile management strategies and their ability to execute them.

Certainly, the mobile management concerns have become a bigger deal over the last several years. Back in 2012, when Spok first asked survey participants about their mobile approach, only a third said that they had a formal strategy in place. By 2017, though, the number of respondents reporting that they had a mobile strategy had climbed to 65%. (That number actually fell to 57% in 2018, for reasons that are unclear.)

That being said, these strategies are relatively new. Forty-six percent of respondents said their organization had a mobile strategy in place for one to three years, and another 12% reported having a formal mobile management strategy for just one year.

The most common mobile strategy was focused on mobile management and security (56%), followed by mobile device selection, integration with the EMR (48%), infrastructure assessment (45%), clinical workflow evaluation (43%), device ownership strategy e.g. BYOD (34%), mobile app strategy (29%), mobile app catalog (16%), mobile strategy governance (14%) and business intelligence and reporting (12%).

Hospital leaders are continuing to rebuild their strategies as needed. Many hospitals have upgraded their mobile strategy over time, for reasons that included better meeting the needs of end users (39%), changes in clinical workflows (28%)  and addressing security and compliance requirements (25%).

Despite all of this effort, however, there seems to be a gap between mobile strategy development and the extent to which mobile strategies are enforced and understood by hospital staff. While 43% of hospitals have security teams, telecommunications teams or clinical informatics teams enforce mobile policies, many hospitals are struggling to give these rules some teeth.

True, 39% of respondents said that their hospital enforced mobile policies extremely well, and on a consistent basis, and another 33% said they were enforced well most of the time, and another 24% said they were not sure. This suggests that those institutions aren’t educating employees and clinicians about these issues, nor are they getting tough about enforcement. And of course, if hospital clinicians and staff don’t even know whether a strategy is in place, they’re probably not following it.

Hospital Mobile Strategy Still In Flux

Posted on January 8, 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 following is a look at how hospitals’ use of communication devices has changed since 2011, and what the patterns are now.  You might be surprised to read some of these data points since in some cases they defy conventional wisdom.

The researchers behind the study, communications tech provider Spok, Inc. surveyed about 300 healthcare professionals this year, and have tracked such issues since 2011. The report captures data on the major transitions in hospital mobile communications that have taken place since then.

For example, the report noted that in 2011, 84% of staffers received job-related alerts on pagers. Sixty-two percent are using wireless in-house phones, 61% desk phones, 77% email on their computers, 44% cell phones and 5% other devices.

Since then, mobile device usage in hospitals has changed significantly. For example, 77% of respondents said that their hospital supports smartphone use. The popularity of some devices has come and gone over time, including tablets and Wi-Fi phones (which are nonetheless used by 63% of facilities).

Perhaps the reason this popularity has risen and fallen is that hospitals are still finding it tricky to support mobile devices. The issues include supporting needed infrastructure for Wi-Fi coverage (45%), managing cellular coverage infrastructure (30%), maintaining data security (31%) and offering IT support for users (about 30%). Only 11% of respondents said they were not facing any of these concerns at present.

When the researchers asked the survey panel which channels were best for sharing clinical information in a hospital, not all cited contemporary mobile devices. Yes, smartphones did get the highest reliability rating, at 3.66 out of five points, but pagers, including encrypted pagers, were in second place with a rating of 3.20. Overhead announcements came in third at 2.91 and EHR apps at 2.39.

The data on hospitals and BYOD policies seemed counterintuitive as well. According to Spok, 88% of facilities supported some form of BYOD in 2014, or in other words, roughly 9 out of 10.  That percentage has fallen drastically, however, BYOD support hitting 59% this year.

Not surprisingly, clinicians are getting the most leeway when it comes to using their own devices on campus. In 2017, 90% of respondents said they allowed their clinicians to bring their own devices with them. Another 69% supported BYOD for administrators, 57% for nurses and 56% for IT staffers. Clearly, hospital leaders aren’t thrilled about supporting mobility unless it keeps clinical staff aligned with the facility.

To control this cacophony of devices, 30% said they were using enterprise mobility management solutions, 40% said they were evaluating such solutions and 30% said they had no plans to do so. Apparently, despite some changes in the devices being used, hospitals still aren’t sure who should have mobile tools, how to support them and what infrastructure they need to keep those devices lit up and useful.

Hospital CIOs Say Better Data Security Is Key Goal

Posted on November 9, 2016 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 study has concluded that while they obviously have other goals, an overwhelming majority of healthcare CIOs see data protection as their key objective for the near future. The study, which was sponsored by Spok and administered by CHIME, more than 100 IT leaders were polled on their perspective on communications and healthcare.

In addition to underscoring the importance of data security efforts, the study also highlighted the extent to which CIOs are being asked to add new functions and wear new hats (notably patient satisfaction management).

Goals and investments
When asked what business goals they expected to be focused on for the next 18 months, the top goal of 12 possible options was “strengthening data security,” which was chosen by 81%. “Increasing patient satisfaction” followed relatively closely at 70%, and “improving physician satisfaction” was selected by 65% of respondents.

When asked which factors were most important in making investments in communications-related technologies for their hospital, the top factor of 11 possible options was “best meets clinician/organizational needs” with 82% selecting that choice, followed by “ease of use for end users (e.g. physician/nurse) at 80% and “ability to integrate with current systems (e.g. EHR) at 75%.

When it came to worfklows they hoped to support with better tools, “care coordination for treatment planning” was the clear leader, chosen by 67% of respondents, followed by patient discharge (48%), “patient handoffs within hospital” (46%) and “patient handoffs between health services and facilities” chosen by 40% of respondents selected.

Mobile developments
Turning to mobile, Spok asked healthcare CIOs which of nine technology use cases were driving the selection and deployment of mobile apps. The top choices, by far, were “secure messaging in communications among care team” at 84% and “EHR access/integrations” with 83%.

A significant number of respondents (68%) said they were currently in the process of rolling out a secure texting solution. Respondents said their biggest challenges in doing so were “physician adoption/stakeholder buy-in” at 60% and “technical setup and provisioning” at 40%. A substantial majority (78%) said they’d judge the success of their rollout by the rate the solution was adopted by by physicians.

Finally, when Spok asked the CIOs to take a look at the future and predict which issues will be most important to them three years from now, the top-rated choice was “patient centered care,” which was chosen by 29% of respondents,” “EHR integrations” and “business intelligence.”

A couple of surprises
While much of this is predictable, I was surprised by a couple things.

First, the study doesn’t seem to have been designed for statistical significance, it’s still worth noting that so many CIOs said improving patient satisfaction was one of their top three goals for the next 18 months. I’m not sure what they can do to achieve this end, but clearly they’re trying. (Exactly what steps they should take is a subject for another article.)

Also, I didn’t expect to see so many CIOs engaged in rolling out secure texting, partly because I would’ve expected such rollouts to already have been in place at this point, and partly because I assume that more CIOs would be more focused on higher-level mobile apps (such as EHR interfaces). I guess that while mobile clinical integration efforts are maturing, many healthcare facilities aren’t ready to take them on yet.