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Healthcare Communication with Candice Friestad, Director Informatics at Avera Health

Posted on June 25, 2018 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Ensuring proper communication in healthcare has become an incredibly important topic in every hospital and healthcare system. No doubt much of this has been pushed along by doctors, nurses, and patients use of mobile communication in their personal lives. The explosion of communication technology has been a challenge for many organizations who are stuck with legacy infrastructure, but it also provides a tremendous opportunity to improve healthcare communication over all.

We saw this first hand at the HIMSS 2018 conference when we talked with Candice Friestad, Director Informatics at Avera Health. She joined us at the Voalte booth to talk about their choice to use the Voalte platform in their organization. Candice also talked about what surprises they experienced when implementing the Voalte platform and their users’ reaction to it.

Beyond that, Candice talked about how Voalte allowed them to more easily find various providers and avoid the phone tag that’s common in many healthcare organizations. Candice also shared how they’re working to handle alarm fatigue as is required by the join commission and how choosing a central communication platform for alarms was key to addressing this issue. She also dives into key integrations they’ve created and a unique use case around athletic trainers at football games.

If you’re interested in healthcare communication and the above topics, watch the full video interview below to learn from an expert on the topic:

If you’d rather skip to various sections of the interview, just click the links below to be taken directly to that question:

A big thank you to Voalte for helping facilitate this interview and thank you to Voalte for sponsoring Healthcare Scene.

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.

Shared Use Smartphones in Healthcare: Apple Losing Market Share to Healthcare Specific Devices

Posted on March 14, 2018 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Just before HIMSS took over my healthcare IT world, KLAS published a report on clinical mobility that I found extremely interesting. In fact, the report shaped a number of meetings I did at HIMSS. If you’re a provider or payer you can access the report for free here. However, I got permission to share a few images from the report that showed some trends worth considering when it comes to clinical mobility.

The first image is trends in shared-use smartphones in healthcare organizations.

This chart is quite fascinating as you see a big shift away from Apple devices and a big increase in the healthcare specific mobile devices like Zebra and Spectralink. Granted, Apple still has a good size market share and is still being considered by many. However, it seems that many are realizing that the Apple devices aren’t worth the premium you pay for them.

At HIMSS, I had a chance to talk with both Zebra and Spectralink and I was impressed by their efforts to make a healthcare specific mobile device. These were extremely robust devices and so it’s no wonder to me that they’re seeing good adoption in healthcare.

I’ll be continuing to watch this space to see how it evolves.

Another chart from the clinical mobility report that caught my eye was this list of most desired capabilities:

There’s no surprise that secure messaging was so high. I was a little surprised that video connections was so low. Shows you how far we have to go. Secure messaging does seem to be the gateway drug to mobile clinical devices, but I’m most excited by the other smart notifications that are going to be available. When meeting with Voalte at HIMSS I was impressed by one of their user’s observations that managing alert fatigue was easier with a unified platform. That made a lot of sense to me and it is a challenge that every healthcare organization faces.

What stands out for you in the above charts? What’s your experience with clinical mobility? I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments.

Building A Successful Hospital Mobile Strategy

Posted on August 20, 2013 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.

Hospital leaders know that having a mobile strategy in place has become a necessity. Doing so not only accommodates physicians’ and nurses’ mobile workstyles, it leverages tablets and smartphones in a manner which makes hospital communication and EMR use more effective.

The thing is, making a mobile strategy work is far more complicated than simply giving caregivers with mobile devices and wishing them luck, notes Trey Lauderdale, founder and president of mobile communications firm Voalte. In a recent piece for the HIT Consultant blog, Lauderdale argues that there are a few key steps hospital CIOs need to take if their mobile initiatives are going to be successful. These include:

Assess and  prepare your infrastructure

Before you roll out a major mobile initiative, it’s critical to make sure both your physical and digital infrastructure can handle a new flood of mobile device traffic, Lauderdale says. Bear in mind that your Wi-Fi network will need to handle data, text and voice transmission on a level it hasn’t before, and what’s more, that this demand is likely to change and grow. You’re also going to need to figure out how to integrate mobile devices with alarms management middleware.

*Plan for deploying your smartphones

As you think through the nuts and bolts of handing out smartphones, be aware than you’ll need to see to their day-to-day functioning, Lauderdale points out. For example, you’ll need battery cases to protect the phones and keep them charged shift-long, and screen shields to  protect against accidents, and possibly a custom holster to help nurses work comfortably with phones. You’ll also need to decide whether smartphones will be shared or assigned to specific caregivers, and how you’ll store and charge them when they’re not being used.

Manage and update smartphones

With caregivers using smartphones as an official work device, you’ll then need to implement a mobile device management strategy, an approach which allows you to download apps to phones, update operating systems and make repairs when necessary. You will also want to include mobile devices in your security strategy, for functions such as password protection, lockout protocols and provisioning access, Lauderdale says.

Not every healthcare organization is ready to invest in its own stock of smartphones or tablets. Many are still struggling to implement a BYOD strategy that meets the institution’s needs without asking doctors and nurses to check their personal device at the door. But if you’re ready to supply and control mobile devices, Lauderdale’s suggestions make sense.