Better Communication Helps Children’s Hospitals Stay Connected to Community

Like most healthcare systems today, children’s hospitals are continually seeking new and strategic ways to improve patient care, expand their presence, facilitate growth and alleviate economic pressures. While all hospitals rely on referrals from community-based physicians, children’s hospitals must draw patients from a much broader geographic area than a typical adult care hospital.

According to the Children’s Hospital Association, most dedicated children’s hospitals are the sole regional providers for highly specialized services such as cardiac surgery and transplants, and they offer more than six times the number of services as general hospitals. As such, they can draw from a service area of 100 miles or more.

Given the broad service area, staying connected with referring community providers requires a deliberate strategic approach that facilitates communication and maintains a relationship or “stickiness” with those providers.

Disparate EHRs, call scheduling systems and workflows can make communication across multiple physicians, practices, and locations difficult. Physicians are also inundated with newsletters, emails, and other communication that clog up their emails and mailboxes. It is easy for critical clinical communication to get lost in the shuffle, often resulting in delayed responses and delayed patient care.

This paper explores how two leading children’s hospitals—one “free-standing” and one a children’s “hospital within a hospital” —used an innovative communication strategy to create “stickiness” with community-based physicians, enhance access to their physicians and facilities, improve care and even help address the total cost of care for pediatric patients.

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Lurie Children’s Hospital - Improving Communication and Collaboration

Last year, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago served more than 198,000 children from 50 states and 51 countries. Lurie Children’s Pediatric Partners (LCPP), its clinically integrated network, has over 1,000 participating providers and 110,000 managed lives under contract.

Communication Strategy Objectives

  • Improving access to specialists while respecting their time, privacy and practice efficiency concerns.
  • Manage “leakage” from the CIN.
  • Facilitating outbound communication with providers upon discharge.

Improving Access to Specialists

Since Lurie Children’s implementation, more than 7,000 messages have been sent through RapidConnect, including communications from 44 PCP practices and 39 divisions at Lurie Children’s. The system connects more than 220 community pediatricians directly to nearly 1,100 providers at Lurie Children’s, supporting true care coordination for their patients.

Connecting the Care Community

In the first three months, 32 different pediatric practices began using RapidConnect to securely connect to Lurie Children’s Psychiatry Service to better address the mental health needs of their pediatric patients.

“RapidConnect works very well for the MAACC program and the process we follow,” explained Lisa Gadek, MD. “I promptly hear back when I send a referral and get another message when the child’s family has been reached and an evaluation has been scheduled.”

Enabling Same-Day Ortho Appointments

RapidConnect helped Lurie Children’s Orthopedics gain a competitive edge by streamlining same-day appointment requests. Prior to using RapidConnect to address this issue, Lurie Children’s would frequently see a high degree of leakage from the LCPP due to availability of local orthopedic urgent care.

Using RapidConnect, a community-based resource can now easily schedule same-day appointments for their patients. Learn how they do it by downloading the paper.

Managing “Leakage” From the CIN

Within 110,000 lives across the Chicagoland area, LCPP wanted to make it as easy as possible for its participating pediatricians to have their patients treated by Lurie Children’s specialists and in Lurie Children’s facilities whenever appropriate.

RapidConnect’s account manager worked proactively with LCPP to identify high leakage clinical areas and set up specific programs to address network utilization. Specialty specific programs like same-day ortho appointments offered through RapidConnect allows each division to customize their approach to accessibility.

When asked what she most enjoys about RapidConnect, Karen Kreiling, MD, a pediatrician with Children’s Health Partners stated, “In particular, I love it for sending confidential questions to Lurie Children’s specialists about specific patients. My practice is not on Epic so I cannot do this through the electronic health record.”

Facilitating Outbound Communication

Lurie Children’s hospital-based physicians attend to thousands of patients every year. When these patients are ready to return to their homes, it is imperative that their local pediatrician understand the treatment plan and any nuances associated with their care.

RapidConnect enables neonatologists, hospitalists and other specialists to quickly connect with the selected physician or their practice resource on call. Using RapidConnect, pediatricians are quickly informed when a patient is going home and about critical next steps.

“With over 13,000 births per year, the turnover in our 86-bed level IV NICU is high and necessitates frequent communication with our community pediatricians. As a NICU hospitalist, RapidConnect is a huge time saver for me. Now I can skip the operators and answering services and directly reach our outpatient pediatricians via voice or text in a HIPAA compliant manner,” states Patrick Lyons, MD, Hospital Based Medicine, Lurie Children’s Hospital.

Improve Access to WakeMed Children’s Hospital and Specialists

With two academic medical centers in the area, the competitive dynamics of pediatric care in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill region is intense. WakeMed set out to not only have top tier pediatric sub-specialists, but also to be the easiest doctors and facilities to reach.

Anna McCormick, NP in Pediatric Gastroenterology stated, “I’ve really appreciated RapidConnect. As a specialist provider in the pediatric world, it has been so helpful in connecting with the local pediatricians. I can easily text them via RapidConnect and let them know anything pertinent, and then ask for help in follow up with our patients. it really does improve communication and patient care, most importantly.”

Facilitate Rapid Growth of New Providers

“RapidConnect has helped us to streamline our provider-to-provider communications. This solution helps us to consistently route provider calls to the on-call physician without delay, allowing us to securely and rapidly respond to internal and external calls. The primary care physicians we work with love that we are so easy to reach,” shared Dr. Bill Lagarde, MD, FAAP, WakeMed Pediatric Endocrinology.

Achieve Better Care at Lower Costs

A community-based pediatrician strongly suspected appendicitis in a patient. Rather than send the patient to the ED for further evaluation and decision, the pediatrician used RapidConnect to reach out to the Pediatric Surgeon on call. Within a few minutes, the pediatric surgeon understood the situation, called back, discussed the case and advised the pediatrician to send the patient directly to patient registration. The child was in surgery within two hours, and released to go home four hours after that.

Thanks to RapidConnect, the patient was able to avoid delays in the ED, unnecessary tests, delayed after-hours surgery and an overnight stay. And the pediatric surgeon used RapidConnect to relay status back to the pediatrician, enabling follow-up the next day.

Improving Hospital Throughput

RapidConnect integrated with WakeMed’s EMR, in this case EPIC, and used its Intelligent Message Routing mechanism to actively alert the requested specialists (or the on-call resource for that service). RapidConnect can write back to the EMR when the message is read and notify by whom (in the case of going to on call provider).

“We are thrilled that we can now be notified immediately through RapidConnect, when a provider enters a consult in EPIC. The great part is that the sender does not have to decide whom to notify. RapidConnect does that for us,” explained an APN provider.

“At WakeMed, provider-to-provider messaging via RapidConnect improves patient care hundreds of times each day through several mechanisms.

RapidConnect allows providers real time access to each other without prior knowledge of call schedules; enables them to share patient-specific information securely, unlike conventional texting; and provides read receipts to communicate that messages have been received.”

— Ted Tsomides, MD – WakeMed Health & Hospitals

Are you getting the most from your hospital’s communication system?

Neither of these children’s hospitals really set out to secure their communication systems. Instead, they were trying to achieve strategic imperatives of improving patient care, growing the enterprise and managing cost of care— all while minimizing security risks. Better communication helped address these challenges and many more. How are you responding to these same issues?

Does your current communication solution help…

  1. Enable better communication across the care continuum, ease referrals and expedite patient care?
  2. Keep care in the network?
  3. Improve efficiencies and control total cost of care?
  4. Get the most from your existing EMR investment?

If you answered “No” to any of these questions, RapidConnect can help.