The Need for Secure Communication

Like many healthcare organizations, WakeMed realized that increasingly more patient information was being transmitted over unsecure text message communication. They struggled to find the balance between direct and easy transmission of information and the need for HIPAA compliance concerning patient Protected Health Information (PHI). It became clear that they needed a solution to address both of those issues.

As they started exploring possible solutions, the group realized that they wanted more functionality than just basic texting. With that in mind, the WakeMed team came up with additional criteria, including:

  • Active notifications/alerts
  • Integration with call schedules
  • Ability to support hierarchy and roles
  • Available as a web-based platform as well as mobile platform
  • Integration with the call center
  • Integration with the EMR
  • Ability to work for all physicians (employed and affiliated physicians)
  • Ability to allow group messaging
  • Reporting capabilities, including traffic, referrals tracking, etc.

Selecting a Physician-Driven Solution

WakeMed didn’t want to require doctors to “check in and out” of their application every day based on their availability, and they wanted to allow physicians to route certain calls to their residents or mid-level providers. Some might call these criteria “bells and whistles,” but WakeMed leadership knew that these elements were key to their success in getting physicians and other providers to use the new technology.

Founded by a pediatric surgeon, MD Interconnect’s understanding of the clinical environment was one of the key reasons WakeMed selected the company’s secure messaging platform. But they knew getting physicians to adopt yet another technology would be challenging. As a practicing surgeon, MD Interconnect co-founder Dr. David Hoover was all too familiar with those challenges and the physician objections behind them. He knew that getting physicians on board was key to any technology’s success and he developed RapidConnect with that in mind.

RapidConnect complements physicians’ existing workflow, requiring minimal changes on their part, and allowing them to choose options that work best for them. Physicians can set their personal preferences about when they should be reached and when they should not. Call schedules and rules-based hierarchies are automatically integrated into the platform. Physicians can even quickly and easily allow a “proxy” to review and respond to secure messages on their behalf when they are otherwise occupied, such as when they are in the operating room or performing a procedure.

“Our analysis of the existing products on the market showed many with ‘secure’ platforms but none, other than MDI, with the key functionality that would be better suited to helping us with physician adoption,” said Denton Arledge, Vice President and CIO of WakeMed.

Connecting a Community

As a regional territory with more than 1,000 providers and referring physicians, WakeMed wanted to improve communication and strengthen collaboration between in-hospital physicians and outpatient based/referring physicians.

In many cases, referring physicians simply don’t know which physician to contact and don’t want to have to look it up or wait for an operator to do so. WakeMed wanted a solution that would allow referring providers to connect better with those physicians. RapidConnect removes call center bottlenecks and guesswork by making it easy for referring providers to reach the right person at the right time, bringing together a patient’s care team more quickly, securely and cost effectively.

“RapidConnect is easy to use and makes it easy to find the right resource. I’ve been amazed at how easy it is to get in touch with the specialists that my patients need using RapidConnect,” said Larry Mann, MD. Mann is with Jeffers, Mann and Artman Pediatrics, a community pediatric practice that includes more than 30 providers and five office locations.

Ensuring system-wide adoption

WakeMed deployed a pilot implementation of RapidConnect in early 2016, and began a system-wide implementation in September of that same year.

The healthcare provider had been through technology implementations in the past, including a large EMR implementation. Based on that experience, WakeMed knew they could not expect physicians to change their behavior, and did not want to mandate the use of yet another new technology.

They also wanted more than a “drop and go” application, meaning they didn’t want users to simply download the application with no follow-up, no in-person training, and no live resources. They wanted to do everything possible to support physicians and other caregivers as they transitioned to this new way of communicating.

MD Interconnect’s implementation philosophy was based on their belief that if only 50 percent of physicians were using RapidConnect, it could still be considered a 100 percent failure. Knowing that ongoing engagement is the key to long-term success for WakeMed (and any customer), MD Interconnect offers more than just the standard 24/7 help desk support. Ongoing adoption support is offered beyond the initial implementation, in addition to ongoing monitoring of message volume and issues. WakeMed is provided with a daily review of detailed message reports and user support is consistently given. While that outreach took an average of 1.5 hours per day during the initial implementation, usage has improved so much that effort is now down to less than 15 minutes per day.

Creating Call Center Efficiencies

As referenced above, RapidConnect also helped WakeMed cut call center volumes. As the hospital system grows and the number of contacts grows with it, hiring additional call center FTEs to support that growth would be expensive. With help from RapidConnect, they were able to create call center efficiencies by reducing the volume of physician-to-physician calls that came through the call center, while also reducing the number of pages sent from the call center by more than 20 percent.

Improving Patient Care

Today, more than 1,800 providers in the WakeMed system actively use the RapidConnect mobile application but more than 3,100 providers rely on the RapidConnect platform to connect. That means that more than 3,100 care providers are connecting more effectively and efficiently. Better communication creates efficiencies around managing a patient’s care as well as the transition from one care setting to another. Treatments and medications are administered more quickly and effectively. The care team is engaged more collaboratively to deliver the best possible patient care when they need it most.

For example, if a pediatrician has a patient with appendicitis who needs to come to WakeMed Children’s, the doctor can contact and notify the on-call WakeMed physician through RapidConnect. This direct communication with the WakeMed physician allows the patient to bypass the Emergency Department and go directly into the hospital for surgery, reducing that average time (including referral, surgery, patient discharge and everything in between) from 23 hours to 9 hours. That time savings dramatically improves patient care, enhances the overall family experience and lowers medical costs.

RapidConnect also makes it easy for nurses to connect and communicate with providers using their work duty phones, allowing them to spend more time directly with patients.