Startup culture equals teamwork, not plush chairs or ping pong tables

Tech startups often make a big deal about company culture, which somehow equates to ping pong tables, Herman Miller chairs and Friday afternoon beer. What I have experienced in my first job with a healthcare technology startup, is that the way we treat each other and the energy and expectations we each bring to work, are in fact the true measures of company culture.

Understanding each other’s strengths, skills (or even lack of skill) and roles contributes to our ability to function as a team. Together, we can meet company goals and customer needs, and of course have fun along the way.

When we recently spent a holiday volunteer day together at the Wake County Salvation Army, we should not have been surprised that we carried that same team culture with us into that very different setting.

We spent hours filling stockings and sorting clothing for each child. It was an amazing morning, with a wide range of people from different organizations working together to help families in need.

As we walked out to the parking lot, we laughed at how each of us seemed to have automatically jumped into our normal team role. Without thinking twice, we actually expected each other to contribute in our own unique and customary ways. With expectations already set and a shared energy to get to work, we were immediately functioning as a team.

It played out like this. The account managers jumped right into the sorting of stockings and clothes, smiling and talking to all the new friends. Our CTO first had questions about the process and objectives that needed to be answered so that we could systematically achieve the goal. Our marketing team worked eagerly but had to stop frequently for that perfect photo shot. Our CEO kept us all bound together, checked in with Salvation Army leaders and offered assistance where needed.

It was a fun day that was served as a great reminder of why working at MD Interconnect is so rewarding. We value each other. We trust one another and we expect each other to show up. We work together to dive into any project and complete it with excellence.

We are proud of the collaborative, team-oriented approach we take with our customers as well. We work closely with them to understand their needs in detail including the roles each of them play, and bring the power of our diverse team to bear on their behalf.

Our solutions are creative and impactful because each of us brings different backgrounds, experiences and skills to the table.

So, who needs a ping pong table? Friday afternoon beer, on the other hand – well we may have to rethink that one!

A Year In Review

2018 has been an exciting and busy year of growth here at MD Interconnect. We invested significant time and energy into enhancing our secure communication platform, RapidConnect, based on what we have learned from flagship customers including Wake Med and Lurie Children’s Hospital. 

Our relationships with our customers also continue to grow, and we are proud to see RapidConnect expand its role as part of their overall communication strategy and new opportunities. One such example is how Lurie is using RapidConnect to improve early access to quality psychiatry care for children, closer to home.  You can read more about that in our last blog post. 

We have also fine-tuned our business processes while making significant investments in sales, marketing and business development including the addition of our first Vice President of Sales, who has hit the ground running. 

Throughout all of this, I have faced my own health issues and have watched family members struggle with healthcare related debt. It is an ongoing reminder of why we started this company in the first place, and why we continue to persist. I never want to lose sight of our goal to ultimately improve patient care and lower the total cost of care. We have accomplished a lot throughout our journey over the past two years, but if we can achieve those things I will know we have succeeded. 

As I look ahead to 2019, I am excited about the many exciting opportunities we have in front of us including new customers and other strategic alignments. I am especially excited about being one step closer to our ultimate goal. 

Avoiding the best of breed vs best in suite technology trap

Have you ever heard your neighborhood barista ask, “would you like your coffee to be hot OR taste good”? Of course not! There is no sense spending the time in line or spending your money if the coffee is not both hot and good.

Unlike your neighborhood barista, many health systems are asking an “either-or “question when it comes to new technology - “do we go to a new vendor for full functionality or use a limited add-on offered by a current vendor?”

CIOs and CTOs have struggled with this same question for years. They often follow a well practiced analysis of best of breed vs best in suite (in this case probably your current system) by weighing the benefits and costs associated with implementation, integrations, security, networking complexity, user training, duplication of data and processes, timing of upgrades, customizations, flexibility of vendors, user- interfaces, and more.

While this approach may seem “tried and true” it can actually lead to a terrible waste of time and money. The best technology choice will only be found if you start with a entirely different question. Are you going to mandate the use of this technology or give users a choice?

If choice is permitted, then your evaluation process needs to start with user adoption in mind. In that case, here are some criteria to consider:

  • Ease of use- Can people easily understand purpose and use of system?
  • Ease of access- Can people easily find system and log on and off without trouble?
  • Clinical impact - Does using this system improve user ability to accomplish clinical goals?
  • System Support- Is system support uniquely attuned to the medical environment in terminology and speed?
  • System Flexibility- can the system be easily configured to meet unique needs of various service areas?

If you start by defining a platform or tool that your users will actually choose to use before thinking about vendor selection, you are more likely to see a better return on that technology investment in addition to higher user adoption and satisfaction.

If you would like to learn more about our philosophy on technology solution, or talk to one of our customers about their selection process, let us know.

Improving quality and TCOC with better secure messaging

In July 2016, the US Government announced that the nation’s health care tab would surpass $10,000 per person for the first time in history. That spending is expected to increase an average of 5.6 percent annually through 2025, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Of the total $3.35 trillion in healthcare spending each year, hospital care accounts for the largest share at about 32 percent.

With healthcare spending on the rise, affordability of care has become an increasingly important issue for health care providers, hospitals and patients. To address those concerns, an increasing number of hospitals and physicians are turning to value based contracts, with the goal of improving both quality and cost outcomes. Under these models, health systems and their affiliated providers are rewarded for collaboratively managing the total cost of care (TCOC), while maintaining or improving the quality levels of patient care.

For those organizations, efforts to manage total cost of care typically involve cost-cutting measures such as the use of generic drugs, shortening or avoiding patient hospital stays, avoiding costly Emergency Department visits, and the elimination of duplicative testing. All of these things have the opportunity to improve care and reduce costs.

One area that many hospitals neglect to consider is their secure messaging solution, which can help facilitate each of these cost-cutting measures and enable better collaboration between community-based physicians and hospital-based specialists to ultimately improve patient care.

To help demonstrate the role that secure messaging plays in the TCOC, we created the following infographic, which walks you through two different scenarios for a pediatric appendectomy. The elapsed time for that typical process is 23 hours. It presents a number of opportunities for both care improvement and cost savings, if the providers had better access to patient information and each other. As you can see, the alternative RapidConnect scenario dramatically cuts the total elapsed time down to 9 hours. It also creates a number of cost saving opportunities, including: the avoidance of an ER visit, a shorter Average Length of Stay (ALOS) and a less expensive (and safer!) imaging option.

Other benefits of the RapidConnect scenario include:

  • No delays in care due to the wrong person receiving the page
  • No need to call in the operating room team overnight for emergency surgery
  • Clarified direction on generic drugs (an additional cost savings)
  • Expedited and efficient communication back to the Primary Care Physician (PCP) on next steps (cost reduction and better continuation of care).

Using a secure messaging system of communication, like RapidConnect, across the inpatient and outpatient environment, enables the reduction of cost to the tune of at least $4200. And of course, the value of better, expedited, patient care is immeasurable.

The key is for health systems to implement a secure messaging platform that will be broadly used throughout the entire health system, including community based physicians and hospital based specialists.

This ultimately improves performance, lowers costs, and improves outcomes.

How does your secure messaging platform measure up, when it comes to Total Cost of Care? Let us know if we can help.

Healing What Ails Technology Adoption, Part 2

As discussed in our previous blog post, Healing What Ails Technology Adoption, MD Interconnect takes a two-pronged approach to successful technology adoption for secure mobile/web communication. That first post focused on designing a product with physicians in mind. Today, we will discuss the second part of that equation: building a successful implementation process. There are many critical factors that play a role in a successful implementation, but let’s focus on five key elements that lead to successful adoption.

  1. Communicate early and often. It is important to ‘set the stage’ with pre-launch communication in regularly distributed materials (i.e. publications, leadership emails, etc.) This can begin as soon as the selection committee (which should include physicians) has made their choice. It is critical to consistently outline what providers can expect in terms of process, timing, training, support and requirements. Providers must understand if any workflow changes will be required of them and why. Updates to implementation schedules/processes can all be communicated in regular briefings to the medical staff. In addition, getting to regularly schedule clinical service meetings to do brief demos of the product helps secure buy-in and reduces anxiety associated with a new technology,
  1. Partner with Physician Leaders Clinicians are more likely to embrace a new technology if their peers are positive about their usage of the product. Positive referrals are the most powerful engagement tool. Therefore, we start with a small group of healthcare providers and ensure they have a great experience. The small group is usually a relatively self-contained communication eco-system (i.e. Children’s Hospital within the Hospital). This allows us to work closely with the entire group and make sure we understand utilization issues that are unique to the individual hospital prior to rolling out to the entire system.
  1. Understand and integrate with physician workflows.

There are significant differences in how physicians work - no “one size fits all” approach will be successful All physicians have a unique workflow. When working with a complete community healthcare system, it is also important to understand the differences between inpatient based physicians (emergency, surgeons, hospitalist, etc) and outpatient based physicians (primary care, medical specialists, etc.) The needs on those two groups can be very different. In that same vein, differences between low volume and high volume users must be recognized and addressed

To better understand these specific workflow needs, we start with a survey of each practice about how communication is handled today, and what challenges each practice faces. Based on that insight, we build out “rules” for how RapidConnect will work to address those unique needs and integrate with their workflows.

  1. Prepare for the 20%

Physicians (like most of us) don’t like training. Burdensome training requirements can be the kiss of death for a new technology implementation.

RapidConnect was built by physicians to be intuitive and user-friendly, with no formal training required for end-users. 80% of users will be able to ‘download and go’. However, a secure messaging system is only productive if close to 100% of the physicians are using it. As such, its important to have specific strategies to support those physicians and clinicians that need assistance.

RapidConnect uses multiple techniques to achieve his. In addition to 24/7 help desk, online ‘how to’ videos and readily available ‘quick tip’ cards, we have a team of resources on site leading up to and during the ‘go live’ phase. These resources round on physician practices, spend time where doctors congregate (ED, OR lounge, physician dining, etc.) as well as participate in physician group meetings to address any issues or concerns. We also invest in training those that surround physicians – namely their nurses and practice managers. With specific training designed for them, clinical staff can support the implementation process. In addition a dedicated account manager will review message traffic, identifying those who seem to have long response times or regularly don’t answer messages. We will proactively reach out to those physicians and practices to address any issues that they may be experiencing.

  1. Facilitate ongoing user engagement

Every day, the RapidConnect support team will review message logs for failed messages or significant delays in response time.

This allows the support team to immediately address problem areas and respond, improving the performance of the product and physician satisfaction.  Poor response times and/or unread messages can jeopardize the adoption of the platform. Doctors in particular will become disenchanted and quickly abandon the new technology if the perceive flaws or unresponsiveness from others.

There have been numerous false starts and expensive failures in the implementation of secure text messaging platforms for healthcare. You don’t want to be one of those! To learn know more about how our RapidConnect secure messaging solution can help you avoid that fate, click here.

Are You Asking The Right Questions In Your Secure Text Messaging RFP?

As discussed in a previous post, there have been numerous false starts and failures in the implementation of secure text messaging platforms in the healthcare environment.  The landscape is littered with expensive solutions that have seen low utilization, projects being shelved and as a result patient health information continuing to be shared via unsecured methods.

The primary reason for this situation is poor adoption by physicians and subsequently inconsistent use throughout the system. Poor adoption leads to overall poor utilization and a lot of wasted time, money and energy.

But physicians and care providers aren’t to blame. The blame falls on the technology itself. Few of the existing secure messaging products were designed to work with physician workflows and account for physicians need to control accessibility.  Most physicians do not want others to have ‘open access’ to them, nor do they want to ‘sign in’ when they are available or remember to ‘sign out’ when they are not available.

While other technology vendors have provided public RFP templates for secure messaging, those templates focus primarily on the core functionality and the technical requirements of an individual product. They do little to highlight those functional features that will actually encourage broad physician adoption. So, while these templates are helpful, they do not necessarily help you achieve your goal of high user adoption.

With the goal of high user adoption in mind, here are seven key functionality questions you should include as part of your RFP for secure text messaging:

  1. Does the technology automatically route certain types of messages to the physicians designated resource? This might be a resident, PA, fellow, or other clinical staff member. Physicians need control over their access and most solutions don’t offer a way to integrate these physician preferences into their applications.
  2. How do physicians control their availability when they are not on call? Asking physicians to check in and check out every time they want to be unavailable is not a viable solution, and quite frankly, physicians won’t do it.  Look for a solution with one time availability set up that accounts for call and clinical duties.
  3. What happens when a message comes to a physician's phone when they are in the middle of a procedure?  This is one of the biggest complaints about secure messaging applications.  The application should have an ability for scrub nurses or other providers in the OR to proxy into the physician's account without having to access the phone. This allows timely response without the OR staff having to access doctor's personal cell phone and pass words.
  4. Does the platform allow for the user to identify and contact the patient's current care team (including currently attending hospitalists and nursing staff) through one click access? Having to sift through the frequently long and comprehensive ‘care team’ listing in the EMR does little to facilitate fast, seamless interaction to those who are taking care of the patient at the moment.
  5. Does the application integrate with call centers and other communication systems? Doctors don’t want to carry multiple devices. If secure texting is utilized as the primary method of contacting doctors (which increases adoption), the application needs to be integrated into the call center and function within the parameters of the call centers existing workflows
  6. Does the application architecture and pricing allow for broad distribution to outpatient-based physicians, including regional referring doctors without running afoul of anti-kickback laws and incurring additional costs? Many current technologies offer ‘per head’ licensing, which a) limits the distribution of the product, limiting the overall adoption (see point above). Also, the technical architecture needs to ensure the application can be provided to these referring physicians without fear of giving something of value to these doctors.
  7. Does the application integrate with nurse duty phones? Maximizing nurse/patient interactions is critical. If nurses have to use a desktop-based application, this reduces the available time for patient/nurse contact. Similar to the point above, if the system is to be charged for every downloaded application, adding the hospital-based nurses to the installation can be extremely expensive.  Evaluators should look for a product that not only encourages broad distribution, but facilitates that through enterprise-based pricing and integrates with nurse duty phones to maximize patient contact.

Eliminating Distractions, Improving Patient Safety

Introducing RapidPair, the latest enhancement to RapidConnect secure messaging solution.

According to a 2000 report from The Institute of Medicine, To Err is Human, experts estimated that as many as 98,000 people died in any given year from medical errors that occur in hospitals. In 2016, after analyzing medical death rate data over an eight-year period, Johns Hopkins patient safety experts published that more than 250,000 deaths per year are due to medical error in the U.S. In 2013, distraction from smartphones and other mobile devices was identified for the first time as one of the top 10 health technology hazards by ECRI Institute.

Hospitals and physicians recognize that electronic devices in clinical care environments have exploded over the last 10 years, resulting in an unprecedented level of distractions. They are committed to minimizing those distractions, especially in operating rooms and other procedure related areas, which are at especially high risk for interruption and distraction-related errors.

RapidConnect by MDInterconnect has risen to that challenge with the introduction of its latest feature, RapidPair. RapidPair enables physicians to quickly and easily allow a “proxy” to review and respond to secure messages on their behalf when they are otherwise occupied.
Imagine the following scenario.

RapidPair image 150A physician is in the operating room, performing a life-saving surgery. A message comes in to their mobile device. They know that a message has come in, but can they afford to stop mid-surgery to check that message and/or respond directly? Of course not!

Can they even afford to pause long enough to instruct the circulating nurse how to get into their personal device, to find the app and open the message using their personal PIN? Not really.

Other solutions on the market today claim to offer “proxy” or “delegation” type capabilities to address this problem, but create even more distractions by requiring multiple, sometimes complicated and inefficient steps be taken by the physician and/or circulating nurse.

If a so-called “solution” is too time-consuming, complicated or dangerous to use, how likely are physicians and/or hospitals to actually use it? Hospitals and physicians want a solution they can trust to make their job easier, and one that certainly doesn’t jeopardize patient care.

MD Interconnect took all of these concerns into consideration when developing RapidPair, and designed it to accomplish the following:

  • Require minimal disruption to a physician’s normal workflow
  • Ensure process does not rely on clinicians resetting status each time they 
enter procedure area
  • Ensure that on-call physicians can be reached at all times
  • Eliminate the need for “proxies” to access a physician’s personal device
  • Ensure rapid, secure communication

With RapidPair, the physician simply asks the proxy (i.e. circulating nurse) to check the incoming message. The proxy does this through any computer (not the physician’s personal device) by signing into their own RapidConnect account and accessing the RapidPair function. With minimal disruption to the patient or procedure, they can immediately see the message and respond based on the physician’s instructions. Each proxy can pair up to 10 devices at one time. The clinician is not required to change any settings or status on their own device.

RapidPair minimizes:

  • Distractions in the operating room and/or during other patient interactions
  • Changes to physician behavior and/or workflow
  • Security concerns, with the messaging platform itself and/or physicians’ 

RapidConnect gives physicians the flexibility they want, to choose the options that work best for them, and thus provide the best patient care possible. RapidPair complements other features like QuickCover, Read Notifications, Shift- based Roles, Message Routing, etc. allowing widespread adoption by clinicians enabling a system to implement a secure, team-based, collaborative and effective approach to patient care.