What role does your secure communication solution play in the hospital call center?

With the increased focus on patient satisfaction and its direct link to revenue and reimbursement, it is no surprise that call centers play an increasingly important role for hospitals. The question is, what role should your secure communication solution play in your hospital call center?

We took that question to Lisa Forte, who manages the Call Center at WakeMed Health & Hospitals. With responsibility for three full-service hospitals, more than 900 patient beds and 1,100 staff, Forte’s team fields an average of 75,000 calls per month.

Forte expected to see value from a WakeMed’s new secure communication solution, RapidConnect but was surprised by what it really delivered. By facilitating direct physician-to-physician communication, she hoped the solution would help decrease the number of calls coming through her call center. While she has indeed experienced a 50% decrease in physician-to-physician calls, there are a number of other benefits she and her team have experienced with the help of RapidConnect.

“One of the biggest benefits, is the impact it has had on our communication with the physicians. Historically, call center operators end up being the middlemen between the referring physician and the staff physician. Some physicians simply don’t like to provide the information we need to effectively facilitate that communication, so the operator has to go back and forth between the two. That is not an efficient use of time or resources, is a frustrating experience for everyone involved and can lead to unnecessary delays in patient care,” Forte explained.

“RapidConnect ensures that the right information is sent to the right providers, and also ensures that physicians receive the information in the manner they prefer. That allows the physician to immediately move forward and address the patient’s care, without losing time on time-consuming and frustrating back-and-forth communication,” she said.

Forte is also grateful that RapidConnect has helped the hospital establish one set of guidelines for secure communication. This ensures that everyone follow the same process, that messages are automatically sent to the right people at the right time, and eliminates frustration and confusion about the who, when and how of provider communication.

In the end, Forte believes that RapidConnect has helped her team and WakeMed by:

  • Reducing physician-to-physician call volume
  • Reducing the amount of time it takes to manage each call
  • Improving call center (and other hospital staff) employee satisfaction
  • Expediting patient care
  • Improving patient satisfaction

Has your secure communication solution done the same for you? To learn more, check out the WakeMed case study, request a RapidConnect demo or register for our upcoming webinar featuring Lisa Forte.

Easing physician burnout with better physician-driven communication

Physician burnout is an increasing problem in US health care systems. In the MedScape LifeStyle Report 2017: Race and Ethnicity, Bias and Burnout of 14,000 physicians, 51% reported burnout, versus 40% in 2013, an increase of more than 25%. Among Family Medicine providers, the reported burnout rate is 55%.

An understanding of the causes and impacts of physician burnout can help health care systems implement solutions to better support their physicians so they can reduce burnout.

Causes of Burnout

Physicians simply don’t have enough hours in the day to meet all of the demands of their jobs.   A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that physicians would need to work 21.7 hours a day to provide complete preventative, chronic and acute medical care to their patients. Add to that all of their administrative tasks, and the job can be overwhelming. In fact, the top cause of physician burnout according to the MedScape LifeStyle Report 2017 is “too many bureaucratic tasks” followed by “spending too many hours at work,” and “feeling like just a cog in a wheel.” Many physicians will indicate that they spend too little time taking care of patients and too much time on regulatory compliance, documentation and administrative tasks.

 Physician Burnout and the Impact on Care

Physicians experiencing burnout report being overwhelmed by their responsibilities and unable to successfully complete their jobs. This leads to increasing feelings of pessimism, hopelessness and emotional and physical fatigue. Their sense of what they can personally accomplish diminishes, as does their overall interest in work. Physicians who report burnout often have less energy, may start to question their abilities and may reduce their hours or stop practicing all together.

Not surprisingly, physicians with burnout report being more distracted and less able to focus on patient needs and may make more mistakes. Due to their experience of low energy, they also may take short cuts in patient care.

Addressing Physician Burnout

Health care systems recognize the problem of physician burnout, and some are implementing initiatives to address the issue. The Mayo Clinic is focusing on ways to build collaboration and companionship amongst physicians, while the Cleveland Clinic has implemented training sessions to improve patient communication skills. Addressing the challenges that physicians face in the workplace can yield positive results. Initial studies indicate that improvements in leadership, workflow and communication are helping to reduce physician burnout. Additional solutions include teaching physicians ways to deal with stress including mindfulness and stress reduction.

Solutions that improve communication and reduce bureaucratic tasks can also be helpful. Our RapidConnect secure messaging communication platform was developed by physicians to help alleviate some of the things physicians find frustrating and most wasteful of their time. RapidConnect reduces communication barriers and streamlines collaboration with other physicians and caregivers. It also gives physicians more control over how and when they respond, or even who responds on their behalf -- by working within their existing workflow and/or staff hierarchy. This improves overall physician and staff efficiency, freeing up time for meaningful patient interaction.

To fully address physician burnout, more initiatives are needed that will assist physicians with managing all of the demands on their time while reinforcing their sense of value in their work. The good news is that health care systems are recognizing the magnitude of the problem and more are working on initiatives to prevent physician burnout.


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 Healthcare Technology Adoption

The marriage between technology and physicians is not always an easy one and there have been a lot of bad breakups over the years. After all, physicians went to medical school to treat patients, change the world, etc. They did not set out to learn a new technology every time they turn around and/or to play a leading role in technology implementations. Yet today, they are finding themselves playing that role and feeling the frustrations that go along with that.

There is no shortage of research that talks about the challenges vendors face when it comes to technology adoption with physicians (and healthcare in general). Look no further than the EHR (electronic health record) technology market to learn more about those challenges and the lessons learned from them. In a 2015 study by Physicians Practice, physicians cite a long list of technology challenges (many of which relate to their experience with EHR technology), including: a drop in productivity when rolling out new technology; lack of interoperability between technologies; meeting regulatory requirements; cost to implement and use technology; resistance to technology; security and training.

MD Interconnect co-founder Dr. David Hoover was all too familiar with those challenges, having been on the user side (the resistance side may be more accurate) of numerous technology rollouts. He knew that MD Interconnect had to do things differently to ensure successful adoption.

With this in mind, the MD Interconnect team took a two-pronged approach to adoption. The first approach may seem obvious: design a product that solves a meaningful problem, but design it with your users (i.e. physicians, etc.) and their workflows (maybe not as obvious) in mind. Surprisingly, many technology companies develop a product that solves the first issue (meaningful problem) but neglect to consider the second (user workflows and preferences). Consequently, they experience poor adoption, limiting and or even eliminating the product’s ability to succeed.

The second approach is equally important but often overlooked - build an implementation process tailored to address a physician’s unique objections/concerns with an understanding of their job, their workflow, their practice, etc. With that in mind, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to get on board (hand-holding as needed), quickly demonstrate the value of using the technology (what’s in it for them), and ensure that they are motivated to continue using it (continued engagement, tracking, etc.).

When it comes to developing a secure communication solution for hospitals, there are some basic features and functionality that every solution must have at its core. The solution must successfully facilitate the delivery of messages between users. And, the solution must address mounting security requirements that hospitals face, including the need for HIPAA compliance. There are a number of vendors that offer products that address those core requirements, but MD Interconnect created a solution that goes beyond these basic requirements to engage users and ensure adoption. You can learn more about the company’s physician-driven design in this previous blog post. Here are some of the factors MD Interconnect considered while developing a product with adoption and sustained engagement in mind:

  • Physician adoption is of the highest priority. Lead with them and the rest will follow.
  • You must make it quick and easy for messages to be read, and provide visibility to senders about that status.
  • You must consider a physician’s personal preferences about when they should be reached and when they should not.
  • Call schedules and call hierarchies must be integrated into the communication platform.
  • It should also support the teaching hospital hierarchy and include residents, APPs, fellows and attendings at the appropriate times.
  • You must consider times when a physician cannot safely respond to a message, making it easy (and secure) for a proxy to respond on their behalf. See this blog post on RapidPair to learn more.
  • You must address the differences between cell phones and pagers, as well as the unique challenges, benefits, and behaviors associated with each.
  • Your pricing model must encourage adoption by the entire patient care team/community.
  • The ability to easily forward a message chain to a support team, including clinic schedulers and bed management must be built into the solution.

With RapidConnect, MD Interconnect knew they had a great product that hospitals, physicians and patients would benefit from, but they also knew their job wasn’t done. See our next blog post on what it takes to ensure a successful implementation and ongoing user engagement.