Can better secure messaging drive more referrals for Orthopedics and other specialty practices?

According to Wake Orthopaedics, the answer to that question is an enthusiastic yes. After partnering with The North Carolina Football Club (NCFC), Wake Orthopaedics knew that fast and secure messaging would be key to providing timely care including same-day appointments.

With that in mind, they gave NCFC athletic trainers and physical therapists access to the RapidConnect secure messaging app, which now serves as the official communication pathway between the two organizations. Each month, an average of 90 secure texts are sent and received, enabling streamlined communication and a faster, collaborative treatment plan.

“With RapidConnect, appointment scheduling time has been cut in half, and communication to parents can typically take place on the same day. As a result, I send all my players to Wake Orthopaedics,” stated Jason Bailey, Athletic Trainer, North Carolina Football Club.

“RapidConnect has enabled us to build on established provider relationships (both within our system and the community) as well as access new opportunities with regional sports teams, trainers and therapists. Patient care questions, x-ray consultations, and follow-up arrangement are significantly more efficient and it has allowed our practice to increase access for referring providers,” shared Mark Wood, MD, Executive Medical Director, Physician Services, Wake Orthopaedics.

To learn more about how RapidConnect is helping Wake Orthopaedics improve communication and drive referrals, see the complete use case here.

To learn more about how RapidConnect can help you, contact us.


Pagers Putting Hospitals (and Patients) at Risk

With the Kansas City Star article making waves across the nation, there is no excuse for thinking that pagers are still an acceptable option for sending patient health information (PHI). And no one can deny that healthcare workers routinely include PHI in their pages. According to 2017 study by the Journal of Hospital Medicine, nearly 79 percent of 620 hospital-based clinicians said they are provided pagers for communications, while 49 percent said they receive patient care–related communication through pagers.

As the IT worker in the Kansas City Star article demonstrated, anyone with $20 and TV antenna can now easily stumble over or intentionally access PHI. Awareness of the security risk posed by sending PHI via pager has increased nationwide.

What is being done about it?

Red flags should be flying. Not the kind with the white cross in the middle but the kind that indicate “Danger ahead. Stop, or proceed with extreme caution and at great risk!” Using pagers to send patient health information, as practiced today in most healthcare organizations, is unsecure, puts a system at risk for significant HIPAA violations and compliance fines and creates additional vulnerabilities for the patients themselves.

To further emphasize the importance and urgency of action, just last week an administrative law judge ruled that the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston must pay $4.3 million in fines over a stolen laptop and two lost USB drives; an amount that cannot be easily ignored.

So the question has shifted from “can we use pagers for sending patient health information?” to “how quickly can we move to an encrypted method of communication?”. Now, more than ever, speed of deployment is of great importance but training, reliability, accuracy, and patient safety cannot be short-changed. Traditionally, changing communication tools, workflows, processes and expectations in a hospital has been more like moving a barge than racing a speedboat. Speed was definitely not a top consideration option. Several high profile incidents have changed this. Speed is now required.

Finding a Balance

So how do you quickly provide a compliant system without jeopardizing patient care?

First, every system must immediately educate employees and providers on acceptable pager use and explicitly prohibit patient health information. Actions must be taken to monitor accountability to the policy. Informal polling often finds that there continues to be confusion over what information is considered PHI and if there are certain situations where it is still “OK” to use the pager for PHI.

Second, an encrypted method of communication must be made available to all providers. This method needs to be a simple solution for quick deployment, but also a robust system that can support increased usage and complex workflows in later implementation stages. The simplest solution will be a download and go mobile communication app, which encrypts in rest and in transit.

Finally, the chosen encrypted method of communication must be easily monitored and provide tools for accountability. Monitoring will need to include real time alerts, escalations and read times analysis in order to ensure the smooth and quick flow of patient care information.

There are many more questions to be asked and issues to be addressed in the months after initial implementation such as questions involving system integrations with call schedule and EHR systems, access points, and adoption by the referral community. These questions may need to work their way through hospitals at a more “normal” speed and will benefit from the deliberate and collaborative ways that change has been traditionally implemented in large systems. Finding that balance is key.

Let us know if you would like to learn more about secure communication alternatives that are designed for physician adoption, to support health system integration and to deliver immediate value.