Better Communication Helps Children’s Hospitals Respond to Unique Competitive Challenges

Children’s hospitals are facing increased competition as health systems and community hospitals expand their pediatric offerings. As a result, traditional children’s hospitals are seeking new and strategic ways to expand their presence and facilitate growth.

One strategy being used is partnering with local and regional facilities that don’t have the infrastructure or expertise to treat pediatric patients that require specialized care. This may be in the form of dedicated hospitalists, neonatologists, intensivists, and rotational clinics of selected pediatric sub-specialties at the community hospitals. By making their physicians, staff and expertise more accessible to community-based hospitals and physicians patients can receive pediatric services for low-acuity, short-stay visits closer to home and patients needing a higher level of care can be identified and transported appropriately.

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.

Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago took a proactive approach to addressing communication challenges. Last year, the hospital served more than 198,000 children from 50 states and 51 countries. But, communication between referring physicians and Lurie specialists was often challenging because there was no uniform way to reach specialists, and because PCPs did not always know which specialist to contact.

Organization leaders recognized the impact inefficient communication could have on patient access, patient care, and physician satisfaction with the Lurie Children’s Hospital. The hospital along with its clinically integrated network, Lurie Children’s Health Partners (LCHPCIN), chose to implement RapidConnect to facilitate better communication and coordination of care for Chicago’s pediatric patients. Implementing this solution would improve patient care and optimize resource utilization.

“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. Now I can skip the operators and answering services and directly reach our outpatient pediatricians via voice or text in a HIPPA compliant manner,” states Patrick Lyons, MD, Hospital Based Medicine, Lurie Children’s Hospital.

With help from RapidConnect, LCHPCIN specialists and primary care physicians can better coordinate consults, share results, communicate patient information, process admissions and more.

In the nine months since the RapidConnect implementation, 1,550 messages have been sent which includes communication from 28 CIN practices and 26 Specialty divisions at Lurie Children’s. Response time is less than 3 minutes for 70% of messages

Currently, the system is connecting more than 135 community pediatric partners to Lurie’s CIN, with 20 Lurie divisions participating, and usage continues to increase as new divisions and practices come on board.

To learn more about how RapidConnect is helping Lurie Children’s hospital, see the complete use case here.

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

 


Hospital compliance officers must think beyond “security” when it comes to text messaging

Today, hospitals know that they need to find HIPAA compliant communication solutions, but often to struggle to identify the right solution and/or to identify (or agree on) who is actually responsible for finding the right solution.

They are starting to realize that finding the right secure communication solution is more than just a technology decision. With ultimate responsibility for adherence to health care regulatory enforcement and compliance activities, more and more compliance officers are now finding themselves playing a key role in that decision-making process. In that new role, they typically work closely with hospital administrators, IT and physician leaders to choose a solution.

We recently spoke with compliance expert John Finley about this topic. His 15-year career has spanned a number of compliance and regulatory roles at WakeMed Health & Hospitals, CHRISTUS Health, Aetna and the FDA.

Finley says that while there may be some confusion around The Joint Commission’s recommendations, there is no official ruling that prohibits hospitals from using secure texting. He knows that texting is a reality of life, and that it has become a regular practice for physicians. He says that he and probably 90% of his peers support the use of texting, if it’s done in a secure manner and doesn’t result in a breach.

“The bottom line is that physicians are already doing it, and it can help deliver better care to patients. We just need to figure out the best way to support that, while minimizing a hospital’s risk and exposure,” Finley explains.

At a minimum, a secure texting solution should meet a checklist of basic security requirements including:

  • Encrypted at rest and in motion
  • Cloud based – nothing stored on phone
  • Secure messages pincode protected (not just phone code)
  • Ability to remotely wipe if lost/stolen

But, Finley emphasized that he and his compliance counterparts need to focus on more than just security and compliance, when thinking about text messaging technology.

We agree. While checking off a list of standard security requirements is a good starting point, choosing a solution can’t stop there. Hospitals still need to balance compliance and security with overriding business goals such as:

  • Improving care
  • Reducing costs
  • Increasing growth

To support these goals, hospitals should look for a solution that offers a number of other benefits including:

  • Inpatient/outpatient integration
  • EPIC integration – particularly for consult requests
  • Designed to stay compliant with all stark/anti-kickback regulations
  • Flat license fee with ability to broadly distribute
  • Implementation process that actively engages users to promote adoption
  • Offers a solution for physicians in the OR/procedure rooms
  • Message preference routing (includes residents, fellows, mid-level providers)
  • Integrates with nurse duty phones
  • Addresses call center and ED volume issues

Finley also emphasized that technology is only one part of a true secure messaging “solution”, and that hospitals need to implement policies and practices that support the use of these technologies. They are increasingly looking to vendors to help provide these “guardrails for proper texting” and to help them think through a number of “what if scenarios” to ensure ongoing compliance and usage.

It’s also important for hospitals to think about communication outside their own four walls. Implementing a secure communication solution becomes more complicated when it has to be managed across a wider care continuum. Today, hospitals must collaborate with multiple providers and rely heavily on physician referrals. As a result, they need to communicate and share patient information across numerous organizations.

A solution that supports in-hospital communication only or in-hospital workflows only, won’t truly address their communication or compliance needs, and won’t truly improve overall patient care. The right secure communication solution should support communication, collaboration and care coordination across the entire patient care continuum.

If you would like to learn more about how MD Interconnect does just that, or to learn how WakeMed addresses the need for HIPAA-compliant messaging, let us know. You can also read the WakeMed case study here.