Healthcare

by Carissa Carissa No Comments

Conversations and Innovations in Healthcare IT – Part 2

Rob Wilson Principal Consultant Nashville

Rob Wilson
Principal Consultant, Greater Nashville Area

When I began this series in March of 2020, I was excited to talk about the future of healthcare. I planned articles on Value-Based Care, telehealth, and interoperability, among other things. Little did I know how future healthcare initiatives would suddenly become pressing priorities, and current initiatives would have to be put on hold. In speaking with dozens of Healthcare IT leaders and hospital CIOs in my network from northern Indiana to the Gulf of Mexico, the theme of the conversations was strikingly consistent: their priorities looked nothing like they did just days before.

A Dramatic Shift in Priorities

Most providers told me they already offered some form of telehealth, but it wasn’t widely adopted. It would now become the primary mechanism for delivering care to non-critical patients. Providers that already offered telehealth had to bring even more of their physicians online in short order. Providers that had future projects planned to rollout telehealth had to implement it immediately instead.

Interoperability became more important as hospital systems, partnering organizations, and government agencies rapidly forged agreements to share information in new ways. Data analytics remained at center stage, although the metrics of yesterday took a back seat to pandemic related dashboards for monitoring supply chain concerns, scheduling issues, and scaling challenges.

The increase in people working from home presented challenges of its own. Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and call center solutions needed to scale suddenly. Desktop virtualization and cybersecurity solutions got even more attention than before. Help desks had to be scaled up to take calls from folks setting up their remote environments. As partners and manufacturers came together to assist, it truly is remarkable what most healthcare organizations have been able to pull off. Unprecedented pivots – and this is just on the IT side of things!

Healthcare ITInformation Is Fluid, But Your Framework for Delivering It Should Be Solid

There is a particular topic that has been top of mind for me lately, despite it not being central in many of these conversations: communication challenges. Don’t get me wrong – collaboration came up in practically every discussion. However, I’m talking specifically about crisis management and a platform for providing a single version of the truth for your constituents. Information overload is in full effect, and misinformation is rampant as ever. I’m not talking about inconsistent or unavailable COVID-19 case data, which is certainly an important topic for another day. Rather, I’m referring to the Standard Operating Procedures and guidelines that tell your employees how to behave, how to respond, and what to expect. Here are just a few things I’ve observed:

  • Administration needs to be current on what the CDC and government officials are saying to the public.
  • Providers need to be able to communicate their general guidelines and contingencies to their constituents.
  • Provider staff need to be aware of what their administration is telling their constituents so they can respond consistently.
  • Frontline employees need to be able to report issues that need attention.
  • Some organizations did not have a sound system in place to get the right information to the right people at the right time.

I’m fully aware that our current crisis is unprecedented in our Information Age. Essentially, we are laying the tracks as the train travels down them. There is much we don’t know about COVID-19, including how it started, how it spreads, and how to best treat it. While our understanding is evolving and our response is a work in progress, how information has been collected and shared is out of control. While some facts are still “to be determined,” the framework for how the facts are distributed should have been decided well in advance of this crisis.

The Confusion Is Real

Patients have been given conflicting information about when, where, and how to be tested and treated. Traditional media hype is compounded exponentially by social media hyperbole and even non-compliant healthcare workers sharing unofficial information on social media outlets. Compliance departments and public relations departments are just as overwhelmed as administrators and clinicians. Your constituents need to receive your message despite the noise at record volumes.

How an organization implements knowledge sharing can vary, but you certainly need a plan with a satisfactory level of adoption. Sometimes a sign on the door is not enough. Your staff needs to know where to go to read your version of the truth. If you don’t have a system in place, now is a great time to start. You might even already own all the tools you need to implement the plan. If so, it is just a matter of designing and implementing your approach. For all the talk recently about collaboration tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams (they have their place), I want to take a step back and talk about the tried and true (and sometimes disparaged) Microsoft SharePoint. Half of the people reading this just leaned in, and the other half rolled your eyes. Again, it’s one solution of many, so before you stop reading, let me explain my endorsement.

A Solution for Information Sharing

You need one place where the people in your organization go to get the information you believe is important. You need to be able to know who has read that information, and perhaps even get an acknowledgment. You need a platform for people to send in their suggestions, report incidents, and respond to surveys – and you need workflows for publishing and approving. You need forms and workflows for frontline employees to request supplies, know their requests have been received, and be informed of their delivery. Finally, you need to be able to develop all this as quickly as possible on a platform that is validated and compliant.

Many of the things you need are available in SharePoint out of the box; it just needs to be customized. For example, several years ago, we developed a crisis response solution for a global nutritional manufacturer. Their customer service reps were able to respond instantly and consistently to calls that overwhelmed their call center and emails that flooded their inboxes. Similar to now, a natural disaster had impacted a huge segment of its customer base. The core features of SharePoint provided 80% of the solution. We designed and developed a friendlier user experience with type-ahead search for finding the right response scripts quickly, along with advanced content approval workflows for maintaining them.

We have tailored solutions for incident reporting and compliance workflows. Another important and relevant custom solution was a visualization feature to allow employees to see instantly if the content has changed since they last read it, and the administration can know in an instant who still needs to read a bulletin. We’ve developed read and acknowledge functionality for important content, project management solutions, feedback forms and workflows, suggestion forms, requisition requests, document management solutions, etc. All of the above are more important than ever when communicating your protocols and support to your staff. We’ve even custom-developed alerting tools, so your staff is notified immediately via text messages or push notifications for content of high importance.

An Ecosystem for Expansion

Again, there are formidable competitors, but a differentiator for SharePoint is its integration with other solutions in the Microsoft ecosystem, such as Teams, OneDrive, and the Power Platform (Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate, and Power Virtual Agents). Learn more about these solutions at https://powerplatform.microsoft.com/en-us/. These tools expedite the collection, analysis, and distribution of information.

Focus on What You Can Control; Share What Matters

No doubt you’ve heard the advice to focus on what you can control and not on the things you cannot. Let’s face it, much of the information that is propagating public and private domains right now is incorrect, irrelevant, or inconsistent. Be a part of the solution. While it is not necessarily practical to have a plan for unprecedented events, it is both practical and prudent to have a framework for communicating the plan as it comes together. Share with us what has worked for you, and please reach out to learn what has worked for us and our clients.

We are beyond grateful for those working on the frontlines of this crisis. First responders, critical care teams, administrators, Healthcare IT departments, compliance teams – all overwhelmed and fatigued by information and changing rules. Eliminate some of the strain and protect your employees by having a good system in place for information flow.

If our team can help in any way, let’s have a conversation about healthcare IT. Please do not hesitate to reach out to a Keller Schroeder Account Manager.

by Carissa Carissa No Comments

Conversations and Innovations in Healthcare IT

Rob Wilson Principal Consultant Nashville
Rob Wilson
Principal Consultant, Greater Nashville Area

As I write this, HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, Inc.) just made the difficult decision to cancel its 2020 Global Health Conference & Exhibition in Orlando on short notice based on feedback from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and WHO (World Health Organization) to mitigate risks associated to the spread of Coronavirus. Keller Schroeder has represented at the annual HIMSS Conference in the past, but 2020 would have been my first time to attend personally and I was excited about the opportunity to volunteer at the Interoperability Showcase. As active members in the Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee HIMSS chapters, we look forward to the local and regional events planned in 2020, as well as the proposed Virtual HIMSS20 Conference alternative.

Keller Schroeder Healthcare IT In the meantime, we engage regularly in Healthcare IT conversations with the practitioners in our network. I thought it would be helpful to share what is on the minds of those Healthcare IT leaders. I’ll touch on several topics that are important in our region (if not globally) right now. Because many of these topics run deep, I am making this a multi-part series – based on our decades of IT consulting for healthcare providers in Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky, and on conversations, I have been part of in the Greater Nashville Area over the past three years.

The journey begins at a lunchtime conversation with a senior technical talent acquisition director for Nashville’s largest local employer of healthcare professionals. He worked with dozens of hiring managers at his organization to find the right people for their internal positions. Here is a summary of the priorities mentioned by the hiring managers:

  1. Security (information and physical security from both external and internal exposures)
  2. Enterprise analytics (including descriptive and predictive)
  3. Applications integration (with legacy solutions, devices, and Electronic Health Records systems)
  4. Emerging medical innovations (Artificial Intelligence, remote monitoring, population health)
  5. Affiliations (supporting affiliated medical centers in outlying areas)
  6. Staffing (competing for talent with other companies, even in other industries)
  7. Cost containment (profitability and revenue cycle analysis)
  8. Patient experience (readmission rates, patient satisfaction, higher volumes of encounters, post-discharge experience)

This list is only the beginning. I set out to understand what other challenges healthcare providers are facing both at a macro and micro level, and what we and other providers are doing to address those challenges. What I found was that from inpatient to outpatient providers, pediatric to geriatric, behavioral, urban, and rural, there are many challenges, both universal and unique. I believe Keller Schroeder is in a position to help address many of these challenges because of our healthcare experience, our diverse competencies (software, infrastructure, information security, data strategy, and staffing), and our partnerships. As the series continues, I’ll help define these challenges and how technology is being leveraged to address them.

I’ll start by saying the reason many of these challenges still exist is because they are complicated. Innovation in healthcare is about more than just waiting for technology to catch up. There are privacy and ethical concerns, business ramifications, regulatory compliance issues, training and staffing gaps, patient care implications, etc. With stakeholders spanning patients, caregivers, payers, providers, legislators, suppliers and more, it is encouraging to see the amount of progress that has been made already despite the complexities.

I look forward to sharing more about what is happening and what to expect. Watch for the series on our company blog and social channels. Reach out to your Select Account Manager or me if you would like to learn more about our experience in Healthcare IT.

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