Fighting Alarm Fatigue for Nurses in 5 Steps

Healthcare, We Have a Problem:

Alarm fatigue is a serious threat to patient safety.

The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) defines alarm fatigue as a sensory overload that occurs when clinicians are exposed to an excessive number of alarms, which can result in desensitization to alarm sounds and an increased rate of missed alarms. False alarms are a strong contributor, making up 72-99% of all alarms and numbing care teams to signals meant to indicate patient danger.1

Essentially, devices and processes that were designed to protect and support patients in specific ways have compiled over time to create a cacophony of ever-sounding silos in healthcare. Sadly, the discord cannot be safely silenced. Fortunately, it can be well-orchestrated.

Let’s explore how integrating disparate, noisy alert and alarm systems can help fight alarm fatigue for nurses and care teams.

Where is all the noise coming from?

In short, disconnected legacy systems with outdated hardware and devices combine with overlapping, suboptimal workflows to create the noise fueling alarm fatigue. A few factors that add to the chaos and make it difficult for clinicians to determine the relevance and urgency of alarms include:

  • Nurse Call Systems: Patients sometimes use nurse call for non-clinical requests, such as a glass of water, which could be redirected to another team member.
  • Critical Lab Results: Upon notification, nurses in some settings are responsible for tracking down the appropriate physician to relay critical results, pulling the nurse away from the bedside.
  • Patient Monitoring Devices: It can be difficult to infer the risk level and urgency of various patient device alarms, and to know if other team members are responding or can respond more quickly.

Above are just a few of many systems that can trigger nondescript beeping sounds, which all begin to sound alike and blur together. The result? Just to find out where an alarm is coming from and what it indicates, a nurse has to leave the current task to investigate.

The nurse is forced to assign priority (current task versus potential patient threat) based on assumption in an environment where up to 99% of alarms are false, yet assuming an alarm is false puts a patient at risk. Constant decisions like these in a fast-paced, high-stakes environment contribute to mistakes, alarm fatigue, clinician burnout, patient risk, and many other potential consequences.

5 Steps to Fight Alarm Fatigue:

1. Integrate all alerts and alarms to reduce noise.

To start, put all alerts and alarms in one place that nurses and care teams can check on the go—an integrated app accessible from any device across all locations.

2. Increase mobility to decrease footwork.

For organizations that haven’t already deployed a mobile device strategy for nurses, smartphones will greatly enhance the effectiveness of an integrated solution. Being able to check alerts at the bedside and on the move reduces extra footwork and detours for staff.

3. Use shift schedules to inform smart routing.

The ideal solution should also integrate with shift and on-call schedules across the organization, using schedules to route alerts and alarms directly to the right clinicians. Smart routing like PerfectServe’s Dynamic Intelligent Routing reduces irrelevant noise while using built-in escalation policies to ensure urgent alerts are addressed within set timeframes.

4. Delay nonurgent notifications to reduce interruptions.

The ability to delay nonurgent alerts to be delivered at set intervals can greatly reduce distractions for clinicians during patient care. By minimizing multitasking, nurses and other care team members are able to complete tasks more efficiently and maximize their focus on patients at the bedside.

5. Distinguish alert types by tone to simplify recognition.

Alarm fatigue and decision fatigue often go hand in hand. While most care team members wouldn’t actively choose to ignore an alert, the ability to know in an instant based on sound whether or not an alarm is urgent can help them respond appropriately more quickly.

The Bottom Line:

Excess noise makes it difficult for clinicians to administer safe and timely care. (It also does a number on patient experience, but that’s a topic for another post.) Remove the guesswork for nurses around whether to tune out the noise and focus on the patient at hand or interrupt each encounter to assess the latest (likely false) alarm.

Click below to begin fighting alarm fatigue.

 

Resources:
1. Alarm Fatigue: A Patient Safety Concern, American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) Advanced Critical Care, Sue Sendelbach, RN, PhD, CCNS and Marjorie Funk, RN, PhD, Oct. 2013: acnjournals.org/aacnacconline/article-abstract/24/4/378/14745/Alarm-FatigueA-Patient-Safety-Concern

Real-Time Data Entry for Better Patient Care

Real-Time Data Entry Header

It has always been recommended that charting take place as near to the care event as practical, with the key word being “practical.” In reality, clinicians and nurses often stay after shifts to do their charting because entry is not seamless during patient care.

The more time that passes between the health event and the data entry, the less detailed the data input becomes and the greater its risk of containing errors. Delayed data entry impacts patient outcomes and creates unnecessary administrative overhead.

Benefits of Real-Time Data Entry

“Real-time electronic data is a potential treasure trove of insights, which can be analysed to improve patient care and use nurses’ time more effectively.”
– Helen Glenister, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of The Learning Clinic1

Real-time data entry has been shown to improve patient care (particularly the identification of patients who may be deteriorating), free up more direct-care time for nurses and clinicians, and help hospitals better deploy staff and resources.

According to a study published in Nursing Times, the availability of up-to-date data can help nurses and clinicians spot patterns in data that indicate a patient is deteriorating or may have an infection.1 While some data points may automatically feed into the EHR, vital observational data from nurses and doctors are not automatically entered.

Timely electronic recording of all clinical data—including observations, assessments, and actions—gives the overall picture of a patient and provides a clear data trail in the event of a complaint or incident investigation. Real-time documentation and order entry during rounding also helps speed up care and minimize future interruptions.2

The benefits of real-time data entry are well known, but challenging to achieve in some hospitals.

Challenges to Real-Time Data Entry

Siloed technology systems, device mobility limitations, and logistical issues in some EHRs can be the biggest barriers to real-time charting.

“One nurse believes that since going live, EHRs have added 3 hours to a
12-hour shift.” – Laura A. Stokowski, RN, MS3

In order to chart data that is accurate, actionable, and timely, the care team must be supported with an integrated solution that allows for simplified real-time charting in the EHR/EMR.

How to Achieve Real-Time EHR Data Entry

Healthcare IT integration can be very complex, but the right technology can integrate disparate IT, clinical, telecom, and EMR/EHR systems to allow information to flow freely. The result is a cohesive, integrated communication ecosystem that ensures the right information is available at the right time to support quality patient-centered care.

An ideal solution will support real-time charting with:

  • Intelligent field mapping to reduce duplicate data entry.
  • Voice-to-text capability to speed up and simplify data entry.
  • An easy and elegant interface with all information available on a single platform; no switching between apps.
  • Easy transfer of clinical notes for rapid documentation.
  • Immediate delivery of critical lab and test results to the right clinician with date, time, recipient, delivery status, and read status auto-recorded to the EMR in accordance with Joint Commission requirements.

Next Steps for Getting Started

Explore how your team can combine real-time EHR data entry with seamless care coordination in one integrated solution by speaking with a clinical communication specialist.

 

Resources:
1. How real-time data can improve patient care, Nursing Times, Sep. 21, 2015: nursingtimes.net/clinical-archive/patient-safety/how-real-time-data-can-improve-patient-care-21-09-2015/
2. How Hospitalists Can Improve Efficiency on Inpatient Wards, The Hospitalist, Rajesh Chandra, MD, FHM, et. al., May 2014: the-hospitalist.org/hospitalist/article/126231/how-hospitalists-can-improve-efficiency-inpatient-wards
3. Electronic Nursing Documentation: Charting New Territory, Medscape, Sep. 12, 2013: medscape.com/viewarticle/810573

Rapid Critical Result Reporting With Clinical Communication Technology

Delays in communicating life-threatening lab or radiology results can lead to unnecessary patient transfers to higher levels of care and longer lengths of stay. In contrast, rapid and accurate communication of critical lab and radiology test results leads to timely clinical interventions, improved treatment outcomes, and prevention of comorbidities.

The Joint Commission’s National Patient Safety Goal 02.03.01 requires that organizations report critical results of tests and diagnostic procedures on a timely basis,1 yet some teams struggle to measure compliance and meet their goals. Even with the increasing number of high-tech tools available to hospitals, it’s not always easy for inpatient and outpatient laboratories to optimize critical value reporting due to several challenges.

For example, delays related to intermediaries and unavailability can affect reporting times. One of the most challenging aspects in an outpatient setting is the volume of unanswered pages and forgotten callbacks from providers, despite the fact that nearly 90% walk around with smartphones in their pockets.2 Compliance issues also tend to result from faulty processes in which the provider that ordered the test is no longer on call—a complication which, in an inpatient setting, requires the nurse to track down the correct covering provider.

To ensure that messages are received by providers that can immediately act upon the information, intelligent systems must be employed. Integration with modern clinical communication and collaboration (CC&C) technology helps organizations ensure that test results are immediately delivered to the appropriate bedside nurse, ordering physician, and/or covering on-call provider. A comprehensive solution will also escalate results within specific timeframes if necessary and document all communication for auditing purposes.

Ensuring Timeliness and Accuracy in the Notification Process

The challenge some organizations face with the timely delivery of test results is ensuring that the correct person is notified. First, the right recipient can be difficult to determine when dealing with an expansive care team and complicated on-call provider coverage. Then, delivery of results can be a challenge due to varying levels of EHR access and adoption, sometimes in addition to technical message transmission issues.

Finally, confirmation that the test results were received and action is being taken is needed to close the communication loop, but various factors can lead to a lack of response from the recipient, such as:

  • An error in reaching a provider who is available to immediately act on the information (e.g. the correct on-call provider, covering physician, assigned nurse, or care team member).
  • Sending a message via EHR to an affiliated provider who does not access the EHR outside the facility (and therefore does not see the message).
  • A delay in message delivery because the recipient is beyond the reach of the hospital’s Wi-Fi and/or cellular coverage.
  • Alarm fatigue and/or confusion caused by a multitude of alert sounds that bombard clinical staff throughout their day.

The right CC&C technology can be very effective for automating protocols like those related to critical result notification to bypass various obstacles.

3 Keys to Success With Your Critical Result Communication Program

1. Guarantee that the correct care team receives the alert.

Your CC&C solution should offer the ability to customize which care team members are notified of which clinical findings. For example, a critical potassium alert might always go to the nurse and the provider, while a critical BUN only alerts the nurse. To inform message routing and ensure the correct team members receive the alert, the solution must rely on comprehensive electronic on-call schedules that incorporate service line, group, and personal coverage details. If multiple scheduling tools are used across the organization, they all must be integrated to inform accurate message delivery.
Additionally, your CC&C technology should integrate with all care team systems that house patient assignments including the EHR, nurse call, ancillary department applications, etc. to ensure that the appropriate patient care team members are alerted to new clinical findings.

2. Ensure that physicians, nurses, and care team members can easily acknowledge, accept, and decline/escalate results.

The improved process will garner greater adoption if all recipients can easily respond to alerts by tapping a button (e.g. “Acknowledge,” “Accept,” or “Decline”/“Escalate”) or selecting a response from a dropdown menu (e.g. “I’m entering an order in the EHR now.”).
The workflow can be further streamlined if the CC&C solution facilitates quick access to the EHR through a link within the result message. Tight application integration enables staff to seamlessly move between applications and functions to access patient context.

3. Build escalation protocols to transmit the critical result to the next-level provider if a response is not received within a certain timeframe.

If a physician, nurse, or care team member is either unavailable (e.g. in a sterile procedure) or inaccessible (e.g. offline; out of Wi-Fi range or cell coverage), the ideal solution will automatically escalate the message to ensure a timely response.

Consistency, a Sign of Success

As your new critical result reporting process reduces workload for staff by automatically delivering results to the correct recipient, an advanced CC&C solution also removes variability caused by the human element. A fully integrated solution will eliminate staff inconsistencies related to reaction times, follow-up with non-responsive individuals, and documentation of event notifications.

Evaluating the Timeliness of Reporting

The Joint Commission’s National Patient Safety Goal for communication of critical results and diagnostic procedures specifies the need to evaluate the timeliness of reporting. In the quest for continuous quality improvement, your CC&C solution should provide real-time dashboards that display acknowledgement status for all critical results and rich reports with auditing capabilities for all critical value communications.

Time stamps and event logs allow organizations to set goals, measure performance against established criteria, identify patterns (e.g. day of week, time of day), and most importantly, support accountability across providers and clinical staff.

“We measured our response time to critical lab alerts across 1,100 results and achieved a 42% improvement in acknowledgment times. The fastest alert read was two seconds, the fastest acknowledgment was 7 seconds, and the median acknowledgment time was one minute, 23 seconds. We’re extremely pleased with the role CC&C has played in our ability to monitor and manage critical result notifications.”

– Robyn Townsend, Assistant Director, Clinical Applications, Hospital for Special Surgery

If you’d like to explore how PerfectServe can help improve your laboratory and diagnostic reporting processes, click below to request a call with a clinical communication specialist.

Resources:

  1. National Patient Safety Goals Effective January 2017: Laboratory Accreditation Program, The Joint Commission, 2017: jointcommission.org/assets/1/6/NPSG_Chapter_LAB_Jan2017.pdf
  2. The Dilemma Surrounding Critical Value Reporting: What Does it Take to Improve Communication? Malone, B., Clinical Laboratory News,2012: AACC.org/publications/cln/articles/2012/december/critical-value-reporting.aspx

Comprehensive Clinical Communication to Support Mother-Baby Care Delivery

Nearly four million babies are born per year in the United States.1 Obstetricians, pediatricians, nurses, case managers, discharge coordinators, and various other providers and care teams work to ensure that mothers and babies have optimal solutions for pregnancy, labor, delivery, and child healthcare.

From preconception to parenthood, PerfectServe’s comprehensive communication solutions can help your practice provide top-notch care at every touchpoint of mother and baby’s healthcare journey. Click the image below to download the infographic.

1Births and Natality, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/births.htm

To learn more about how PerfectServe can support your organization in mother-baby care delivery, contact one of our Clinical Communication Specialists.

Patient Benefits of an Advanced Automated Answering Service Solution

Patient experience is the most important factor when it comes to patient retention at any medical practice. An essential touchpoint to optimize in modern medical practices is to standardize the way your patient calls are handled. The right 24/7 answering service solution can free up valuable provider and staff resources to focus on patient care while reducing unnecessary interruptions and ensuring urgent messages reach the right provider at the right time—every time.

Removing human error and delivering an automated and reliable service for both providers and patients, advanced answering service solutions are being implemented by more and more practices to enhance both patient and provider satisfaction.

Here are just a few key patient benefits of an ideal automated answering service solution:

Less Frustration

Your patients have busy lives but your practice is busy, too. If your practice experiences call volume congestion, your patients still need to be able to reach you without being put on hold. The right answering service solution will differentiate messages based on urgency and use your on-call schedules to accurately route communication to the right provider based on escalation policies set by your practice, speeding time to treatment.

Timely Communication

Efficient practice operations help decrease the time patients spend waiting during appointments and on hold when they call your practice. Automation allows patients to reach your practice at any time, during any circumstances to get the answers and help they need. The best answering service solutions offer smart routing that ensures providers are only interrupted to address urgent requests that require responses in a timely manner.

24/7 Care Access

Although many answering services are only used for after-hours coverage, an automated answering service solution delivers around-the-clock coverage as needed. Just because you don’t see your patients on a 24-hour basis does not mean it shouldn’t be easy for them to manage their appointments and make routine requests such as medication refills whenever they think of them, which might not be during regular office hours. An automated answering service solution can support call volume overflow when the main line at your practice is busy and serve as a 24/7 backup during emergency events when your practice is closed.

Better Onsite Service

Your staff need to be able to do their jobs, but when they face constant interruptions and take on the additional task of call filtering, concentration is broken, efficiency is lost, and providers can become unable to best care for their patients. Implementing the right automated answering service solution can free up your team to focus more on what they do best—patient care.

If providing an excellent patient experience and running an efficient medical practice are priorities for you, an advanced automated answering service solution might be just what the doctor ordered.

Let’s discuss more about how the ideal automated answering service solution can benefit your patients.

 

4 Simple Steps for Reducing Third-Party Vendor Costs

In the era of nonstop mergers and acquisitions, healthcare organizations are taking on immeasurable costs in the form of third-party services. When a health system acquires a private or independent group practice, the health system inherits all the practice’s employed third-party services and systems, including:

  • Electronic Health Record (EHR)
  • Practice Management
  • Revenue Cycle Management
  • Medical Answering Service
  • Security, Maintenance, and More

When healthcare organizations merge, issues with purchased services compound as the health system takes on all existing service contracts from the practices affiliated with the previous organizations. Purchased services represent as much as 20% to 25% of an organization’s annual spend,1 so consolidating services is a valuable opportunity to save on spending.

Standardizing third-party processes and technology can be an untapped source of savings across the healthcare supply chain. To help you identify areas in need of improvement, here are four steps that can help successfully lower your organization’s purchased services costs:

Step One: Mine the data.

For many healthcare organizations, simply gaining visibility into third-party contracts and expenses can be challenging. Contracts are often managed by various people throughout healthcare organizations, or even services outside organizations, such as group purchasing organizations (GPOs).

Start gathering the actualities by creating an inventory of all third-party vendors used throughout your organization, as well as the associated stakeholders and contracts. It’s important to speak with each stakeholder and review each contract thoroughly.

Next, collect all financial data for your vendors. Check with your accounts payable department and take a look at current and past purchase orders. While purchase orders won’t tell the whole story, they are a good place to start to get an idea of total cost. Many third-party vendors have variable costs that make it difficult to get an accurate account of how much they’re really costing. Reviewing your general ledger will help you uncover variable costs.

There are a few key questions to consider when reviewing your service contracts:

  • What rate is this vendor currently charging me and how often?
  • Is there an auto-renewal in place? If so, when?
  • What are the scaling terms and are there fees associated with scaling?
  • Are there termination clauses? If so, what are they?

Place vendors into categories to get a more accurate picture of how much your organization is spending in specific areas. You may find that the individual costs of many of your third-party vendors are relatively small, but when aggregated by category, the numbers compound quickly.

Step Two: Gain Executive Buy-In

Equipped with your data, it’s time to engage your decision makers. Engaging organizational leadership early in the process is a great way to build a case to move forward. Speaking with executives can help you understand the different viewpoints and situational nuances in your organization, which helps you navigate roadblocks and build the business case to make changes.

Step Three: Evaluate Performance

Analyze vendor and service performance in three key areas:

  1. Comparing Spend
  2. Assessing Utilization
  3. Evaluating the Quality and Effectiveness

Some vendors charge hidden or variable fees, so looking at one month’s service charges can be misleading. Look at each vendor’s historical cost, trends, and variability. Then, consider local benchmarks: What prices are other vendors in your area offering for a similar service?

Another important aspect to consider is utilization. Here are a few simple questions that can help you assess your organization’s use of a particular service or vendor:

  • Who is actively using the service/vendor?
  • How is the service/vendor being used?
  • Could the service/vendor be used more efficiently?

Finally, do some digging to find out your staff’s level of satisfaction with the third-party service/vendor:

  • What level of results is the service or provider currently delivering?
  • Are your stakeholders satisfied with the performance?
  • What kinds of performance metrics can the service or vendor provide?
  • Does the service or vendor meet your organization’s performance metric needs?
  • Does the service or vendor make your staff’s job easier?

Step Four: Consider Standardization Options

Completing steps one through three will give you a firm grasp on the types of vendors you have and the services you’re paying for, how they’re being used throughout your organization, and your staff’s readiness to try new solutions.

If you consider replacing multiple similar vendors with a single standardized solution, make sure the solution you select does the following:

  • Addresses all stakeholder needs and goals.
  • Decreases (and if possible, helps to standardize) your organization’s overall spend.
  • Contributes to your organization’s strategic objectives.

When your organization undergoes a merger or acquisition, it’s more important than ever to conduct a high-level review of the spending and operating efficiency of the larger organization. At the end of your evaluation, you should be better prepared to make specific service and vendor selections based on your analysis and your organization’s strategic priorities.


1Vizient, 2020

5 Warning Signs Your Answering Service Might Be Hurting Your Practice

Medical answering services are essential to modern practices for triaging patient calls, delivering urgent messages at night, and allowing receptionists to focus on imperative tasks during business hours. An effective answering service solution can help practice managers, providers, and staff improve the overall patient experience and increase patient satisfaction.

Unfortunately, some medical answering services are susceptible to manual errors and environmental challenges. Routing mistakes and connectivity issues can negatively impact both patient and provider satisfaction.

Here are five warning signs your medical answering service might be negatively impacting your practice:

1. Poor Provider Satisfaction

Your providers’ wellbeing is essential to their satisfaction, livelihood, and ability to best care for patients—yet provider burnout is on the rise. Key contributors to burnout include receiving non-urgent calls after hours, getting unnecessary interruptions while caring for patients, and dealing with other communication challenges that interfere with providers’ daily workflows.

Contacting providers at the wrong time is a common mistake. When the answering service makes an error and contacts your provider at midnight on their Saturday off or interrupts their time with a patient for a non-urgent or routine message, it brings down the provider’s satisfaction and makes it more difficult for your practice to retain top talent.

Providers who are unable to work at their best due to unnecessary interruptions and complicated communication workflows may experience burnout and decide to leave your practice. Losing providers reduces patient satisfaction, lowers revenue, and increases your recruitment and onboarding costs.

2. Declining Patient Experience

It’s important to let patients know they are being heard and cared for, not ignored, yet missed and lost messages are another common issue with medical answering services.

If your answering service loses patient messages, fails to take thorough notes during a call, delays sending urgent messages, or sends messages to the wrong provider, your patients will begin to feel frustrated and undervalued.

3. Negative Impacts on Your Practice’s Reputation

To your patients, your answering service is a representative of your medical practice. Errors and poor patient encounters with live answering service can be harmful, and even detrimental, to your practice’s reputation in providing quality patient care.

It is imperative to ensure that your answering service—which many patients do not know is a third-party service—is delivering the quality of care and experience you want your patients to expect from you. Keeping your patients satisfied and confident in their care is the key to patient retention.

4. Fluctuation of Practice Operating Costs

Your medical answering service may be costing you much more than you originally intended. Many answering services have hidden fees and charges based on call volume and duration, causing practices to spend much more on the service than was budgeted. For a more accurate account of how much your medical answering service is really costing you, look at your month-over-month charges and take note of the fluctuations. Hidden fees can add up quickly when practices don’t pay close attention and consistently follow up on billing.

5. Inability to Support Patients During Emergencies

Healthcare can’t stop when inclement weather, natural disasters, or other emergencies happen. Keeping lines of communication open between your providers and your patients is essential, especially during times of uncertainty. Your medical answering service must be available and connected to take patient calls and route messages correctly and quickly at all times.

If your medical answering service depends on live operators, a natural disaster or similar emergency could make it impossible for agents to receive or answer your patients’ calls. You can learn more about identifying risk to prepare for unprecedented circumstances from our related blog post and our Medical Practice Disaster & Emergency Preparedness Checklist.

Not all medical answering services provide the same level of service and support.

Use the factors above to assess your current medical answering service vendor and decide if it’s time to look for another solution that can better protect your medical practice.

Consider how an automated medical answering service solution can help strengthen your practice.

The right answering service solution will provide a consistent patient experience, reliable connectivity, accurate message routing, and appropriate escalation while supporting work-life balance for your providers and eliminating variable costs.

Let’s discuss how your practice can benefit from the right answering service solution.

How much is your answering service costing you?

medical answering service warning

Sometimes, traditional medical answering services come with hidden costs that could be undercutting the success of your practice. Costs associated with human error—such as lost and delayed messages, negative patient interactions, inaccurate symptom descriptions, and more—carry significant risk for your patients and your practice.

Mistakes that were once par for the course with answering services have become largely avoidable in a modern healthcare environment. Since quality communication between patients and providers (before, during, and after business hours) is a fundamental pillar of patient care, it would be wise for any organization using a live medical answering service to ask yourself the following questions:

Are your patients being served a positive experience with your practice?

Any negative encounters with your practice (including over the phone) can begin to erode the trust and positive relationships you have built with your patients. Many patients perceive the answering service as an extension of your practice—not a separate, third-party service. That makes live call agents a contributing factor to your overall patient experience, a factor you have limited control over.

If a patient feels at any time as though their medical needs are not met with the level of urgency they feel is necessary, their trust in your practice quickly dissolves into frustration, fear, and motivation to seek care elsewhere. Whether or not a patient leaving costs you any recurring revenue, word of mouth can impact your organization’s reputation for care quality and, therefore, your ability to bring in new patients.

Is your staff empowered to use their time as efficiently as possible?
It’s tough to assign a dollar amount to the frustration of having to resolve a breakdown in patient care caused by miscommunication. It’s impossible to quantify the impact of anxiety your staff can develop when they feel unable to deliver the best patient care due to issues with the clinical communication process. But if your communication process isn’t optimized to help providers focus on delivering proper patient care, you may wind up calculating costs in terms of turnover and other negative effects of low provider satisfaction and burnout.

Are you legally or financially at risk?

Some unlucky practices have discovered a best-kept secret of certain deceptive answering services: subcontracting. In some cases, live “medical” answering services turn out to be subcontracting their work out to other answering services that don’t always have a medical focus or adhere to HIPAA compliance standards.

Few medical practice leaders would knowingly risk placing subpar answering services between their patients and their providers or practice. In fact, a practice in this situation is at risk for fines and penalties associated with breaches involving PHI and unsecure communications.

Another scenario in which a practice using a live answering service may be at risk includes one where the answering service is referencing an outdated provider shift schedule.

Consider this worst-case scenario A patient, unknowingly suffering from a stroke, calls your practice after hours to report blurred vision and confusion. The medical answering service, operating off of an inaccurate on-call schedule, fails to deliver the patient’s message to the correct on-call provider for another hour. Due to the time-sensitivity of this ailment, your practice could be at risk for a malpractice suit.

An unforeseeable and adverse incident like the one above could become a substantial loss for your practice.

Are you safeguarding your reputation?

Imagine another unfortunate scenarioA critical care surgeon with his own practice routinely performed emergent consults for a local hospital. But then, the hospital stopped calling. They felt the surgeon’s medical answering service was unable to deliver messages in a timely, efficient manner. The hospital now works with other providers instead.

Don’t let the above scenario happen to you. Your credibility and reputation in the healthcare community can be negatively affected if outside consultants and hospitals cannot reach you quickly in times of emergency. The impact of an unreliable reputation can be detrimental to your providers and your practice. It may seem easier to stick to the status quo with a live answering service, but is it worth letting avoidable lapses in communication tarnish your reputation?

Have you uncovered all hidden fees?

Most medical answering services are upfront about their fees, but practice leaders and managers seldom realize how many fee-based events they’re actually being charged for on each single after-hours call or message. Varying types of hidden fee-incurring events include:

  • Taking the call or message.
  • Relaying that message to the right clinician.
  • Relaying the clinician’s instructions back to the patient.
  • Recording and logging the conversation as a whole.
  • Recording and logging each communication.

These events can incur minute fees that can account for an unexpectedly substantial amount of overtime.

What is the real cost of your answering service?

Take a skeptical look at your answering service’s monthly invoice to understand the hard costs. Think through how your current answering service effects patient safety and satisfaction, as well as your providers’ satisfaction. Is your answering service a compliance risk? Can it harm your professional reputation? At the end of the day, these are the costs that put your practice, providers, and patients at risk.

What is the best solution to eliminate the costs and risks of your answering service?

In the age of digital communication, automated tools are commonly used to eliminate human error, simplify communication processes, and streamline accurate connections. These advantages are perhaps most valuable in a clinical environment. An ideal medical answering service solution can sync with the most up-to-date shift schedules, protect providers’ caller IDs, escalate urgent messages, and save non-urgent messages for regular business hours.


Let’s discuss how your practice can benefit from the right answering service solution.

We’re Offering Complimentary Support to Clients for COVID-19 Best Practices

It is not business as usual for our clients, and PerfectServe wants to help. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare organizations are working quickly to address potential capacity challenges, communication needs, patient education opportunities, clinician staffing shortfalls, and more. We have already supported many clients in their COVID-19 efforts, and we’ve assembled lists of best practices to share with the industry.

We have fielded and executed requests from healthcare organizations of all sizes, including Prisma Health and United Health Services. We’ve learned from these experiences and want to replicate the benefits for other clients at no charge.

Our Offer to Customers

To help during this difficult time, PerfectServe is extending the following to all of our customers:

  • Free software and services for Patient & Family Communication (automated patient outreach via text message) for COVID-19 purposes. Carrier message rates may apply.
  • Free services to implement best practices for COVID-19 purposes.

This offer applies regardless of the PerfectServe, Telmediq, or Lightning Bolt solution(s) you currently use—Clinical Communication & Collaboration, Nurse Mobility, Patient & Family Communication, Answering Service, Contact Center, or Provider Scheduling. If you’re interested in learning more, please call 866.844.5484, email connect@perfectserve.net, or enter your contact information in the form to the left.

How can this offer help?

Because time is of the essence, we focused the offer on impactful software and services that can be implemented quickly.

With PerfectServe’s Patient & Family Communication (PFC) solution, your health system can engage patients with relevant COVID-19 updates and instructions via text message. Sample PFC use cases that have been implemented recently include:

  • Announcing curbside test access to patients. An on-demand message is initiated by nurses in a call center, which points the patient to a specific clinic site. The message instructs the patient to park, call a designated phone number, and wait for a test to be administered at their vehicle.
  • Two-way secure messaging with patients. A secure, encrypted messaging interface enables two-way communication with patients. This gives providers the ability to conduct risk or screening assessments to ask about symptoms and monitor responses.
  • Informing patients how, when, and where to access care. This includes both physical care access and hyperlinks to existing virtual clinic or telehealth platforms.
  • Providing patient education on best practices for disease avoidance and management. This can be as simple as pointing patients to the CDC website.
  • Trying to catch potential cases before they walk in the door. Directly after a reminder for an existing appointment is delivered, another message follows that asks the patient to call a telephone number to initiate a phone screening with a clinician if they have flu-like symptoms.

To implement PerfectServe’s PFC platform, customers supply formatted patient lists and data, including patient telephone numbers.

Beyond PFC, we’d also like to facilitate new critical communications to your care teams with free services to implement best practices. Every facility is unique, and we’re extending no-cost assistance to help you implement new workflows, make adjustments to current settings, or otherwise optimize your PerfectServe solution in a way that best supports your organization’s COVID-19 response efforts.

The following have been some of the most common best practices requests:

  • Setup or Modification of Team Alerts/Broadcast Groups/Distribution Lists: Multidisciplinary teams for incident response, infection management, and patient tracking have been key to COVID-19 response efforts. PerfectServe has worked with a number of customers to implement new team alerts (also called broadcast groups or distribution lists) or modify existing team alerts by adding members.
  • In most hospital settings, the process for communicating specific incident or patient details to a larger care team is manually intensive. These workflows typically have many steps, numerous decision points, and multiple handoffs, creating potential for communication breakdowns and delays in time-sensitive situations.
  • Team alerts automate many of the steps in the rapid response process, such as sending notifications to all team members—including team leadership—at the same time. With a single communication, all appropriate care team members are identified and contacted simultaneously, which speeds time to treatment and improves patient outcomes.
  • Schedule and Assignment Changes: During a virus outbreak, healthcare organizations may experience unusual fluctuations in patient load, and their own providers are also at increased risk of falling ill or experiencing burnout. Several Physician Scheduling customers have reached out for assistance implementing new assignments and schedules to ensure their facilities are optimally staffed amidst changing conditions.

The above use cases are far from an exhaustive list. Heightened communication is more important than ever in times of crisis, and clinical communication and collaboration solutions make it possible to connect with the right person at the right time to respond more effectively to an emergent situation. Additionally, customers with secure messaging have immediate access to hundreds of thousands of clinicians across the country who also use PerfectServe, providing a network effect that allows communication to transcend the boundaries of your facility.

Bottom line?

We are always grateful for the care that doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals provide for patients and families, but perhaps never more than now. We are keen to provide assistance to our customers, many of whom are on the front lines of this unpredictable public health crisis.

The PerfectServe team is ready to support your COVID-19 efforts. Contact us today to get started.

Elevating the Role of the Nurse to Support Value-Based Care

nurse value-based care

As healthcare has evolved toward a value-based payment model, we have seen many changes in how healthcare is delivered and by whom. We have seen progressive healthcare organizations embrace value-based care, shifting toward an interdisciplinary approach to care that leverages population health management, social determinants of health, and patient engagement to improve outcomes across the spectrum of care.

The role of the nurse elevates with value-based care. Nurses provide more patient-centered, efficient, and cost-effective care, from pre-appointment and intake to discharge and follow-up. In the primary care setting, progressive providers have increased patient access by conducting nurse-only patient visits during which registered nurses document patient histories, order lab or other diagnostic tests, and determine patient acuity.

To meet the increased demands of value-based care, nurses must work to the top of their licensure. Studies conducted several years ago indicated that, on average, nurses spend as little as 25% to 30% of their time at the bedside.1 On top of clinical workloads, nurses are responsible for care coordination and communication among an expanding care team. As the concept of the care team expands under value-based care to include nurses, physicians, therapists, and home care workers across multiple hospital and acute and primary settings, nurses struggle with the inefficient workflows associated with legacy communication devices and numerous clinical and communication systems.

Read Our Success Story

The key to supporting the elevation of the nurse is the elimination of activities that do not directly contribute to the health and well-being of patients. The incorporation of innovative technology can assist in this effort. For example, advanced communication technology can help nurses communicate efficiently with other members of the care team including those off-site, such as home health nurses and healthcare professionals at specialized hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and wound care clinics. HIPAA-compliant secure text messaging can also take over many of the time-consuming communication tasks to prepare or follow-up with patients. The ideal solution helps reduce non-clinical tasks to allow nurses to focus their time on only those patients who need additional care.

PerfectServe’s clinical communication and care coordination platform addresses the inefficiencies of work processes and administrative tasks to allow nurses to assume a more significant role under value-based care, including:

  • Care Team Coordination – Collaborate with providers inside and outside the network. Connect with on-call care team members as a group, or by name or role such as “On-Call Cardiologist,” ensuring a nurse can reach the right physician at the right time to improve outcomes without the inefficiencies of referencing call schedules or playing phone-to-pager tag with physicians.
  • Pre-Appointment Patient Communication – Automate the communication of day-of-procedure information, appointment reminders, and wayfinding to prepare patients for upcoming appointments or procedures.
  • PostAppointment Patient Communication – Automate post-discharge communications to reiterate the care plan, send timely reminders (such as follow-up scheduling and prescription pick up), and assess patient health status and satisfaction with text-first survey questionnaires. Nurses can prioritize follow-up time to only those patients in need of clinical intervention.
  • Time-Critical Updates – Rather than force nurses to log into the EHR to check for results or orders, critical updates (orders and critical lab results) are pushed to the nurse and other care team members to speed up care coordination and delivery.
  • Real-Time Charting – A mobile, easy-to-use interface to access patient information and take notes, with text shortcuts, voice-to-text, and intelligent field mapping to reduce duplicate data entry.
  • Nurse Call, Alarms, Alerts – Nurses receive alerts on their mobile devices and web apps, where they can accept, escalate for assistance, or call back to speak with the patient.

By expanding the role and leadership of registered nurses and implementing improved processes facilitated by innovative technology, healthcare organizations can transform healthcare delivery, achieving improved efficiency and better outcomes at lower costs.

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1 https://www.healthleadersmedia.com/nursing/outsourcing-discharge-follow-calls-keep-nurses-bedside