Improving patient satisfaction and care with better communication

With the rise of value-based care, patient health outcomes are more important than ever. Healthier patients make a significant contribution toward increased reimbursement rates, but health outcomes are only part of the equation—patient satisfaction matters, too.

But that’s often easier said than done. With declining patient loyalty and the advent of consumerization in healthcare, patient satisfaction is difficult to achieve. It means your organization must make every effort to earn and retain a reputation for quality care that builds patient trust.

Technology plays an important role in keeping patients satisfied with their care. Dated solutions or disjointed patient care experiences can send them searching for smoother, more accessible, and more modern interactions.

In 2019, Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS)—America’s premier academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health—wanted to elevate patient outcomes and experiences by improving care team communication across the organization. To do this, they implemented PerfectServe’s enterprise Clinical Collaboration solution.

PerfectServe brought significant improvements to care delivery workflows while also reducing stress and frustration among care team members. Not surprisingly, better clinical communication, more efficient care delivery, and happier clinicians contributed to improved patient satisfaction.

In fact, Press Ganey survey results from the quarters before and after PerfectServe’s go-live showed increases in the following categories (on a 0-10 scale):

  •  “Hospital rating” increased by 2.3 points.
  • “Hospital recommend” increased by 0.9 points.
  • “Staff address emotional needs” increased by 1.2 points.
  • “Response to concerns” increased by 1.2 points.

Faster Clinical Response Times

Critical Lab Results

Before PerfectServe, HSS relied on a manual process for delivering critical lab results—the lab tech had to call the ordering provider and ask them to log in to Epic. Leaving a voice message was not permitted, as a live verbal exchange was required to satisfy HSS’s internal protocols.

But physicians’ hectic schedules and fluctuating workloads meant delays in this process were common. Precious time was lost, and the risk of patient harm increased.

But now, once a critical result is verified, PerfectServe automatically delivers an alert to the appropriate provider using its proprietary Dynamic Intelligent Routing® technology. With all relevant information and patient context in the message, the provider can acknowledge and act upon the message right from their PerfectServe inbox—no phones, no callbacks, no delays.

After implementation, HSS looked at 1,100 critical lab alerts and noted an average 42% improvement in acknowledgment times. The quickest turnaround—from verification in the Laboratory Information System to provider acknowledgment—was just seven seconds. That’s less time than it takes just to dial a provider’s phone number.

PerfectServe also tracks when each result is received, read, and either accepted or declined by the recipient. Accepting closes the loop, while declining sends a message back to the lab for follow-up. Messages that are unacknowledged after six minutes are automatically escalated to the next provider in line.

Specialty Consult Requests

HSS also relies on PerfectServe’s Dynamic Intelligent Routing to automatically direct requests for neurology and stroke protocol consults. Regardless of who’s on-call or what kind of schedule changes have happened at the last minute, the right provider receives the request almost instantly.

Since implementation, PerfectServe has helped contact preoperative medical doctors over 8,000 times, with 80% of urgent messages read in less than five minutes. Similarly, HSS’s neurology department has received over 500 consult requests, with 85% retrieved in five minutes or less.

Sepsis Notifications

HSS uses PerfectServe to send out sepsis alerts using a two-part workflow:

  • The nurse alerts a physician assistant (PA) about a possible case. Then, if necessary, the PA alerts the responsible physicians (Modified Early Warning Score [MEWS] and Pediatric Early Warning Signs [PEWS]).
  • If needed, an alert is sent to the Sepsis Response Team and automatically escalated every minute until a doctor responds.

Since going live, nearly 700 messages have gone out to the MEWS and PEWS groups, and only nine of those have been further escalated to the Sepsis Response Team. PerfectServe’s ability to quickly and preemptively initiate the MEWS and PEWS teams is largely credited for keeping the sepsis alert number low.

Rapid Response Teams

Additionally, PerfectServe reduced HSS’s rapid response wait times to less than two minutes. These are scenarios when a patient’s clinical condition may be worsening dramatically, so fast intervention is critical. A review of the “signal one” alerts (similar to code blue) determined that PerfectServe reduced the median response time from two and half minutes to just 40 seconds— an improvement of 73%.

Staff Response Times

Additional analysis found that PerfectServe enabled HSS PAs to read 96% of initiated conversations from the PACU and inpatient floors in under 15 minutes. These were part of 8,000-10,000 monthly conversations where the average response time was less than 3.5 minutes.

These efficiency gains freed clinicians’ time and contributed to HSS’s improved Press Ganey survey results. Scores for both the “Response to concerns” and “Staff address emotional needs” categories rose by 1.2 points on a 10-point scale.

Reducing Readmissions

Because PerfectServe also provides HSS with a system-wide answering service, covering roughly 175 clinics, all the organization’s clinics have a built-in workflow for post-operative patients.

When one of these patients calls an HSS clinic, PerfectServe enables an immediate connection to a clinical nurse practitioner with the press of a button. Regardless of the reason for the call or the level of urgency, giving post-operative patients quick and easy access to a provider is a key part of care plan adherence and avoiding potential problems.

Better Communication, Better Care

Reducing obstacles that impede fast, accurate communication can go a long way toward improving patient care and satisfaction. Manual, inefficient workflows have been around for so long that they can sometimes seem like the only option. But for every delayed communication cycle, misdirected consult request, or unactioned critical lab result, there are countless potential ramifications that can negatively impact patient outcomes.

Thankfully, technology exists today that can automate clinical workflows, remove error and confusion from the communication process, and ensure that care team members are free to focus on keeping patients happy and healthy. Isn’t that the way it should be?

Reach out to learn more about how PerfectServe can transform the way your organization cares for patients while making your clinicians’ lives significantly easier. You can also download the HSS case study to learn more about their experience with PerfectServe.

AnesthesiaGo: How Software Can Help Operating Room Scheduling

Healthcare is a noble profession, but as many will attest, clinicians still have to overcome far too many daily obstacles to do what they were trained to do—treat patients.

Eliminating these obstacles with smart technology has been PerfectServe’s remit for 25 years. To be sure, medicine will always require some level of human oversight, but when you can automate manual processes that cause delays and add frustration, you’re going to make clinicians very happy. 

Provider Scheduling has been doing this for years by automating the creation of provider schedules, and the newest solution to join the PerfectServe fold—AnesthesiaGo, which auto-generates daily OR case schedules—is cut from the same cloth.

Disrupting the Operating Room Case Scheduling Process

When AnesthesiaGo’s founder, a practicing anesthesiologist by the name of Dr. Mike Bronson, was unexpectedly given the responsibility of building daily OR case schedules for his group, he came face to face with a vital process that was in desperate need of a revamp.

Image of Dr. Mike Bronson

This responsibility is usually given to a senior anesthesiologist, and it’s normal to find them building the next day’s schedule in the late afternoon or early evening—after they’ve dispensed with their clinical duties. Depending on the size of the group, it can take anywhere from 45 minutes to a few hours to finish this process. After the schedule is sent out, it’s also inevitable that the creator receives texts, phone calls, and emails requesting revisions.

Taking on this kind of tedious task after finishing a day of procedures is, to say the least, not ideal. And that’s why Dr. Bronson was convinced he could do it better with technology.

With help from a friend who had deep experience in the fields of data analytics, advanced algorithms, and UI/UX designs, Dr. Bronson spent four months studying past data and figuring out different ways of scheduling. The next ten months were spent building the basic solution infrastructure, laying a foundation for the algorithms, and then optimizing said algorithms.

Image of clocks and provider schedules

Case Scheduling with AnesthesiaGo

The solution born from all of this work, AnesthesiaGo, has four main goals:

  • Be Faster: Save hours (or even days) each week by cutting time required for schedule creation.
  • Use Automation: Leverage technology to reduce administrative burden.
  • Reduce Human Error: Minimize double-bookings, scheduling someone at a location for which they’re not credentialed, not leaving enough time for travel between locations, etc.
  • Improve Efficiency: Find a better way to create daily case schedules.

To put it simply, AnesthesiaGo aligns the best anesthesia provider to the best case schedule, promotes efficiencies and transparency for all surgical staff, and helps prevent delayed or canceled cases associated with less optimal—but still very common—manual scheduling methods.

12 Minutes to deliver care

The proof is in the pudding, too. AnesthesiaGo customers can now auto-generate and deliver a daily case schedule in just 12 minutes on average, which is down by 44 minutes versus traditional manual scheduling methods. That’s almost an 80% improvement!

And taking it a step further, AnesthesiaGo also leans heavily into provider wellness by supporting the concept of teaming (sometimes called “best matches”). For a variety of reasons, it’s common for anesthesiologists and surgeons to have well-defined preferences about who they work with during a procedure, and AnesthesiaGo will pair these optimal teams as frequently as possible. It sounds pretty simple on its face, but by including this functionality, AnesthesiaGo helps to improve provider satisfaction and wellness while facilitating continuity of care.

Anesthesiologist and Medical Providers with a Checkmark

In an interview with AIMed, Dr. Bronson noted that anesthesiologists often deal with life-threatening, traumatic events. But despite the high stakes of their clinical duties, “the most stressful part [of our jobs] is not about saving lives, but handling the paperwork that needs to be completed in the shortest possible time.”

AnesthesiaGo can make that stressful paperwork a thing of the past. Learn more about our Case Scheduling for Anesthesia Staff, or fill out the form below if you’d like a member of our team to contact you for a demo.

How to Improve Medical Response Times for Nurses

We sat down with three PerfectServe nurse leaders to understand more about the heart of a nurse and how they can improve workflows in both acute and post-acute care settings. Watch the interview below on your next 20-minute break.

Read more about nurses communication and collaboration daily needs.

Recognizing the Heart and Role of Nurses

Did you know cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death among women in the United States?1 To raise awareness about this epidemic, the American Heart Association recognizes women’s cardiovascular health every year in February. Women account for 85% of the nursing workforce and as much as 90% in other healthcare occupations, such as medical assistants, nurse midwives, and speech pathologists.2

One of the core principles—you might even call it the heart—of the nursing profession is having the compassion to care for others. But who is taking care of nurses to reduce the stresses and strains associated with their work? They’re the backbone of the care team, and they’re in need of tools that allow them to provide care as efficiently and effectively as possible. 

When caring for a critically ill patient, being able to quickly and easily send a message to the right care team member may relieve elements of the daily exhaustion nurses face. There are two effective ways to facilitate this: (1) having an accurate real-time on-call schedule and (2) integrating a secure text messaging system that reduces the number of steps to communicate with providers and patient family members.[/vc_column_text]

I think it’s about taking barriers out of the way for our clinicians and our nurses and the entire care team to do what needs to be done, you know, with a limited amount of time, we have to break down barriers and make things easier.

-Annie McCoy, Enterprise Account Executive

 

Improve Medical Response Times with an Accurate, On-Call Schedule

A nurse’s time is far too valuable to be spent on looking for an up-to-date physician on-call schedule at the nurses’ station. Imagine a nurse flipping through a morning schedule (that has since changed) dangling from the wall. She takes several minutes to look up how a provider wants to be contacted at that particular time of day, further delaying response times and treatment for a patient. Later, the nurse finds out the provider she paged is no longer on call, and now she has to page someone else, first by repeating the manual process of looking up schedules.

In the meantime, the patient’s symptoms are worsening, the patient’s family is becoming increasingly anxious, and the nurse is fatigued—juggling the patient’s needs and the family’s concern while tracking down the right provider is a delicate dance. To put it simply, it’s exhausting when you don’t have tools that seamlessly facilitate the most basic—but still important—elements of your job.

To ensure timely patient care and protect clinicians from burnout, it’s important to have an accessible, dynamically updated on-call schedule that can be tightly integrated with your organization’s secure messaging solution. This simplifies the process to initiate communication between nurses and providers.

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Time saving is both in acute and the ambulatory space. Who was on call? Who was covering that unit? It can be a web that is very difficult to untangle. Where we need to be headed is more engagement into the patient and family member. How do we take a congestive heart failure patient?…They need to see these details beyond the acute and ambulatory side of things.

-Kelly Conklin, Senior Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer

 

Helping Nurses by Using a Secure Text Messaging Solution

Many technologies, like pagers and walkie talkies, can be tedious, unreliable, and not well-designed with clinicians in mind. For nurses, minutes matter, and all of these seemingly minor inconveniences and delays can add up fast. This increases stress on a nurse’s heart, as well as the heart of their patients.

Heart Issues in the Emergency Department (ED)

Consider STEMI: the primary focus of care is to restore blood supply to the heart as quickly as possible. If nurses can expedite notifications and coordination of care, the better outcomes the patient will have and a higher likelihood for survival.

Several steps are required to manage patients with STEMIs, and a variety of care team members need to be notified along the way. 

For example, the EMS notifies the ED charge nurse of an incoming patient with chest pain. An ED provider needs to be assigned to care for the patient. An ED nurse is needed to prepare for the patient’s arrival. An ED Tech is needed to perform the ECG, and patient registration needs to register the patient. Pending the results of the ECG and laboratory studies, further communication is needed to activate the cath lab team and the on-call cardiologist to re-oxygenate the heart as quickly as possible.

All of these steps require the ED charge nurse to maximize coordination and notifications to the appropriate team members to ensure the patient receives timely care. A secure messaging platform integrated with the on-call schedule expedites the process of notification to the ED team, cath lab, and cardiologist during these critical events.

Additionally, when EMS uses a secure messaging platform integrated with the on-call schedules, this supports communication of a STEMI diagnosis and preactivation of the cardiac cath lab team while en route to the hospital. The results of the ECGs can be shared with the ED provider or cardiologists to confirm findings. 

This direct communication determines if the patient is eligible to bypass the ED and be transported directly to the cardiac cath lab. Bypassing the ED not only reduces the burden on already strained ED resources, but saves the patient time that is needed to reperfuse their cardiac tissue, improving outcomes, and decreasing mortality.

They have a tool that can mimic the technology in their day-to-day lives. It takes up to 10 years to catch up to technology in healthcare. Real-time technology helps nurses. The last implementation feedback: “This is so easy.” They can just pick up this device, communicate in real-time, at their fingertips. It’s amazing to hear. They don’t like to hear, “Not another technology you’re making me learn again.”

-Michelle Hamland, Senior Clinical Consultant

 

Give a Nurse’s Heart a Break: Strengthen Their Workflow

At PerfectServe, we’ve spent 25 years improving patient care by listening to the nurses and doctors that perform patient care. Time-sensitive emergencies, such as STEMIs, require quick decisions. Nurses equipped with efficient communication technology and scheduling solutions reduce common barriers in their everyday workflows.

For more information, read how other hospitals have used automated, real-time communication to decrease rapid response times and improve communication workflows for nurses and clinicians.

1American Heart Association. The Facts About Women and Heart Disease. https://www.goredforwomen.org/en/about-heart-disease-in-women/facts

2Cheesman Day, C., Christnacht, C. (2019, August 14). Women Hold 76% of All Health Care Jobs, Gaining in Higher-Paying Occupations. The United States Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/08/your-health-care-in-womens-hands.html

Healthcare Trends in 2022: Top 6 Needs to Consider for Medical Groups

The pandemic has accelerated some of the healthcare trends that were on the rise before 2020. In our interview with Dr. Rodrigo Martínez, practicing otolaryngologist and Chief Medical Officer with PerfectServe, and Matt Kothe, Manager of Corporate Communications, they unpack the six factors healthcare organizations need to understand for their staff and patients.

Read below for a deeper explanation of these trends and needs expressed in the interview with Dr. Martínez.

Digital Transformation Management

Digital tools allow individuals to send messages through methods like HIPAA-compliant secure messaging. Whether it’s between clinicians, or to patients and family members, it’s crucial to implement a controlled workflow for this communication. Without digital management in your healthcare system, you run the risk of potentially overwhelming clinicians, which is less than ideal given observed burnout levels across the industry.

When a patient takes time to log into a portal and send a message, not getting a timely response can dissuade them from trying to engage with their healthcare provider in the future. If that patient includes important medical information and nothing is being done, it can have devastating consequences.

Here are a few questions an organization can ask when setting up new technologies:

  • Is someone sending a message to someone else? 
  • If yes, who is it going to, and who is responding? 
  • Does the current workflow include the appropriate recipient?

Developing basic workflow hygiene will help, especially when the communication involves time-sensitive medical issues. 

Adapt to Competitors

With consumer behaviors evolving, the ability to create a better patient experience is key to the success of your organization. Competitors like large retail pharmacies now offer on-site healthcare services, with customized, easy reminders and interfaces for patients. They are leveraging technology to provide all-encompassing healthcare services—a push health systems can no longer ignore.

A few examples:

  • CVS Pharmacies now have the ability to schedule appointments and exchange information online, in addition to having a pharmacy on site. CVS offers services for their walk-in patients called the MinuteClinic®, which provides care similar to a primary provider for things like skin conditions, minor illnesses, and wellness check-ups.
  • Walgreens started offering similar walk-in services at their Community Clinic in 2017, treating chronic conditions and patients 12 months and older.
  • One Medical is also leveraging technology to provide a more all-encompassing healthcare approach and currently offers options in major cities across the U.S.

Interoperability

Sharing critical information with competitors hasn’t been in the best interests of many companies. Instead, the burden of moving or transmitting medical records from one format or location to another often falls to clinicians, nurses, and even the patients themselves.

In non-clinical settings, it’s possible to send an SMS message using multiple tools, but the problem is you cannot typically send messages between these tools. Exchange standards have not been established, and connecting these disparate tools is challenging. Even so, progress has still been made between a few EHR vendors, which use technology that functions as an intermediary.

True interoperability with “one app to rule them all” is not a reality at the moment, but it’s still the “holy grail” of healthcare technology needs. Not enough tools are robust or extensive enough to handle the complexities of modern healthcare. However, solutions are underway to build integrations and other interoperability workflows, such as PerfectServe’s simple one-tap messaging features.

Address Provider Wellness and Burnout

There is no silver bullet for improving clinician wellness by addressing burnout. Pre-pandemic burnout influences are certainly different from the ones experienced post-pandemic. In the initial phase of the pandemic, even with the overwhelming number of sick patients, clinicians and providers rose to the challenge, thinking, “Okay, this is what I’ve trained for all of my life.”

But, the simple truth is that sustaining an emergency state can tire and negatively impact humans in a very profound way. It creates unendurable situations where people are physically and emotionally drained. Adding to the challenge is the fact that a sizable portion of the population in the United States has not been vaccinated, which has created a bit of an “empathy gap” for some medical professionals who desperately need relief but continue to see avoidable COVID hospitalizations. When developing technology, it’s important to be sensitive to current circumstances so you can offset some of the more onerous inputs clinicians deal with every day.

Nursing Shortage

Nursing shortages affect all layers of healthcare. This trend has been on the radar for a while, but the COVID pandemic has exacerbated the problem as some nurses have left the profession entirely for a number of reasons. Further, if you’re a nurse or physician, you’re also a husband, wife, brother, sister, son, or daughter. If your loved ones get sick, you’re not able to serve patients at the same time. When you throw in additional patient surges, it makes the workload of those who remain more challenging, creating a snowball effect.

Empathy in Healthcare Technology

The people on the front lines of the pandemic have always been heroes, but their efforts have truly been herculean over the past few years. If we develop collaboration technology in these circumstances—which PerfectServe certainly does—we have to be proactive and responsive to current needs while using our product innovations to offset and redirect some of the administrative or logistical inputs that add to care team toil. Much of PerfectServe’s technology reduces these kind of burdens for health systems and their staff every day.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Invest in the Patient Experience

In the U.S., healthcare is not just the individual interactions between a patient and their physician, nurse practitioner, or other caregiver. It takes a team to provide optimal care for an individual patient. Examining how to facilitate and maintain these workflows efficiently needs to be at the forefront of patient care.

Healthcare Technology Solutions for Patients

When designing clinical collaboration solutions, healthcare software providers need to keep the patient experience in mind.

As people grow older and acquire chronic diseases, personalizing care will be important. We have the remote technology to reach patients outside clinic and hospital walls, yet it’s the application and collaboration of these tools that will make a difference in patient outcomes.

As more emphasis is placed on taking care of patients at a distance, the pandemic has forced us to move into the realm of what you might call “healthcare 2.0.” Some of these advances are long overdue, while others are just in the beginning stages.

The intelligent application of analytics and AI could help siphon through data to emphasize important things so the right people can take timely action, or automate the correct action. Using technology this way should ultimately lead to improved and more personalized care for all patients.

Asynchronous Healthcare Delivery

What comes to mind when you think of an ideal experience with a provider?

Whether it’s seeing your physician, having an interaction with a nurse in the hospital, or a visiting with a team of chronic disease care nurses, these consultations can happen face-to-face, by phone, or over a video call.

With technology, you can start collecting most of the information for better care ahead of time without having to wait for a live interaction, minimizing the need to fill paper forms on-site.

How does this help healthcare professionals and their patients?

Asynchronous Healthcare Delivery Outcomes

Asynchronous technology offers a new convenience for individuals who are comfortable revealing their information to the healthcare provider, feeling confident everything has been packaged correctly in written form. Many adults don’t seek in-person care because it can be inconvenient, taking hours to plan and get to a clinic. This technology creates more convenient methods for patients to seek quality care.

It allows access to healthcare for individuals whose schedule may not align with the provider at the moment of the live visit. This helps care team members in the prioritization process. Digital, asynchronous technology can allow one person to interact with many people, improving care outcomes for all of them.

Safe and Transparent Healthcare Communication

Technology helps medical providers gather a lot of patient information ahead of time, and it allows everything to be collected and then placed in a queue so a human can review it. A digital intake form is just one example, and sometimes patients are more comfortable writing down a message about their health condition versus talking about it during a face-to-face interaction. Sometimes patients prefer a phone call and don’t want to be seen on Zoom, or they’re perfectly happy writing out information for the physician to get back to them.

Dynamic Intelligent Routing® Delivers the Right Message to the Right Person at the Right Time—No Matter the Setting

Executive Summary:

  • Getting important information to the right member of the care team in a timely manner is a critical part of patient care
  • PerfectServe’s Dynamic Intelligent Routing® is the industry standard for encompassing workflows, both routing and scheduling—it automatically references any number of variables in real time to accurately direct communications
  • With its guided workflows and comprehensive mapping, Dynamic Intelligent Routing is better equipped to handle the depth and complexity of real-world clinical communication than role-based routing
  • Dynamic Intelligent Routing is also a valuable gatekeeper in the outpatient setting, giving providers the ability to respond to communication from patients in a structured and manageable way
  • Much like a car engine with many interconnected parts that starts up with the simple push of a button, it’s not required for the end user to manage the complexity of Dynamic Intelligent Routing to reap its benefits

PerfectServe’s Dynamic Intelligent Routing® is proprietary message routing technology that factors in different variables to determine who should be sent each message or call at any given time. To illustrate how this works, we’ll walk through some relevant clinical scenarios, starting with a simple example—one that usually doesn’t give clinicians trouble in their current environments—and progressing to a more complex example that often leads to delays and frustration in the real world.

A basic example is a nurse trying to reach the provider on call. The system pulls in data regarding the patient in question, the department, and available schedules to ensure the message is routed to the correct on-call provider. It then references the provider’s preferred contact method to ascertain if the nurse should call or send a text message.

ABOVE: An example of a basic Dynamic Intelligent Routing workflow. Real-life workflows typically involve many more variables.

This simple example shows a bit of Dynamic Intelligent Routing’s capability, but when we look at more complex examples like reaching the right hospitalist, contacting a surgeon in the OR, or sending messages to providers outside the walls of the hospital, the true power of Dynamic Intelligent Routing shines through.

To understand how Dynamic Intelligent Routing accomplishes this, it’s important to understand the value of integrations. For instance, when PerfectServe pulls in patient data from the EHR, it can then see both the patient’s dynamic care team and their room number, which fuels part of the routing. When a critical lab result or sepsis alert comes through, Dynamic Intelligent Routing can reference this data along with the physician schedule and routing rules to determine who the current, covering provider is, which may be necessary if the ordering provider is no longer working. Once these factors are accounted for, the appropriate person receives an instant alert.

Dynamic Intelligent Routing has long been an integral part of PerfectServe’s DNA, and it remains one of the primary features that sets our technology apart from the competition. It is core to PerfectServe’s functionality and essential for efficient communication and collaboration.

So how does Dynamic Intelligent Routing work in practice, and more specifically, how does it differ from simpler role-based routing? This is a common question, and the answer is about addressing the depth and complexity of real-life clinical communication in both the acute and ambulatory settings.

Tackling the Complexity of Care Team Communication in the Hospital

Let’s use routing rules in a hospital as a reference point. What if you want to message the orthopedic surgeon on call? With basic role-based routing, the message is sent to the surgeon’s phone. But what if the surgeon has more nuanced contact preferences depending on the scenario? While in surgery, he or she may want the PA to cover their calls; during clinic hours, this responsibility may switch to the office nurse, and for the rest of the time, the surgeon may want calls routed directly to his or her cell phone. Dynamic Intelligent Routing supports—and even encourages—workflow complexity of this nature and ensures that the person receiving the message is equipped to immediately address the issue at hand.

Dynamic Intelligent Routing can also route based on schedules or user logins. Role-based routing works well when, for example, you’re looking for the hospitalist on call and they’re logged into the system. But what if there are ten hospitalists rounding today and you’re not sure which one is covering your patient? The EHR says it’s Dr. Smith, but it’s now 6 PM and he’s no longer working. Or, what if the wound care nurse is performing a sterile dressing change and can’t reply to messages being sent? What if the surgeon covering consults for the house isn’t responding?

For the first scenario, Dynamic Intelligent Routing is capable of organizing any combination of rules, schedules, message types, points of entry, and other information to appropriately direct a message to the right recipient, even if ten different hospitalists are on call. And, even better, it removes the cognitive burden from the sender—all parameters are already built into the system, so directing the message is as easy as answering a few automated prompts to complete the guided workflow.

For the second scenario, Dynamic Intelligent Routing can use a built-in escalation protocol to automatically route any message to the next available team member after a predetermined amount of time has passed. Once the time threshold is met, the message immediately hits the next person’s inbox.

Workflow rules can be created with role-based routing, but they are typically associated with predefined groups, such as “all surgeons can elect to cover calls for another surgeon.” The goal of Dynamic Intelligent Routing is to build these specific coverage scenarios during implementation. This means the surgeon prepping for a procedure doesn’t have to ask a colleague to cover for them for the next four hours—rather, the surgeon’s PA is the first escalation point for urgent calls, the PA’s colleague is the second escalation point, and all non-urgent communication is held until the surgeon is out of the OR. There is no risk or uncertainty, and time spent trying to determine coverage on the fly is reclaimed because these workflows are established in PerfectServe right from go-live.

Additionally, Dynamic Intelligent Routing isn’t only meant for hospital departments covering unassigned consults. PerfectServe’s implementation methodology includes workflows for all provider groups. This allows clinicians to not only engage providers for new patient consults, but also connect with providers regarding established patients who have a new issue. This comprehensive approach allows all communication workflows to be mapped at both the hospital and practice level. This level of standardization is the foundation for automating critical results.

Dynamic Intelligent Routing also extends beyond the four walls of the hospital, supporting communication across affiliated and employed providers, as well as care settings like dialysis or rehab. The patient’s entire care ecosystem is accessible on the platform, meaning effective communication and care coordination doesn’t stop where the hospital walls end.

A Helpful Gatekeeper for Patient-to-Provider Communication

Healthcare organizations are working diligently to make their patient engagement tactics more closely resemble the modern, efficient, and intuitive experiences that patients have in consumer or retail situations. If you can text your veterinarian to set up an appointment or request a medication refill for your dog, you’re probably going to be disappointed if your doctor’s office doesn’t offer similar functionality.

But according to a recent study, doctors say they’ve been overwhelmed by the volume of digital messages received from patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not good enough just to enable patient-to-provider communication—you have to ensure that patients get timely and helpful responses without unleashing a deluge of messages into providers’ inboxes.

Once again, Dynamic Intelligent Routing is here to help, and we’ll set up another hypothetical scenario to demonstrate. This time, a patient is experiencing stomach pain, but it’s after hours and their primary care provider’s clinic is closed. Because the clinic uses PerfectServe, the patient calls and is met with several prompts from the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) answering service solution. The patient’s answers tell the system if the call is routine or urgent.

Because the patient has a serious clinical issue, they are prompted to leave a voice message for the physician on call. Dynamic Intelligent Routing immediately routes the message by referencing schedules in the system, and the on-call physician then receives a push notification. The message in PerfectServe is easily retrieved by the physician and already includes all necessary patient information.

The physician then sends a text message to the patient and asks if they’d prefer to speak on the phone, via video chat, or in a secure messaging session that allows private information to be exchanged in an encrypted environment. The patient prefers a video visit, so the physician sends a link via text message, and within minutes they’re talking in real time to determine next steps.

In this scenario, Dynamic Intelligent Routing is an important gatekeeper. Because the issue is serious, the patient is immediately connected to help, but the provider has complete control over how and when to engage in live conversation. Additionally, because the system can reference schedules in real time, physicians who aren’t on call will not be disturbed by errant messages. The patient gets the help they need, and the provider receives the message in an organized, controlled manner.

If a patient calls after hours with a routine issue or question—perhaps they want to reschedule an appointment or request a medication refill—Dynamic Intelligent Routing can hold the message (and associated push notification) to be delivered to office staff the following morning when the office opens.

In the near future, PerfectServe will also enable this kind of Dynamic Intelligent Routing-driven workflow with chat bots—both on the provider organization’s website and via SMS text message. The result will be the same, but for patients who prefer visiting a website or sending a text to making a phone call, this will add more paths for structured and efficient communication.

Dynamic Intelligent Routing: Making Complex Workflows Seem Easy

For over 20 years, our mission has been to improve clinical communication by removing the obstacles, delays, and frustrations that patients and care team members face every day. Dynamic Intelligent Routing is core to this mission—it’s the foundation upon which PerfectServe is built. But when you read language like “complex routing algorithms” and “proprietary technology” associated with Dynamic Intelligent Routing, just know that the simple purpose is to make sure that messages, calls, alerts, alarms, and all other forms of communication are directed to an appropriate person who is available to help.

Dynamic Intelligent Routing is capable of ingesting and processing thousands of rules and variables, and the workflow possibilities are endless. At one provider organization, PerfectServe—by way of Dynamic Intelligent Routing—dynamically references 1,819 users, 5,915 schedules, 7,060 notification rules, 3,069 contact rules, and 6,863 routing rules. That may sound like a lot, but it helps to think of it like a car’s engine. Under the hood, there are a variety of intricately connected parts that are overwhelming if taken piece by piece. For the driver, though, a simple push of a button is all that’s required to start the engine.

Making complex workflows seem easy is what PerfectServe does best, and the result for the end user is fast, consistent, and accurate delivery of all communications. It’s all thanks to Dynamic Intelligent Routing.

Physician Engagement: What It Is and Why It’s Important

In healthcare, the impact of workforce engagement has similarities with other industries such as productivity, turnover, and financial performance. However, physician engagement significantly impacts the health, safety, and well-being of the patient experience and outcomes. The good news is clinical communication and collaboration solutions can address those common denominators while improving the quadruple aims of patient outcomes, experience, cost reduction, and clinician satisfaction.

Why is Physician Engagement Important?

Physician engagement is critical for a successful patient care experience. When physicians feel a lack of association, it manifests itself in ways ranging from physician burnout to a poor patient experience.

Engaged physicians are 26% more productive than those less engaged, adding an average of $460,000 in additional patient revenue per year.

Physician employment does not automatically equal engagement. Communication and collaboration skills are a must-have regardless of the number of employed physicians. High levels of physician engagement have been correlated to increased productivity, generate more referrals, expand influence amongst peers and medical staff, and drive organizational strategy and change. When medical practitioners are engaged, patients and the local economy reap the benefits. 

“Patient experience impacts revenues, referrals, adherence, safety, and the credibility of an institution with the community.” – Forbes

What is Physician Engagement?

Engaged physicians take greater care of their patients, reduce medical costs, and are more efficient than their unengaged counterparts. The Health Care Advisory Board states that creating organizational alignment is one of the most challenging initiatives, but the most crucial to success—impacting cost, quality, and experience initiatives.

PHYSICIAN ENGAGEMENT DEFINITION
A strategy that focuses on streamlining communication, building relationships, and aligning physicians with the values, vision and mission of their organization and with other healthcare stakeholders to continuously improve care and the patient experience.

BENEFITS OF PHYSICIAN ENGAGEMENT
  Reduced referral leakage.
  Increased in-network referrals.
  Higher engagement of patient population.
•  Improved patient care delivery.
  Enriched physician development and performance.
  Decreased burnout and turnover rates.

Effective engagement strategies require a multifaceted approach. One that includes retention, clinical and cultural fit, onboarding, benefits, leadership development, formal recognition, and physician burnout.

Measuring Physician Engagement

Surveys

Consistently measure and invite physicians to share their needs and challenges to gauge physician sentiment and identify gaps within care teams and workflows.

Run monthly engagement surveys for insights into how physicians perceive your organization and its services. Using that information, closely examine the factors that contribute positively or negatively to engagement and create a plan to improve physician’s everyday experience.

Scorecards

Help physicians understand what is expected of them in a transparent way while measuring productivity and performance metrics.

“We feel transparency is extremely important in order to change behavior. The scorecard gives a comparison of provider to provider within the same specialty. And then it’s a provider to their individual practice. And then it’s that provider to the network.”

 Travis Turner, Mary Washington Healthcare

Dashboards & Reporting

Employ platforms that enable your organization to visualize sufficient, real-time data. This drives organizational initiatives and empowers physicians to have the autonomy to course-correct quality to improve care delivery.

Develop an in-house practice transformation dashboard to show overall movement of your practice through the phases of your organizational initiatives. Here’s an example of a dashboard used in the special report Practice Transformation Analytics Dashboard for Clinician Engagement, published by Annals of Family Medicine.

physician-engagement-dashboard

Accountability Tools

Implementing a solution that provides your organization and physicians to practice accountability enables both personal, peer-to-peer, and clinical autonomy. Solutions that use read receipts, automatic escalations, and self-managed scheduling can foster opportunities for meaningful dialogue and potentially reduce burnout.

There are hundreds of ways to slice your data. Look back to your guiding questions to determine the most important KPIs for your organization’s unique goals and priorities.

Check out this snippet from our webinar with Mid-Atlantic Nephrology Associates to learn how they utilize our tracking and reporting capabilities for transparency and accountability across their organization.

Mid-Atlantic Nephrology Associates reduced operational costs by over $9k by modernizing practice communication for a network of more than 52 facilities, 50 providers, and 1,700 patients.

Improving Physician Engagement

Provide Pathways to Influence

Create physician-led channels to the executive suite to share their voice in decision-making. This reframes the narrative of physicians from employees to partnerships, creating a forum for open dialogue between executives and physicians.

Invite physicians to join leadership in roundtable discussions. This fosters an environment where physicians know their voice is heard, helps identify leadership opportunities, and shows commitment to invest in formal and informal opportunities to develop physician leaders and influencers.

Launch a ‘North-Star’ Initiative

Workflows and systemic factors are universal and aren’t limited to one group of care providers. By demonstrating the intent of how multiple initiatives interconnect, it streamlines the number of things physicians are asked to do on top of their patient care routines. As an example, Figure 1 shows how the factors and behaviors that build a safer culture, drive positive outcomes.

physician-engagement-strategy-northstar

Note: Figure adapted from Bisbey et al. (2019)

 

Create a Data Strategy

Data should be applied and not simply collected. An effective way to drive physician engagement is to build a comprehensive data strategy that improves transparency and helps physicians understand the objectives their organization is driving.

North Memorial Healthcare adopted an enterprise data warehouse (EDW) with visualization capabilities to enable physicians to get near real-time answers to their clinical quality improvement questions. The physicians could then see how their decisions affected length of stay (LOS) and how specific changes in clinical processes would improve LOS. By accessing the data, it was easier to convince physicians to make the needed changes.

Form Leadership Development Programs

Physician relationships with staff, background, future planning, and training differ among hospital leaders. This creates challenges in how rapidly physicians are able to respond to marketplace and regulatory change. Adopt intentional leadership development programs for physicians who are both formal and informal leaders.

•  Hold annual leadership summits with executives and the c-suite.
•  Establish physician champions to present peer-selected awards.
•  Kick off meetings with peer-recognized moments of excellence.
•  Form topics of interest or medical specialty groups for collaboration.

How Does Technology Improve Physician Engagement?

Physicians are trained to be patient care providers, not data-entry administrators.

Physician engagement in technology is critical for the future of care delivery, and physicians are looking for solutions that streamline clinical practice, allow more face-to-face time with patients and improve outcomes. The secret is to improving physician engagement in technology adoption is by illustrating why the technology is needed. Take time to involve physicians in the selection and implementation process, and provide data to show how it benefits them and the patients.

Achieving more balance in providers day-to-day is possible with the right technology solution. When looking for a clinical communication and collaboration platform, look for solutions that have considered end-users in the build of the user interface and capabilities. Does it have interoperability across technology, and the capabilities to streamline workflows to increase operational efficiency? Look at the processes it takes and how the platform integrates with EHR systems to improve the medical practitioner’s experience.

In a high stress environment, recognizing physician needs can empower them to implement new technologies. As a result, this can improve satisfaction levels, assist in making better care decisions, and support patient engagement and satisfaction levels.

Find out how the right solution can support your physician engagement strategy.

Operating Room Management: Scheduling and OR Efficiency

Operating Room Management: How Digital Scheduling Can Improve OR Efficiency

Operating rooms (ORs) account for roughly 60% of a hospital’s revenue,1 but they also represent the largest hospital cost category.2 As a result, effective operating room management can make or break the financial stability of your hospital. Yet, many operating room managers and staff lack the technology needed to optimize OR utilization, including physician scheduling software and exam room scheduling tools.

How to Improve Operating Room Management

Many hospitals target “on-time first case starts,” meaning the first operation begins on time with no delays, as a baseline for using operating room time most efficiently.3 Delays in first case starts can delay OR operations for the remainder of the day, frustrating patients and surgical teams. For diligent leaders, the essential first step to streamlining processes that get patients, surgeons, and equipment to the operating table on time is to evaluate how clinical teams and cases are scheduled.

Implementing the right provider scheduling and operating room management system can help hospitals and health systems holistically address OR efficiency. An advanced solution will also arm clinical and operational leaders with the data they need to track progress and set benchmarks for success. Investing in comprehensive scheduling technology can maximize the operational efficiency of your OR, increase patient access, improve patient throughput, and increase revenue.

4 Ways Physician Scheduling Software Improves Operating Room Efficiency

1. Digitizing Provider Schedules for Real-Time Visibility

Without proper scheduling technology, clinical teams can have trouble accessing the latest schedule and keeping it up to date. As schedules are updated, different versions of the schedule can linger and create confusion for both clinicians and administrators. A digital scheduling platform increases schedule access by making real-time schedules available on any device 24/7.

Hospitals and health systems that deploy a single digital scheduling solution across the enterprise can further streamline operating room management and efficiency by giving OR managers, directors, and others one place to see schedules for all clinical staff moving in and out of the OR.

2. Automating the Scheduling Process

Based on client data, we estimate that each specialty department in a hospital spends roughly 291 hours building and managing shift schedules. Much of that work is delegated to physicians and clinical leaders who know the ins and outs of their departments’ schedules. Automating the schedule-building process with a rules-based scheduling solution frees up physician’s time so they can get back to revenue-generating patient care.

3. Leveraging Data to More Efficiently Manage Resources

A schedule becomes a tool for resource optimization when organizations can analyze and compare historical staffing patterns and create future schedules that align staffing with patient demand. The result? Efficient use of capital resources and more productive, satisfied staff. Prescriptive analytics can give organizations insight into patterns of provider supply and patient demand on a daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonal basis. Supply and demand patterns help leadership optimally allocate resources as needed for certain surgical services, allowing organizations to cut waste, increase patient access, and avoid patient leakage.

4. Improving OR and Exam Room Scheduling

The right scheduling tool can provide the proper utilization metrics to set benchmarks for improving operating room management and efficiency. With real-time visibility into OR availability, turnover times, and openings, users can best schedule providers and surgical teams directly into specific operating rooms.

OR Outcomes: Optimal Utilization and Increased Revenue

1. Reduction of Errors and Improved Operational Efficiency

Automating the scheduling process saves time and reduces the risk of human errors leading to empty rooms, double bookings, and other inefficiencies that cost time and money. With real-time schedule availability, your staff can waste less time on back-and-forth communication about open rooms and scheduling.

2. Improved Patient Access and Patient Experience

By reducing errors and optimizing the scheduling of clinical staff and operating rooms, great scheduling software helps ensure your patients receive timely care, fewer delays, and less frustration. An ideal solution will also allow your team to identify gaps and opportunities in your OR utilization—improving patient access and generating additional revenue for your hospital.

3. Increased Provider Satisfaction and Retention

A scheduling solution can eliminate many of the frustrations providers experience when it comes to their schedule, including inconvenient errors and the struggle to find the latest version of the schedule. When operating room resources are optimally utilized, physicians can see more patients, leading to more billable services per provider.

The result of better OR scheduling? An overall increase in revenue and profitability for your hospital. With the proper technology, your organization can increase patient throughput, reduce overhead costs of underutilized operating rooms, and improve OR efficiency.

Discover how one major health system leveraged our physician scheduling software to uncover hidden resource availability and maximize its utilization of exam rooms and operating rooms.

Sources

  1. Analysis of the US and EU5 Hospital Operating Room (OR) Products and Solutions Market, Forecast to 2022, Frost & Sullivan, May 2019: images.discover.frost.com/Web/FrostSullivan/%7B633567b3-e18e-4fd3-82d8-bd6fd5bfc13f%7D_MDD8_Preview.pdf
  2. Where Are the Costs in Perioperative Care?: Analysis of Hospital Costs and Charges for Inpatient Surgical Care, Alex Macario, MD, MBA, Terry S. Vitez, MD, Brian Dunn, BA, Tom McDonald, MD, Anesthesiology—Vol 83, Pages 1138-1144, 1995: pubs.asahq.org/anesthesiology/article/83/6/1138/49/Where-Are-the-Costs-in-Perioperative-Care-Analysis
  3. 7 of the Most Important Metrics for Measuring OR Efficiency, Becker’s Hospital Review, Jan. 19 2012: beckershospitalreview.com/or-efficiencies/7-of-the-most-important-metrics-for-measuring-or-efficiency.html

 

How Virtual Waiting Rooms Help Patient Satisfaction & Safety

Virtual Waiting Rooms

Traditional waiting rooms complicate patient visits in two important ways:

  1. They increase patient discomfort, emphasizing the waiting process.
  2. They are a melting pot for germs and bacteria, increasing risk of exposure to infection.

A virtual waiting room, on the other hand, minimizes discomfort while protecting patients and staff by reducing their risk of exposure to illness, benefits brought to the forefront during COVID-19. Possible side effects of a virtual waiting room include more pleasant patient encounters, increased provider and patient satisfaction, and improved health outcomes.

May 2020, 90% of patients globally reported that care quality during surges in virtual care was as good or better than care quality prior to COVID-19.

What is a virtual waiting room?

If you’ve been out to eat at a restaurant in the past few years, even pre-pandemic, you may have noticed a change in the experience of waiting for a table. Rather than asking you to stay within earshot while you wait, today’s hostess will likely request your cell phone number and offer to text you when your table is ready.

The text-to-table process makes the entire experience feel more personal, comfortable, and customer-centric. That’s because waiting is less unpleasant when you are free to do what you want—where you want—until the moment your turn arrives. Now, the same experience has become essential in healthcare to minimize patient discomfort and protect public safety with social distancing.

A virtual waiting room (aka mobile waiting room, zero-contact waiting room, or curbside check-in) is a service that allows patients to check in using their mobile phone and notifies them through a direct text message when it is their turn to be seen by the doctor.

The Purpose of a Virtual Waiting Room in Healthcare

An ideal virtual waiting room can serve two purposes:

  1. Giving in-person patients the freedom to wait for their turn privately in their car—or wherever they choose—rather than confining them to a stuffy, crowded waiting room alongside new germs and potential infections.
  2. Facilitating a smooth check-in process for telehealth visits.

Both purposes improve the patient experience and encourage healthy practices.

Risks of Traditional Waiting Rooms

31% of patients say they are uncomfortable visiting a doctor’s office and 42% are uncomfortable visiting a hospital.

Traditional waiting rooms that require patients to touch shared surfaces and breathe shared air are beyond uncomfortable—they can be unsafe. Virtual waiting rooms enable social distancing to support a better patient experience and better outcomes.

Another risk tied to traditional waiting rooms involves staff and patient satisfaction. What if your patients and staff begin to correlate your organization with frustrating environmental factors beyond your control? A virtual waiting room helps you prevent your healthcare organization from being associated with pesky sounds, smells, people, and boredom that can easily be avoided.

As demand rises for a safer, more comfortable healthcare experience, virtual waiting rooms are the key to getting patients in the door while increasing their odds of leaving satisfied.

How can virtual waiting rooms apply to video visits?

Video visits are another great way to prevent unnecessary exposure to illness. Organizations looking to implement both video visits and a virtual waiting room should talk to their vendors about integration. Ideally, the same virtual solution used to help manage in-person patient visits can be adapted to also queue up video appointments, allowing providers and patients to indicate when they are ready.

What’s the best way to launch a virtual waiting room?

In short, work with what you’ve got. If you have a patient engagement solution that can also facilitate a virtual waiting room and video visits, talk to your vendor about the next steps for launching your virtual waiting room.

If you do not have a solution for two-way texting or video visits with patients, or if you are looking for a replacement/upgrade to your current system, focus on finding a solution that can do the following:

  • Automated Appointment Reminders to Patients
  • Pre-Appointment and Pre-Arrival Instructions to Patients
  • Patient Arrival Notification via Simple Text
  • Entry Notification and Office Navigation Guidance
  • HIPAA-Compliant Video Connection
  • Scheduled and On-the-Fly Video Visits
  • Connect Without Requiring App Downloads or Passwords
  • Caller ID Protection for Providers
  • 24/7 Connection

Here’s a streamlined patient experience with an organization using all of the above capabilities:

Virtual Waiting Room Patient Journey

Key Benefits of a Virtual Waiting Room

Virtual waiting rooms are extremely beneficial to patients, staff, and organizations that implement them, especially when they are integrated with other patient engagement solutions, such as video visits and HIPAA-compliant messaging.

Some of the top benefits include:

  • Increased Patient Satisfaction
  • Patient Safety and Protection
  • Reduced Frustration for Patients and Staff
  • Efficient Patient Intake
  • Reduced No-Shows

Improve Patient Outcomes With Better Engagement

Explore new ways to communicate most effectively with your patients with our white paper, Engaging Patients and Their Family Members – Texting to Support Value-Based Care and Better Outcomes.

Sources:

  1. Virtual care here to stay, PharmaTimes, Brad Michel, Jul. 21, 2020: pharmatimes.com/web_exclusives/Virtual_care_here_to_stay_1345204
  1. Breakdown of Changes in Consumers’ Health Care Behavior During COVID-19—INFOGRAPHIC, Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP), May 21, 2020: achp.org/research-breakdown-of-changes-in-consumers-health-care-behavior-during-covid-19

Nurses of Note Awards 2021: Week Four

 

PerfectServe’s Nurses of Note awards program focuses on the many nurses who deserve recognition for the dedication, sacrifice, and resilience they bring to work every day. For the inaugural Nurses of Note Awards, we have the privilege of highlighting a new level of commitment, strength, and integrity in nurses from around the country who have battled on the front lines of the still-raging coronavirus pandemic.

The actions of this diverse group of nurses highlight the extraordinary among us. Their stories give us a glimpse into the unique ways our nurses have fought this pandemic and made a difference in the lives of their patients and the communities they serve. Out of hundreds of nominations, we selected three nurses and one team of providers to spotlight as recipients of this award.

Honoree 4: Chief Operating Officer Erica Johnson and the COVID-19 Vaccination Nursing Team, Hampton Roads Community Health Center (Portsmouth, VA)

Erica Johnson and her team at the Hampton Roads Community Health Center (HRCHC) are not just nurses—they are educators, community liaisons, and friends to the people of Portsmouth, VA. This team of five nurses, dubbed the COVID-19 Vaccination Nursing Team, worked with unwavering resolve to serve the underserved throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Their names are Nicol Franklin, LPN; Daira Person, MA; Lawona Smith, RN, BSN; and Shaye Spellman, LPN. As Chief Operating Officer, Erica (who has been with HRCHC for 14 years) is the spokesperson for the team and shared how the facility had to adapt to continue providing the quality care they always strive for.

HRCHC is a federally funded, non-profit care center. Erica and her team serve an underserved population and pride themselves on being a “one-stop-shop” for “cradle to grave” care for those who would not normally have routine, accessible healthcare resources. As early as March 2020, the HRCHC was one of the first testing sites in the area for COVID-19. Dr. Vladimir Markovic, HRCHC’s Chief Medical Officer, implemented the COVID-19 Vaccination Nursing Team, and Erica led the team through 11- to 12-hour shifts, sometimes five to six days a week. The team updated their COVID-19 policies every weekend, adjusting to keep pace with the rapid flow of information and new understanding about the virus.

As a community health center, HRCHC couldn’t afford to stop primary and general care—the needs of the community didn’t cease to exist simply because COVID-19 was around. Erica and her team were able to continue seeing regular patients thanks to their rigorous attention to detail with infection control best practices. They were able to screen people and see regular patients as well as provide triage care over the phone. Amazingly, they had no in-house COVID infections thanks to their diligence.

As soon as the vaccine became available, HRCHC was one of the first vaccination locations in the area. But, as you might expect, they didn’t stop at just vaccinating those who came to their center—they also provided transportation to the clinic. They carried out community outreach and education about vaccination for those who were scared or nervous. Erica and her team acted as community liaisons, taking federal updates and translating them to make them more digestible for the people they serve. Erica’s team prioritized their outreach to the most vulnerable, striving to educate and encourage conversations about vaccination to alleviate hesitancy among their patients.

The Hampton Roads Community Health Center’s nominator wrote this about Erica and her team: “The due diligence and resiliency of HRCHC’s COVID-19 nursing team are undeniable, as they continue to be a living embodiment of our mission: serving as frontline, healthcare safety net professionals, delivering much-needed, accessible, quality healthcare to tens of thousands throughout the Hampton Roads region.”

What is one positive thing you and your team learned from COVID-19?

The team learned the value of talking and listening to people; in a pandemic, every vulnerability, every concern—everything was heightened. Heightened apprehension, depression, and anxiety. It made every word that everyone said potentially critical. We also learned that creating a learning environment is important. We realized that nobody knows anything when we’re supposed to know everything!

What was your team’s outreach strategy to encourage vaccination?

The most significant thing we’re doing is asking, “Why?” Everyone has their own reason for being skeptical. We approached the vaccines from an unbiased point of view and encouraged conversations around it. Once we talked to people about the vaccine and why it works in general terms, then we’d ask, “So do you want the vaccine?”

If you had to think of a word to describe the work your team has done during the pandemic, what would your work be?

Relentless … resilient. There have been so many challenges and barriers where we could have stopped. But for so many people, we are the only healthcare outlet they have. We couldn’t stop. We had to persevere.

What is your advice for new nurses coming into the field?

Do not expect anything particular; appreciate everything that happens, even the challenges. There’s no facet of healthcare that can’t utilize nursing in some capacity. Be open to different experiences. All of your patients are important, everyone is valuable, and everyone has something that makes them unique. Even COVID has made us stronger providers and practitioners of caring and healing. Always focus on the healing component of nursing.

Thank you, Erica, and the COVID-19 Vaccination Nursing Team at Hampton Roads Community Health Center!

Erica, your team’s service to the Portsmouth community has been impressive, honorable, and inspiring. Thank you for your dedication to underserved communities and for leading a relentless and resilient team!

Read the Full Winners List

Nurses of Note Awards 2021: Week Three

 

PerfectServe’s Nurses of Note awards program focuses on the many nurses who deserve recognition for the dedication, sacrifice, and resilience they bring to work every day. For the inaugural Nurses of Note Awards, we have the privilege of highlighting a new level of commitment, strength, and integrity in nurses from around the country who have battled on the front lines of the still-raging coronavirus pandemic.

The actions of this diverse group of nurses highlight the extraordinary among us. Their stories give us a glimpse into the unique ways our nurses have fought this pandemic and made a difference in the lives of their patients and the communities they serve. Out of hundreds of nominations, we selected three nurses and one team of providers to spotlight as recipients of this award.

Honoree 3: Missam “Sam” Merchant, MBA, BSN, RN, CCRN, PCCN, RN-BC, NE-BC; Hospital Supervisor for University Health System (San Antonio, TX)

Missam Merchant—who goes by Sam—wanted to be a doctor at a young age. His family could not afford that educational path, but Sam still found his way to a career in healthcare; nurses were needed in the United States, so his family agreed that nursing school would be his best bet. In school, he realized he could change the world by helping one person at a time, and he hasn’t looked back since.

Sam’s nominator described him as someone who shows humanity to every patient regardless of identity or background. He started to appreciate the impact he could have on the lives of others after providing care for a homeless man facing diabetic complications during nursing school. Since that moment, Sam has been utterly dedicated to helping his community and those who are underserved. In the past two years, he spearheaded many campaigns and fundraisers that provided donations for the homeless. He has conducted fundraising to the tune of more than $16,000 for blankets, hygiene kits, and more to support the homeless population and many shelters in San Antonio.

Even though it’s not what drives him, Sam is no stranger to recognition for the services he provides to his patients and coworkers—he has received many awards for his work. To name a few: The Weezie’s Angel Healthcare Hero Award, Best 25 Nurses of South Central Texas, and the 20 for 2020 Nurse Award (given by the Texas Nursing Association). As a leader, speaker, coach, and mentor, Sam is also a major proponent of higher learning and continued education.

Even with the challenges presented by the COVID pandemic, Sam was still able to help launch the San Antonio Indian Nurses Association (SAINA), a not-for-profit organization with over 300 nurse members intended to serve as “a professional body and resource for all licensed professional nurses of Indian descent/origin and heritage” in the United States. In fact, in the past year alone, he has given speeches, served as a mentor, submitted journals for publication, and founded not one, but two organizations. He also works to give free certifications to nurses in leadership and professional development (he’s taught 17 classes this year), equipping them with the training needed to move the needle on healthcare and education policy at the county and state levels.

A true advocate for diversity in nursing, education, and leadership, Sam is active in many diversity-centered associations and boards. He serves as president for SAINA, director for the Asian American Alliance of San Antonio (AAASA), is a member of the governing board for the National Association of Indian Nurses of America (NAINA), and is involved with many others. Sam provides safe and educational forums for nurses to collaborate on practices and how to best serve their communities.

What inspired you to become a nurse?

Nursing fell into my lap in India in 2003. I had a light bulb moment when I took care of a homeless patient who suffered from severe diabetes and had not received foot care for a year. I treated this patient, and at the end of the procedure, he gave me 10 rupees—the equivalent of about 14 cents. I realized how much impact I had on this one patient, who felt cared for and loved and was willing to give me his most valuable possession in return. 15 years later, I am proud and humbled to be a nurse who can continue to make a difference in patients’ lives.

What’s one piece of advice for nursing students entering the field?

Right from the beginning of your career, find a mentor who you can trust. The mentor will help you see things that you cannot see for yourself and will help to motivate you through feelings of burnout. Nursing is not easy; it requires ongoing learning, hard work, commitment, and selfless service.

What would you like to see change for nursing in the future?

The future of nursing is bright. Nurses are fighting for safe staffing, better access to care, and a healthy environment—both for themselves and for their patients. I want to see two things in the future of nursing: greater diversity and leadership. Diversity, equity, and leadership in nursing is the key to sustainability. The ability to compassionately care for our communities is the wave of the future.

How do you combat burnout in your professional life?

Burnout is real, but it’s seldom addressed by leadership and often ignored by nurses themselves. It then manifests itself in poor care, poor relationships, and broken homes. There are three levels to curbing personal and group burnout: Organization, microsystem, and personal. The organization level is a commitment from senior management to acknowledge burnout and put prevention measures in place. The microsystem level focuses on your team and team leader understanding workflow as a whole—how that workflow can lead to burnout when not managed well or when things are not adjusted when needed. This level can be managed by staffing correctly, promoting teamwork, creating acuity plans, and other leadership and organizational work. The personal level is an inward look at being mindful of when we are feeling burnout. Know the signs your body gives, know how to take mental health breaks, and know how to separate work and home life.

What’s your passion outside of nursing?

Working for non-profit organizations and impacting lives. I have been involved with various non-nursing organizations that are involved in early childhood education, alliance for minorities, and others. These organizations have made a big impact on my community.

If you had to pick one song that describes you as a nurse, what would it be?

“Firework” by Katy Perry. I am a nurse that believes in empowerment; inspiring the next generation of nurses to not give up and to push through to make a difference. Everyone is unique, and everyone needs to be able to shine in nursing and life.

Thank you, Sam!

Sam, through your commitment and dedication, you certainly light up other peoples’ lives—just like a firework. Thank you for your continued service to your patients, your fellow nurses, and your community, and congratulations for being named a 2021 Nurse of Note.

Read the Full Winners List