Best Practices for Healthcare Software Deployment
The HDM KLASroom Series is a virtual eLearning series from Health Data Management and KLAS Research. The series aims to share insights that can advance the healthcare industry and educate healthcare leaders and their teams about the industry’s latest technological processes and trends. In the first HDM KLASroom episode, PerfectServe’s Kelly Conklin and Gabrielle Eagles—Chief Clinical Officer and Sr. Director of Marketing, respectively—spoke with Sue Armentrout, who serves as VP of Nursing Informatics and Evidence-Based Practice at Bon Secours Mercy Health, about best practices in software development and deployment that can help to improve the clinician experience. You can watch the episode below or keep reading to get an overview with main takeaways.
When it comes to best practices for software development and deployment in healthcare, improving the clinician experience should always be a central consideration. Whether you’re a manager, a member of the care team, or both, you know these practices matter long before implementation has occurred. This was true for Bon Secours Mercy Health, a large health system based in the Midwest with 50 hospitals worldwide under its umbrella. Bon Secours Mercy Health first implemented PerfectServe’s clinical communication platform in 2018, and the two organizations have been close partners ever since. In this episode, Armentrout spoke with the PerfectServe team about the support the company provides and shared some best practices about implementing and continuously improving communication tools. According to Sue, establishing effective workflows and positive practices at the start will set a system up to achieve successful outcomes. What are those best practices, then? Let’s take a look.
Pick the Right Vendor
A successful software deployment starts with the right software—and therefore, the right vendor. The right vendor solves or nearly eliminates the issues the organization is facing, which in turn decreases frustration across the care team. In the context of clinical communication, frustration is most often caused by inefficient software design, click fatigue, lack of interoperability, siloed deployments, and a lack of insights from end users, all of which contribute to a negative experience and burnout for clinicians. The right vendor should address these core issues by working to remove communication barriers based on the client’s guidance, but the vendor’s team should also offer novel solutions and new workflow suggestions to widen the lens of what powerful communication can accomplish. Bon Secours Mercy Health chose PerfectServe to remove communication barriers, consolidate its software footprint, and improve clinical communication and collaboration between providers.
“A good vendor will involve users in both the development and deployment process,” said Eagles. “They will be a true partner and work well with others. They will offer policy and governance best practices, and they will have an eye on the future so they can scale and continuously improve along with you.”
Create a Continuous Improvement Cycle
Creating a continuous cycle of improvement relies heavily on the first best practice mentioned above: picking the right vendor. The right vendor should be a partner who supports longevity, has experience in the field, and is willing to innovate to keep up with the pace of change. As technology changes, so does innovation. Health systems have to juggle new guidelines, changing patient expectations, evolving priorities, and many other variables, and a good technology partner will be there every step of the way. Armentrout noted that it’s important to work with a partner who has “eyes for growth,” meaning the partner will have experience working with customers and end users to identify pain points, is comfortable exchanging ideas, plays nice with other vendors, and has throughput initiatives. With these traits, your partner will always be willing to tackle new issues that arise, creating a cycle of continuous improvement and growth.
A continuous improvement cycle is also deeply reliant on identifying pain points through deliberate listening. Bon Secours Mercy Health experienced nurse and provider dissatisfaction with desktop-based communication workflows and is now working with PerfectServe to do away with a setup that, according to end users, can sometimes inhibit a clinician’s ability to provide patient care. In particular, nurses felt tied to their computer and laptop screens and expressed how this limited their ability to flexibly communicate and provide bedside care. After identifying this pain point, Bon Secours Mercy Health worked closely with PerfectServe to roll out a Care Mobility program that puts smartphones in the hands of nurses. This mobile-first approach gives nurses the full power of PerfectServe at their fingertips no matter where they’re located, and the rollout is the product of a system and partner working together to continuously solve problems and improve the clinician experience.
Armentrout said a good partner is one who is “willing to walk that innovation with us and continue to change as technology changes and as the organization changes.”
Know the Power of Consultative Deployments
PerfectServe has worked with clinicians, care teams, and healthcare systems for over two decades. During this time, we’ve learned what needs to be in the library of best practices for successful software implementations, and one of the most powerful tools from which a health system can benefit is a true consultative deployment. This was the case for Bon Secours Mercy Health, as consultative deployments allow for a firsthand and up-close look at pain points experienced by care team members. While implementing and deploying the Care Mobility program, providers, management, PerfectServe team members, and stakeholders participated in active bedside simulations. This allowed all parties to consult on what solutions were working, what issues or communication functions were causing delays, and where other features or functionality could be added or simplified. This collaborative effort makes deployment smoother and surfaces real-time issues that need to be addressed.
Bon Secours Mercy Health had a strategic plan built out for their Care Mobility program, and with a consultative deployment, PerfectServe was able to assign a team to the project to learn the ways of the system. Armentrout noted that pushback from both parties during a consultative deployment is also a part of best practices, as pushback strengthens the necessary program components and highlights what functionalities are most critical for success. These practices all work in tandem to facilitate a solution deployment that will ultimately make the experience better for clinicians, as pain points will already have been diagnosed, discussed, and rectified.
“[Bon Secours Mercy Health] has structured ourselves to be more of a shared service that is interested in standardizing across the ministry,” Armentrout said. “If we have to work with separate teams on every implementation, it’s reliving and then reinforcing, and we’re bound to get off track. Having that one team that is, oftentimes, coming to tell us, ‘this is where somebody else wants to get off track,’ then we can follow up with that. It’s been great working with a single team like PerfectServe.”
Decrease Variance in Software Use with Governance
Another best practice in successful software deployment is the use of governance and strategic policies. Armentrout and Conklin agreed that governance and other policies should be discussed regularly in work groups and oversight committees to advance initiatives. At Bon Secours Mercy Health, governance is an important part of establishing standards for different jobs within the health system. Having key stakeholders in the room where decisions are made drastically improves the flow and implementation cadence of software deployments, which ultimately moves the system toward the goal of better clinician experiences.
Governance is essential to addressing key issues and expectations during software development and deployment. The PerfectServe and Bon Secours Mercy Health teams were able to use governance strategies to address policies related to the Care Mobility program, including expected time frames for communication functionalities, compliance measures for communication response times, and more. Governance strategies should also take note of insight from the end user, who will help to drive innovation if they’re invited to participate in policy creation.
“What we find to be most successful in all of our implementations—and then supporting our customers afterward—is having a multidisciplinary approach,” said Conklin. “This happens when everybody who is going to be impacted has a seat at the table to make those decisions on what gets implemented, how it gets implemented, who is going to be mandated to use the platform, how those communications are going to flow, and how things are going to work, day-to-day, within the organization.”
Identify Opportunities to Consolidate the Tech Stack
Reducing the number of applications a provider needs to log in and out of is another way to improve the clinician experience. Many healthcare organizations have an overwhelming number of technology applications to manage, forcing members of the care team to use a variety of systems to communicate and otherwise do their jobs. A project team from the right vendor will put themselves into clinicians’ shoes to understand where communication is lacking and how inefficiencies related to siloed, ineffective technology are contributing to burnout.
During a software deployment, look for ways to reduce an organization’s tech stack by asking the following questions:
- How can this system integrate with key solutions already in use?
- How will this solution be used differently than existing solutions?
- Does this solution reduce our portfolio of applications and resources?
- What functionalities can be added, removed, or combined to reduce clinician frustration?
- How will this leverage the communication process inside of the EHR? Does it leverage this primary platform?
These questions almost invariably lead to answers that can shape what to integrate with, or replace, to improve operational efficiencies and reduce burnout, increase collaboration, and improve communication.
“The ability to get the right alert or communication to the nurse or patient care tech helps us reduce some redundant systems in the background,” Armentrout said. “That will have a huge impact for many within our organization.”
Remember the Keys to Success
Remembering these best practices for your next technology deployment is essential to enhancing the clinician experience. Here are some key takeaways:
- Partnership matters! Find the right partner for your system by choosing a flexible, innovative, and experienced vendor.
- Establish clear policies and instill ongoing governance to enforce.
- Prioritize—and be an active participant in—consultative deployments.
- Work with your vendor to establish a cycle of continuous improvement.
- Burnout is real! Bring provider needs and pain points to the forefront, and find ways to address these issues with your vendor partner.
- Listen to end users—they drive innovation.
- Having key stakeholders in the room when decisions are made is essential for policy and software decisions.
“When you’re selecting a vendor, look for someone who is in it for the long haul, has a keen eye on the future, involves end users, plays well with other vendors, and has a strategy to scale and for continual improvement,” said Eagles. “We know communication workflows can be really complex, and our goal as a vendor is to manage that complexity for you so that clinicians can focus on patient care.”
Want to learn more? Check out the 8-step process hospitals and health systems are using to upgrade their clinical communication strategy.