4 Best Smartphones for Nurse Communication

 

Banner graphic with blog title, "4 Best Smartphones for Nurse Communication," and outline illustration of a nurse using a smartphone.

Smartphones have the potential to transform workflows for nurses and other hospital caregivers. Rather than carrying around multiple devices, smartphones give clinicians mobile access to the EMR, integration with nurse call and telemetry, and secure clinical collaboration.

Many leading hospitals and health systems have enlisted PerfectServe as a partner in their transition to smartphones for nurse communication and mobility. If you are looking to enhance clinical collaboration and accelerate speed to care, here are some key insights on how to mobilize care team communication by selecting the right mobile devices for nurses.

The Best Mobile Devices in Healthcare for Nurses

Zebra Technologies TC52-HC1

Zebra has been in the healthcare space for years, with their MC40 mobile computers and broad range of solutions like printers, scanners, and kiosks. A few years ago, they introduced the TC51-HC and quickly followed it up with the evolved TC52-HC.

The TC52-HC is a healthcare-focused unit that offers strong hardware performance and support for modern versions of Android. The device is protected by a rugged exterior that’s built to survive day to day in a nursing unit.

As an enterprise device, the TC52-HC is available with built-in telephony, barcode scanning, robust battery capabilities, and many more features that come in handy in a healthcare setting. Like the other purpose-built Android devices on our list, the TC52-HC is a hardened device that can withstand repeated drops, exposure to liquids, and frequent exposure to healthcare disinfectants.

Improving upon the TC51-HC, the TC52-HC offers an additional microphone, advanced noise cancellation, and a louder speaker to hear and be heard in noisy environments. Its battery is the largest of our recommended devices, and Zebra includes software tools that ensure the battery will last through an entire 12-hour shift.

Why choose it: Long-Term Quality

Zebra and its partner network are well established in healthcare, offering plenty of resources to help your project succeed. Zebra made sure the TC52-HC is backwards compatible with TC51-HC accessories and future-proofed the device through Android 10 and later.

Honorable Mention: TC21-HC

Zebra also recently introduced a new TC21-HC device, targeted at ancillary healthcare workers like environmental services, transport, and food service staff. The TC21-HC offers most of the same features as the TC52-HC in a slightly smaller, more cost-effective package.

Apple iPhone SE2

As a consumer-grade device, the iPhone delivers leading-edge hardware and software wrapped in a small, sleek package.

Compared to most enterprise-specific devices, an iPhone SE is a low-cost option. However, as a consumer phone, the Apple device will not offer the ruggedness, battery capabilities, native IP telephony, and other enterprise-grade features. Third-party protective sleds and charging solutions are available to make the device hospital ready.

The low cost, form factor, and familiarity of the iPhone make it a good option in the current device market.

Why choose it: iOS

If your organization prefers the Apple mobile operating system, your device choice is clear.

Spectralink Versity3

Spectralink has years of experience providing voice handsets that run on hospital wireless networks. After entering the smartphone market in 2014 with the Pivot, Spectralink rolled out the Versity to customers in late 2018.

Looking at the spec sheet, the Versity checks all the boxes for ruggedness, battery, telephony, etc. Its hardware and Android 8 operating system raised the bar in the enterprise device market.

Spectralink emphasizes voice quality with the Versity, leveraging years of wireless handset experience and advanced audio processing software. The device is available with a scanner or without for a sleeker, lower-cost option.

Why choose it: Form Factor

The Versity is slim and light, as close as you will find to a consumer phone in a rugged package.

Ascom Myco4

Another company with deep healthcare experience, Ascom offers the Myco 3 smartphone alongside its wireless telephone and nurse call products. Although the Myco 2 received mixed reviews, the new Ascom Myco 3 (launched in 2019) shows great potential as a nursing device. The five-inch screen, battery, ruggedness, and operating system are all in line with the Zebra and Spectralink devices.

Ascom has followed a more traditional smartphone form factor with the Myco 3, but they have added some creative functional touches. The device includes a removable clip to attach to a waistband or pocket. When worn clipped to scrubs, the top edge features multi-color LEDs that supported apps can use to signal informative notifications. The dedicated barcode scanner is on the rear, rather than the top, so users can see the screen easily while they point the scanner.

The Myco 3 is the newest device on this list. We had great results testing the device in our certification lab, and now we look forward to real-world feedback from our customers.

Why choose it: The Ascom Touch

Health systems already using Ascom nurse call and wireless phones should certainly consider the Myco 3 mobile device, along with any other team that could benefit from its unique ergonomic design.

Effective Communication in Nursing

Now is an exciting time as manufacturers continue to bring improved smartphones to the market. PerfectServe is here to share our experience and help you achieve your goals for clinical communication.

If you want more information about nurse mobility, check out our complete guide on clinical collaboration systems for hospitals and health systems.

See the Guide

 

10-Point Checklist:
Deploying Shared Devices for Nurses

Checklist Deploying Nurse Devices


B
elow is a summary of an article published in Becker’s Hospital Review July 9, 2018.1

In a 2018 survey, 72% of respondents reported using a program that provides nurses with devices.

Smartphones equip nurses and other clinical staff with always-available communication and clinical applications that help speed up care delivery. Connected nurses more easily communicate and collaborate with care team members on patient-centered care.

Mobile devices for nurses must be rigorously tested and validated. Purchasing the wrong devices for thousands of team members without testing them in real life can have disastrous consequences. On the other hand, choosing the right devices can launch an integrated delivery network for care team collaboration and quality patient care.

Here is a 10-point checklist of best practices for planning and implementing a mobile device strategy for nursing teams:

1. Consider device usability.

Make sure the devices you put into your nurses’ hands are well received. Form factor, battery life, and performance all play into device acceptance. Any shortcomings can negatively impact adoption.

2. Verify compatibility between the device and your applications.

The most obvious application to consider is the mobile app for your EHR, but there are other apps you should also test. Create a role-by-role application inventory to guide your app testing.

3. Consider the durability of the device in three key areas.

    1. Drop Endurance: Only consider devices that pass repeated four-foot drops.
    2. Liquid Tolerance: Whether it be a sink, toilet, or any other liquid landing, care team devices need to survive getting wet to function reliably.
    3. Sanitization Survival: Good infection control practices require regular device disinfection. How well will the devices handle your facility’s sanitization agents?

4. Test the reliability of the device on your wireless network.

Not all devices seamlessly transition between wireless access points throughout a hospital. As more access points are added to improve coverage, the frequency of network issues may increase, which is one of the most common contributors to device failures.

5. Validate the voice quality of the device.

In most cases, the device is used primarily as a phone. Test the voice quality of the device when paired with your wireless network and PBX.

6. Ensure your device will support a secure operating system.

Note the operating system shipped with the device and future plans for the course of the device’s lifecycle. Specifically, ensure the device will always run an operating system that continues to receive security patches from the vendor. Avoid an end-of-life operating system.

7. Purchase during the first half of the device lifecycle.

Make sure the devices you deploy have enough horsepower to last at least three years. Purchasing devices early in the lifecycle will help maximize usable life. Purchasing too late in the lifecycle leads to performance complaints long before the devices are planned to retire.

8. Plan organizational change for device deployment.

Change can be hard, but a thoughtful plan makes all the difference. Carefully consider your training program, communication plan, and your “change champions” to help evangelize the update.

9. Consider the manageability of the devices.

Use a mobile device management (MDM) solution to deploy and manage your devices. If you don’t currently have one, bundle your MDM decision in with device selection. Do not try to deploy devices enterprise wide without an MDM.

10. Pilot the device in real-world situations.

Proper device evaluation goes beyond hands-on sessions in training rooms. Once you have narrowed your devices down to a short list, test them in the environments in which they will be used. Most clinical users move around a lot. Plan to have care team members in various roles use the devices in their everyday workflows to identify strengths and weaknesses.

Getting your mobile device strategy right is crucial in supporting nurse collaboration with care team members. Connect with one of our clinical communication specialists to talk current recommendations for your nurse devices and related strategies.

To explore how an integrated clinical communication and collaboration (CC&C) solution can complete and enhance your device strategy, click below for a PerfectServe demo.

Resources:
1. Getting it right: 10-point checklist for mobile devices and testing in nursing, Becker’s Hospital Review, 2018: beckershospitalreview.com/quality/getting-it-right-10-point-checklist-for-mobile-devices-and-testing-in-nursing.html

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

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

Engaging Millennial Parents to Increase Well-Child Visits

Scheduling well-child visits can be problematic for young parents. Many don’t know how often to bring in their children or understand the importance of regularly scheduled visits. Regular visits are particularly critical during the first three years of a child’s life to track growth and development, help prevent illness, and allow early intervention when necessary for optimal outcomes.

Text message reminders have become an expected touchpoint for dental appointments, vet visits, car maintenance, and various other services for today’s consumer. But some providers have been slow to engage parents via text to help keep their children on track with recommended care plans.

Millennials, who are accustomed to checking their text messages regularly throughout the day, respond positively to businesses that reach out to them via text. Young parents want the efficiency and convenience of smartphone messaging in most aspects of their lives, including appointment reminders.

See how Park Nicollet utilized PerfectServe’s Patient & Family Communication functionality to launch a text message appointment reminder program helping new parents more closely adhere to the recommended well-child visit schedule.

Constructing the Program

In 2016, Park Nicollet, part of HealthPartners, a nonprofit healthcare system based in Minnesota, launched a text-message-based reminder program to proactively support young parents in scheduling well-child visits from infancy to late childhood. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends six visits in the first 15 months (Health Plan Employers Data and Information Set [HEDIS] measure), which fits into the broad scope of 12 recommended well-child visits by age three.

To promote parents’ adherence to the advised schedule, our team set five goals aligned with best practices from AAP’s Bright Futures initiative:

  1. Keep children on time for well-child visits.
  2. Prevent missed visits and gaps in care.
  3. Improve the patient and parent experience.
  4. Support Bright Futures—recall and reminder system.
  5. Improve the HEDIS measure.

A program was launched using an algorithm based on birth dates to send text messages at appropriate intervals to parents of children aged two months to 36 months. Instead of waiting to reach out until after appointments were overdue, preemptive texts encouraged parents to schedule before the next well visit, offering a direct link for parents to easily schedule an appointment. The seamless and automatic process allowed Park Nicollet to reclaim precious staff time that was previously used to manage reminders.

Program Structure

Birth to Three Years

A SMS text message is sent to the child’s family or primary caregiver 30 days prior to the next well-child visit,
based on the child’s date of birth. Then, text reminders are only sent if an appointment is not scheduled in the appropriate timeframe.

Three to 10 Years

A text message is sent to the child’s family or primary caregiver two weeks prior to the next well-child visit, based on the date of the child’s last well-child visit. Then, a text reminder is only sent if an appointment is not scheduled in the appropriate timeframe.

Launching the Program

Launching the program with a small patient population (birth to three years) enabled Park Nicollet to see results quickly; early results showed that the text outreach was positive. Patient satisfaction increased among parents, who loved the ease and convenience of the program. Prior to the texting program, patients were seen an average of one month after their recommended well visit. Only three to six months after initiating the text reminder program, the one-month average gap was cut in half, meaning patients were seen closer to AAP recommendations.

Implementing the program on a smaller scale provided an opportunity to identify and address problems before expanding to the larger population. The biggest challenge involved parental consent and whether to design an opt-in or opt-out program. Park Nicollet defaulted to an opt-in program, requiring parents to provide consent to start receiving text reminders. Eventually, this obstacle overcome by training frontline staff to have parents sign consent forms, but the face-to-face process limited enrollment to the parents who were already making and keeping appointments.

Efficient enrollment and expansion required automation and updating of the electronic health record (EHR). Following the EHR integration, enrollment consent was captured in the EHR and parents didn’t need to be present in the office if they had consented to text messaging as their preferred appointment reminder.

With enterprise-wide expansion of PerfectServe’s Patient & Family Communication to all HealthPartners facilities in 2017, the automated process increased enrollment by over 35,000 and increased well-child visits by 10%. Based on the last reported 12-month period, enterprise-wide enrollment has over 79,000 active patients, which includes HealthPartners and Park Nicollet, and over 43,000 enrolled patients for Park Nicollet alone (see Table 1).

Table 1

Development and Expansion

With expansion of the program to Park Nicollet’s entire clinic care group in 2019, they began using text reminders for well visits for children up to age 10. Future initiatives with the program for Park Nicollet included incorporating additional languages (a sizable subset of HealthPartners patients is non-native-English speaking). In addition, increased enrollment of the millennial population presented opportunities to address various patient population needs—such as:

  • Reminders for flu vaccines and other immunizations.
  • Health metrics monitoring.
  • Checks for postpartum depression.

A Roadmap for Getting Started

Leveraging technology with a trusted and experienced partner enabled the team at Park Nicollet to create a program that worked for patients’ families. Following a digital roadmap, PerfectServe and Park Nicollet worked together to build reports derived from actionable, engaging, timely, and relevant data. Based on these insights, here are five recommendations for implementing a successful texting program:

  1. Partner with a solution that has proven expertise with EMR systems and experience providing reliable, secure communication to patients and their family.
  2. Engage a project champion to guide project design, implementation, effectiveness, expansion, and quality assurance.
  3. Assemble a multidisciplinary team—mobile communication technology partner, EMR vendor, physicians, quality improvement specialists, health information management (HIM), compliance and legal experts, growth strategists, and frontline managers—and solicit input from all stakeholders.
  4. Launch a scaled down program with a small population to identify and address problems before expanding to a larger patient population.
  5. Initiate the process with a mindset of patience. Avoid trying to implement the program hastily and without forethought. This endeavor demands careful preparation to ensure success.

PerfectServe’s Patient & Family Communication solution gives providers a simple and elegant way to engage directly with patients. From sharing directions to your office before an appointment to checking in with patients post-discharge, text messaging is a quick, effective, and easily automated way to stay connected with any patient population—most of all millennials.[/vc_column_text]

Learn more about how PerfectServe supports patient-provider communication by contacting one of our Clinical Communication Specialists below.

[/vc_column][/vc_row]

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.