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How Secure Communication Platform Benefits TX Health System

DHRHS recently implemented a secure communications platform to improve emergency preparedness, response, and push HIPAA-compliant care team coordination.

Secure communication platform helps Texas health system

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth Snell

- As more healthcare providers are implementing mobile devices and opting for new technologies to improve patient care, the need for secure communication platforms have become more necessary.

Physicians need to be able to communicate with one another, nurses, and departments within a hospital to ensure that patients are receiving timely and efficient care. However, data must be exchanged and communicated in a secure manner.

Texas-based Doctors Hospital at Renaissance Health System (DHRHS) recently deployed CareConverge from Everbridge to ensure that the system had a secure communication platform that did not hinder daily workflow.

DHRHS will utilize a mass notification tool to support the health system’s emergency and disaster preparedness program, according to DHRHS Emergency Management Coordinator Sherri Abendroth.

There is also Hipaabridge, which lets physicians and staff receive emergency messages and code alerts, along with being able to facilitate video, text and voice calls, she added. The solution also allows employees to coordinate testing and lab results, helping DHRHS to quickly diagnose and treat patients.

READ MORE: How Healthcare Secure Texting, Messaging Impact the Industry

Furthermore, there are messaging templates that follow communication and escalation workflows for different types of care events and emergencies, Abendroth told An on-call scheduling tool will also benefit DHRHS in that it will ensure the system can easily identify, locate and reach on-call staff to reach the right clinician when needed.

“Before CareConverge, we didn’t really have truly secure communications,” Abendroth explained. “We had a vendor that we were using for scheduling that had an option for sending notices to the on-call physicians, and then the physicians could communicate amongst themselves.”

Abendroth added that she had been looking for a more robust mass notification incident management system for disaster preparedness.

“What really pushed it for us is the way that it can be used on the clinical side of things, not just for disaster,” she recalled. “We can use it for clinical codes, we can use it for scheduling, and then of course there is the HIPAA compliant Hipaabridge for sharing files and videos.”  

In the short term, Abendroth said that the immediacy of communication has been greatly beneficial for DHRHS. Once the solution was installed, the system began using it for mass notification immediately.

READ MORE: Enabling Providers to Use Truly HIPAA Compliant Email

“I was able to reach all of our staff and physicians in less than a minute with information,” she explained. “I was able to see who it reached – it has a live dashboard. As soon as I send a notice, it tells me who it went to, which delivery method it employed, and whether or not they confirmed that they received that message.”

Additionally, Abendroth stated that DHRHS has added scheduling, and the system has currently about 88 schedules for all of the on-call and consult physicians. The ER clerks are also using incident management to notify physicians when they’re needed, and some of the patient care units on the floors are using it as well.

“It’s very immediate,” she continued. “It’s easier than picking up a phone and calling two to three numbers until you get someone. The people using it for those types of notifications are freed up – their workflow is more efficient.

“The system will send the notice and then it will automatically send or escalate if there’s no reply or response to the initial. It really does free them up so they can focus on other areas at the same time the communication is happening.”

Finding a secure solution that doesn’t hinder employee workflow

Abendroth underlined the importance of employee training with the new communications platform, and said she has spent a lot of time going around to the various employee groups, based on position and how they are going to be using the system.

READ MORE: Secure Exchange of Electronic Data Top HHS Challenge

“We set it up with a variety of different user access roles,” she explained. “Based on the user access role, and what their responsibility or job function is, I go to those groups personally and try to do it in small five to 10 person groups. I will spend about 45 mins to an hour going through the system with them, and then we will send some practice messages back and forth.”

For physicians, Abendroth said that it typically works better to work with them one-on-one, because their schedules can be very hectic.

“It’s been a longer process than I think we anticipated but we’re also trying to do it in a way that we achieve ultimate buy-in from everyone, and ensure that they’re happy with the system,” she stated. “It is a dramatic change from what they’re used to working with.”

Abendroth added that as with any new tool or change, adapting to that change can be difficult.

“We get into a routine of how it’s done, and while everyone sees the benefit for the system, and while we do have buy-in, getting everyone on board and actively using and confirming messages and using the system to its full potential is taking a little time,” she said. “That’s okay. At least by taking our time we know that we’re implementing it correctly.”

DHRHS Project Manager Cesar Perez added that it was important to find the right balance between security and innovation.

“We want to maintain a secure environment, while also having the freedom for people to do their jobs and also function properly,” Perez told “The way the system is set up, it does not constrain anybody, especially with Hipaabridge. There is more flexibility in how physicians and staff members can communicate.”

Perez added that the ultimate goal would be for DHRHS to deploy the solution with nurses and other departments, so secure communications can take place without any interference.  

“The tool is so comprehensive that you can do video calls, phone calls, or just transfer images securely,” he explained. “From that point of view, our security, compliance, and legal departments are in sync with us in using the tool.”

Abendroth agreed, and said that it provides a secure and confident method of communication between providers and all the auxiliary departments at DHRHS.

The health system is approximately 71 buildings, stretching nearly 250 square miles, she said. Hipaabridge allows DHRHS to integrate patient care between in-patient and the outpatient providers, and then from the providers’ follow ups and maintenance of the patient care once the patients are out of the hospital setting.

For other healthcare organizations looking to implement their own secure communications platform, Abendroth said that it is important for everybody involved, from leadership on down, to understand the purpose of the system.

“We met with executive leadership, the legal department, HR, and the compliance team to figure out the most effective way to build out the program,” she explained. “We needed to know how we wanted to utilize it and make it interoperable between all the different modules. Once we had their goals in mind, we started moving forward, building up databases, workflows, and templates.”

Perez added that socializing the tool right from the onset was key to the success of the project. There must be buy-in, and employees need to understand the scope and overall intention of the solution.

“Having one set of tools that talk to each other and allow you to do code, communications, and just having that interaction with scheduling is very important,” Perez stressed. “Implementing separate, disparate applications may be cheaper, but it will be more cumbersome to integrate and make it work.”

Overall, Abendroth concluded that for secure communications platforms to be successful, entities need to ensure that it is properly introduced and implemented. That way, it can grow with the organization instead of holding it back in certain areas.

“It is better to bite the bullet and get something fully integratable that will grow with you.”


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