Care collaboration and communication system drives new efficiencies at Freeman Health

At Freeman Health System, the communication tool serves many purposes, including viewing critical lab values, accessing specialty-specific applications, and broadcast communication from nursing leadership.
By Bill Siwicki
12:10 PM
Care collaboration and communication system drives new efficiencies at Freeman Health

Freeman Health System in Joplin, Missouri, was experiencing low compliance with its existing secure texting system. Most staffers did not like using their personal phones for hospital business. Nurse-to-nurse and nurse-to-physician communications was difficult and time-consuming.

THE PROBLEM

Difficult communication included looking for provider numbers and dialing, no corporate directory on phones, and looking for who is assigned to which patient. Staff assignment/care team information was not easily accessible. And the current electronic health record did not have a mobile platform, which forced use of a terminal or mobile cart for patient information.

PROPOSAL

So the health system turned to the Mobile Heartbeat clinical communication and collaboration platform.

The vendor’s MH-CURE application is a secure texting and communication solution for nurse-to-nurse, provider-to-provider and nurse-to-provider communications. It is a mobile platform for launch points to other mobile applications. And Freeman Health insisted Mobile Heartbeat integrate with the Freeman Active Directory.

“The Freeman strategy was to use mobile technology to facilitate better communications between caregivers, which would in turn create better patient experiences as well as better patient care,” said Leonard T. “Skip” Rollins, Freeman Health System’s chief information officer.

“We chose Mobile Heartbeat because of their open platform approach to the tool,” Rollins explained. “This approach allows Freeman to integrate other tools onto the platform. These are nursing, physician and other provider tools they use in the course of their day.”

Eventually, the health system wants to remove the need to use terminals or carts to receive or send information to the EHR. As EHRs evolve, Freeman Health continues to see the EHR vendors leverage the capabilities in mobile devices, and the health system is betting on that evolution by investing in tools like Mobile Heartbeat, Rollins said.

"It immediately knows who they are, their role, what patients they are assigned to, what lab results they need to see and other members of the patient care teams."

Leonard T. “Skip” Rollins, Freeman Health System

“We also believe, in the future, we will have a more dynamic experience with the patients,” he predicted. “We believe our patients will participate in their ongoing care using mobile technology. We continue to press our vendors to provide mobile capabilities for their products. This has resulted in us leveraging native capabilities like notifications from other applications.”

The collaboration and communication tool has allowed Freeman Health to improve workflow and communication using the mobile devices to allow access to real-time patient list, real-time patient assignments, real-time laboratory results with alerts to staff, secure texting with pictures such as EKG, one-touch access to a directory of all users, one-touch access to patient care teams, and a provider/patient list.

MARKETPLACE

There is a variety of care coordination and communication systems on the health IT market today, with vendors including DocbookMD, Halo Communications, Imprivata, Klara, Lua, QliqSOFT, Spok, Telmediq, TigerConnect, Voalte and Vocera.

MEETING THE CHALLENGE

Currently, the care collaboration and communication technology is primarily used by nurses, physicians and nurse practitioners. In phase II, the health system will extend the use of the tool to several non-nursing departments like lab, radiology and others.

“The beauty of the tool is the ease of use and versatility,” Rollins said. “If I had to describe the tool in a word, I would say efficiency, the tool integrates into the everyday activities so easily. There is virtually no training required so the staff is using the tool productively in a matter of minutes.

“Currently, nursing staff use shared devices; they come to a central location, pick up a device and log into it. It immediately knows who they are, their role, what patients they are assigned to, what lab results they need to see and other members of the patient care teams,” he added.

The providers then go about their normal duties and the tool travels with them and consistently provides updated information about their assigned patients. There also is a desktop application that unit clerks and pharmacy staff use. They use the desktop application to do staff assignments and communication with the staff.

“One of the real surprises we have seen is the volume of communication between the users,” Rollins remarked. “We see in excess of 5,000 calls a day between nurses and an equal number of text messages. That’s 10,000-plus communications a day concerning patient care.”

The Mobile Heartbeat system is integrated with the health system’s Meditech EHR, Rauland 5 call light system, GE MUSE/Air strip EKGs, tele-tracking for receiving notifications concerning patients, Nobl patient rounding tool, and Micromedex weblinks.

RESULTS

Today, end users are finding they are more efficient in their communications due to eliminating phone tag and waiting on people to access their desk voicemails, the health system reports. The ability to access a patient’s critical lab values directly from the device enables clinicians to stay closer to the status of their patients even when they are away from the facility, the organization added.

On another note, Freeman has aggressively implemented a capability within MH-CURE called InterApp. The InterApp API enables Freeman’s administrators to customize the interface of MH-CURE based on role and facility – so a nurse practitioner in a cardiology specialty facility has access to specific applications from within MH-CURE that other users do not even see.

“Some of our quick wins have been quick communication from nursing leadership to all staff via broadcast,” Rollins reported. “Secure texting including pictures. Requests for the Mobile Heartbeat system from pharmacy, PICC nurses and others. Increased battery time compared to previous devices. Fewer wireless and dropped calls. And the charge nurse easily identified with dynamic role.”

ADVICE FOR OTHERS

“This is a clinical tool and should be championed by the clinical leadership,” Rollins advised. “We strongly suggest both physician and nursing leadership being very active in the planning and deployment of the tool. We have benefitted from having a clinical team who was willing to see the technology and understand how it could have a very positive impact on the patients and staff.”

The technology also requires a strong technology infrastructure and support team, he said.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: bill.siwicki@himssmedia.com