How clinical communications tech helped one hospital lower call volume by 70%

At Woman’s Hospital, HIPAA-compliant secure messaging gives physicians and nurses the information they need, at the right time in the palm of their hands – and reduced the number of calls from 70,000 to 21,000 per month.
By Bill Siwicki
01:17 PM
How clinical communications tech helped one hospital lower call volume by 70%

Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

At Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, clinicians were moving in many directions, balancing multiple alarms with competing priorities.

THE PROBLEM

The provider organization had built a new facility and at the time its call center was using a product that no longer met the organization’s needs. That vendor was not interested in going in the same direction Woman’s Hospital planned for, and the hospital needed a technology vendor that, in its opinion, was looking to the future.

“When we were building our new hospital, we found out communications vendor Spok had innovative solutions that we could use to enhance our new facility,” said Paul Kirk, vice president and CIO at Woman’s Hospital. “The way we functioned before Spok is that the call center was simply a call center, it only had the ability for the operators to call different areas.”

The problem was that the hospital was working in a silo and its different systems were not able to work with each other, which resulted in many inefficiencies for the organization. The hospital knew it needed to be able to send out a HIPAA-encrypted message to a physician, and that it also needed reporting features.

“And it was very important to us that this new solution was able to work with our other systems,” Kirk stated. “We also knew as we looked to the future we needed to have the ability to expand these services hospital-wide.”

PROPOSAL

Woman’s Hospital was at a crossroads – it was at a time when it had different vendors for each element and, for efficiency, needed to combine them in order to move forward and bring the hospital up to the latest releases.

“Our newest partnership does just that, it gives us a phased-in approach, allows us to appropriately budget for it, and Spok solutions integrate with other platforms,” Kirk explained. “This is not just a single software update. Spok works on issues with other vendors to make sure the solutions are functioning as we want and need them to, while giving us the ability to securely communicate hospital-wide from call center to nurse to physician.”

Competitor offerings, Kirk said, were far from what Spok offered.

“What Spok puts into their product in resource and development far exceeds what others are offering,” he contended. “Their proposal would also allow us to read multiple alarms compared to our extremely outdated manual entry process, while also creating efficiencies by being user-friendly for staff.”

MARKETPLACE

On the clinical communications technology front, vendors include Avaya, Halo, HipLink Software, Mobile Heartbeat, PatientSafe Solutions, PerfectServe, Spok, Telmediq and Vocera.

MEETING THE CHALLENGE

Woman’s Hospital’s call center is not only the hospital’s answering service, it also is an answering service for a very large group of physicians. The new clinical communications technology integrates well with nurse call, Cisco phones and the lab monitoring to get notifications out to nurses who need to get to their patients in the large 85-bed NICU as soon as possible, Kirk explained. These alerts allow nurses to be more in-tune with the large population of patients, he added.

“We have two key user groups,” he continued. “Our call center supports in and out phone calls and text messages in a secure manner, which ensures no violations of HIPAA. The call center also gives notifications to physicians. This solution also allows physicians to have all analytical pieces in a dashboard to see how their call coverage is being handled.”

Nurses also use this integration to care for the infants in the NICU. By getting alarms on their phones, they can quickly and efficiently provide appropriate care. Watching a monitor with multiple screens covering multiple beds is not efficient, Kirk contended, so having notifications come right to their handheld devices, wherever they may be, has been a great benefit to both clinicians and the health system.

"Pay attention to how well a solution can integrate into your health system and with other vendors."

Paul Kirk, Woman’s Hospital

“Our big challenge was that our facility design was different,” he noted. “We went from wards to individual family rooms, and with the amount of space the nurses were covering they were spending more time running back and forth between rooms without having a full picture of what was going on. With our Spok integration, they know exactly what is happening.”

Now nurses are able to set tones for each room so they know exactly where an alarm is coming from. The clinical communications technology has greatly helped reduce alarm fatigue because the hospital is able to customize certain alarms and messaging to the nurse and each patient, Kirk said.

“If a nurse gets an alert for a minor issue versus something urgent, the nurse can respond appropriately,” he explained. “By having the monitor in hand, rather than a board with all of the alarms, nurses can quickly tend to their patients, which in turn provides faster and safer care.”

Another benefit is that the technology allows the hospital to integrate. The new clinical communications technology integrates at Woman’s Hospital with Cisco, Rauland and Meditech.

“Rauland does not communicate directly with Cisco, for example, so we are leveraging the Spok solutions in multiple areas in different ways,” Kirk explained. “It is helping our nurses and physicians take care of our patients appropriately, while also connecting other vendors to make our communications run smoothly.”

RESULTS

Before Woman’s Hospital moved to the new clinical communications technology, it had a significantly higher number of calls per month. Now, it sends a mobile message to physicians and they do not need to call back – they have all of the information needed on their phone thanks to the secure messaging.

As a result, the healthcare organization has been able to increase the number of clients on the answering service and reduce the number of calls from 70,000 to 21,000 per month.

“Spok also has allowed us to have fewer abandoned calls, while increasing the number of clients and giving great service to our physicians,” Kirk said. “It is our priority to make sure our calls are accurate, giving the right information to the right physician at the right time.”

ADVICE FOR OTHERS

“Pay attention to how well a solution can integrate into your health system and with other vendors,” Kirk advised. “It is a big problem today, having many add-ons and multiple vendors to coordinate, while most health systems are trying to run fewer applications. Imagine having a horizon that is infinite where you can decide what you want out of a solution.”

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: bill.siwicki@himssmedia.com
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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