How one hospital boosted care transitions

Taps DataMotion to build Web portal
By Bernie Monegain
10:41 AM
Doctor with tablet

Faced with the imperative of sharing patient information when patients moved from the hospital to a nursing home, the technology leaders at Hackensack University Medical Center learned that the facilities they would be sending information to had no way to receive it electronically.

It might not seem that important to some – "just an email, just an attachment," Hackensack UMC Chief Information Officer Shafiq Rab, MD, told Healthcare IT News, "But when your life is at stake, and when that information is critical for the person that's going to be taking care of you, and it's you, it becomes very important."

It was also critical to get it resolved. Patient safety was paramount, Rab said. Also, direct and secure messaging is required by Stage 2 meaningful use, and the medical center would start its reporting on the requirements on July 1.

Hackensack UMC is a 775-bed facility that employs 7,600 people, including 1,600 physicians. It has an Epic EHR, and all nursing facilities associated with the medical center use EpicCare Link to provide web-based patient information to authorized healthcare providers.

[See also: Docs at Hackensack UMC keep in touch after patient visit.]

For long-term care facilities not part of the medical center – there are seven of them – there was no way to connect to the portal and no other way to transfer patient information electronically in a secure way.

"These organizations did not have Direct addresses, accessible to them," Mike Fitzpatrick, enterprise project manager at Hackensack, said. Hackensack UMC launched a search for a vendor with a Web portal or some type of tool that the medical center would provide at no cost to the facilities.

How difficult or easy the portal would be to use, the implementation plan and the services the vendor could provide were top of mind for Fitzpatrick.

After reviewing offerings from several health information services providers, or HISPs, Hackensack UMC tapped DataMotion to get the job done.

DataMotion seemed best aligned with Hackensack UMCs tenets, Rab said.

"The people we talked to at DataMotion seemed to also care about patients first and business later," he explained.

The job was done within three weeks of launching the project – and in time for the medical center to meet a July 1 deadline to start the reporting required to attest to meaningful use Stage 2, Fitzpatrick said.

"It was a very quick and effective process that DataMotion provided," he said.

“In Hackensack's case, they're very IT savvy," said Bob Janacek, founder and CTO of DataMotion. "They've implemented Epic. They have a very smart technology staff, so they have the capability to implement the technology to benefit their workflows and such. They're ahead of their broader community, though, of referral partners, their community of care."

To address that, DataMotion set up a Web portal that makes it possible for the long-term care facilities to receive patient records and view the attachments that are not readable in their native form. They are able to read these documents and also they are able to reply and send a message back into the medical center's Epic system.

The portal is easy to use – similar to webmail, such as Yahoo! or Outlook, Janacek said.

Before using Direct, whenever a patient transferred to another facility, the discharge documents were printed out and were either faxed or given to the patient to hand to the next provider, according to a DataMotion case study of the project. This manual process sometimes resulted in patient transitions taking longer than desired, and often depended on the patient remembering to deliver the documents to the new provider. Automating the process is not only expected to improve the quality of care patients receive after discharge, but also decreases the time it takes to complete the transition."

To Rab, quality of patient care is paramount.

"It's not about the success of Hackensack, and it's not about the success of DataMotion," Rab said. "It's not the success about Direct messages and that we got to meaningful use Stage 2 and the money. It's not about that. I think the message in all of this is that different tools that different people are using make the lives of patients and the care coordination better so that we make our people healthier, quality of life better and at the same time decrease the cost of care.

"Healthcare needs urgent work," he added. "As fast as we finish this conundrum, then we can get to the second and third layer of healthcare. That is using information and then analyzing it – what is the most appropriate way to decrease the cost of healthcare and how to maximize the benefit for the patient.

"Let the world know that those people who don't have these things, they are waiting for it. They really want this information, and it's our moral and ethical duty to provide it to them."

[See also: As Hurricane Sandy makes landfall, HackensackUMC hunkers down, reaches out.]