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Assembling The Right Stuff: The Keys to Gathering and Supporting A Successful EHR Go-Live Support Team

Posted on August 16, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Jaime Jaimes, Instructional Writer at Conduent, Breakaway Learning Solutions). Check out all of the blog posts in the Breakaway Thinking series.

For just a moment, put yourself in the shoes of a provider who needs to work with a new EHR. You’ve known that the EHR go-live event was impending, and now it’s here. You took the training, slipped a little job aid booklet in your pocket, and think you’ve got everything under control. But once you’re on the floor, you hit a sudden roadblock. Rifling through your packet in hopes of finding an answer could waste valuable time. What you really need is a friendly face to calmly talk you through that first hurdle and get you back on track.

This scenario is the reason that some physicians are identifying at-the-elbow support as a vital part of successful EHR implementation. A confident support team can create a calm and stable environment for your staff as they learn the ins and outs of their new system. But structuring your support strategy is easier said than done. Fortunately, I was able to sit down and discuss some key go-live support elements with two of Breakaway’s client services managers: Adam Koch and Meredith Wheelock.  Between them, they’ve overseen countless go-live events for hospitals and ambulatory locations alike, and they have three key pointers for any team planning a new EHR implementation or update.

Start assembling your support team early

Creating a support team is a daunting prospect. In our experience, at least a 1:3 support-to-learner ratio is the ideal level of staff training needed for a go live, a number backed up by online research journal Perspectives in Health Management. Beginning your search for the right people early on gives you the time to vet potential team members, and ensure they have the necessary certifications and experience specific to your go live. While you can get a team together in a month, we recommend starting the process two months or more before the event so that you can identify the right people and make sure they are prepared.

This may seem like a lot of time to invest, but having this at-the-elbow support can actually save you time at go live. A support team member can resolve questions and frustrating issues quickly, which in turn allows your staff to return to their other duties. Plus, the fact that the question was resolved in-the-moment, and in the environment in which your staff will likely face the issue again, increases the probability of knowledge retention and improves their confidence in using the system.

Get everyone on the same page

Even though you’re assembling a team of experts familiar with your EHR, you still need to make sure they’re all following the same workflows. This ensures your support team won’t teach different workflows to different departments or locations. Learning your best practices also means there won’t be a conflict between pre-go-live training and at-the-elbow assistance. After all, your staff expects help when they approach a support team member. If they get advice that contradicts their training, they will walk away feeling even more confused and frustrated, hindering their adoption progress. As this EHR Intelligence article notes, “Critical to the project’s success is supporting physician EHR users the right way at the right time.” Taking the time to teach your support team best practices is the easiest way to make sure you’re supporting your team the right way.

Establish lines of communication

A go-live event is a big endeavor, and even the best support team will encounter a quirk in the system they haven’t seen before. It’s at these times where having a defined path to escalate problems and share the solutions you generate will keep your EHR’s implementation on track. For those first few weeks, a daily touchpoint meeting with your support teams and site super-users can prove invaluable, as it allows everyone to identify pain points, troubleshoot issues, and come away with one clearly identified solution. Having this coordinated effort and standard way of communicating is critical for organizations large and small, and helps guarantee that even when a larger problem arises, your team doesn’t grind to a halt as you try to figure out the solution.

Your at-the-elbow support team is just one part of the successful go-live puzzle, but it’s a piece that can mean the difference between a frustrated staff and one that’s confident that this new EHR is just another part of their day.

Conduent is a sponsor of the Breakaway Thinking series of blog posts. Breakaway Learning Solutions is a leader in EHR and Health IT training. Download their Free Whitepaper “Leadership Insights: Gaining Value from Technology Investments.”

Patients Want Customizations – Just Not Too Much!

Posted on August 10, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Cristina Dafonte, Marketing Associate of Stericycle Communication Solutions as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter:@StericycleComms
cristina-dafonteEverything around us is customizable: your laptop background, the layout of applications on your phone, any product dashboard you have access to. Customization sells, and consumers crave it. Consumers love to think that something is unique or special for just them, even if they know in their hearts that isn’t the case.

Patient engagement, especially appointment reminders, shouldn’t be the exception to the rule. We’ve far surpassed the days of the robo-dialer letting you know your doctor’s office was calling. Today, patients look for custom communications.

There are two ends of the spectrum that I have seen with customization of appointment reminders. The first is no customization at all.

Example: My dentist sends an email that is “Please click to confirm your appointment. We look forward to seeing you!” And includes a large CONFIRM button.

This message leaves me wondering a few things: when is my appointment? Which dentist am I seeing? What if I need to reschedule? What kind of appointment did I schedule? The message wasn’t personalized to my appointment or to me.

The second end of the spectrum is too much customization. I didn’t know it was possible to personalize a message too much until I received the following text message from my eye doctor:

(1/2) Hi Cristina, your contacts are ready for pick up. Please stop by the office at your earliest convenience to get them. Our office hours are 7-3pm on the first Monday of every month, 8-4pm every

(2/2) other Tuesday, and 8-6pm on the second Thursday of every month, and 7-12pm on Friday. Thank you for choosing [my eye doctor].

The first time I received that text message, I read it at least 3 times, trying to figure out what the office hours were for the day I needed to go get my contacts! That, my friends, is a reminder with too much customization.

Fortunately, the team at Stericycle Communication Solutions has figured out just the right amount of customization. Our patient communications are built on 4 pillars:

  1. Arrive: what needs to be done when the patient arrives
  2. Bring: what they need to bring for the appointment
  3. Prep: if there is any pre-appointment prep work that needs to be completed
  4. Do: any specific instructions for the patient’s arrival.

These best practices ensure that the patient feels the communication is specifically for them and that they have enough information to confidently and comfortably arrive at the office – without feeling bombarded with facts or instructions.

Want to learn more about Stericycle Communication Solutions’ patient engagement customizations? Download our FREE overview “Customizing Your Patient Engagement.”

The Communication Solutions Series of blog posts is sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions, a leading provider of high quality call center & telephone answering servicespatient access services and automated communication technology. Stericycle Communication Solutions combines a human touch with innovative technology to deliver best-in-class communication services.  Connect with Stericycle Communication Solutions on social media: @StericycleComms

Simulation-Based Education: The New Paradigm in Healthcare Technology – Breakaway Thinking

Posted on July 19, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Heather Haugen, PhD, Managing Director and CEO at The Breakaway Group (A Conduent Company). Check out all of the blog posts in the Breakaway Thinking series.
Heather Haugen
Imagine a warehouse filled with classroom training sessions running simultaneously, hotel lobbies packed with consultants checking in and out at the same time, overrun parking lots, buses shuttling employees off campus, and more. These are the harsh, yet common challenges healthcare organizations face with classroom training – a predicament explored in the second edition of Beyond Implementation: A Prescription for the Adoption of Healthcare Technology. As the book explores the real-life headaches of classroom training, it calls on healthcare leaders and organizations to embrace a new education paradigm.

Today the healthcare industry has made considerable advances in technology. Enterprise applications now offer more features and functionality than ever before. Analytics programs, telehealth platforms, mobile health applications – each represents one of the many innovations changing the face of our industry. Yet despite these advances, classroom training remains one feature that has yet to change, a feature deeply-engrained in the habits, mental models, and beliefs of the industry. Healthcare executives already face significant pressure from making multi-million-dollar investments in clinical information systems. Changing how users are educated disrupts another component of healthcare for which executives become solely responsible, and must address and manage.

Despite the strength of the status quo, Beyond Implementation calls for healthcare’s departure from the classroom training model, as research highlights its ineffectiveness for teaching learners how to use new technology – a reason why most industries have abandoned or redesigned the model. Instead of face-to-face instruction, the book recommends healthcare organizations take a simulation-based approach to education, which provides learners with hands-on experience completing their workflows in a simulated EHR. The value of simulation-based education was first proven in the commercial airline industry. Like healthcare today, the airline industry experienced significant disruption through technology as the industry transitioned from analog to flight control systems. Unable to educate pilots quickly enough, the industry developed flight simulators that provided hands-on training that was relevant, accessible, repeatable, and sustainable. The new education model produced impressive learning outcomes, which is why the book argues for a similar model to be applied to healthcare.

Unlike classroom training, simulation-based education is more personalized and targeted. Education is role-specific and teaches learners how to complete their daily tasks in a simulated EHR environment. Users learn to complete their daily tasks according to best practice workflows guided by real-life clinical scenarios that increase relevancy, retention, and engagement. One significant benefit is users accumulate experience in the application without risks to patient safety. They also access their education at a time most convenient to them, as education is accessible 24/7 anywhere there is an internet connection. The accessibility of simulation-based education eliminates the headaches and costs of renting out warehouses, hiring trainers and consultants, scheduling staff to attend three eight-hour training sessions, and more.  It’s no wonder why simulators are shown to improve confidence and knowledge in the system – which are key indicators of proficiency.

Considering the challenges and opportunities facing healthcare organizations, the need for a better education paradigm is apparent. Now more than ever, our industry is grappling with the challenges of swapping their legacy systems with new enterprise applications, which research has shown brings significantly greater challenges than the switch from paper to electronic. In addition to new strategies around leadership and other areas, organizations must provide education that helps users make the transition from old workflows, keyboard shortcuts, and habits more quickly and seamlessly. Our industry is also beginning to focus on improving outcomes through technology, a trend that requires organizations to create a workforce of proficient users efficiently and effectively.

In every aspect, healthcare stands to benefit by replacing its analog approach to education. Whether reducing costs or improving knowledge and confidence in the system, the argument for classroom training is obsolete. It’s time that our industry embrace a new model that reflects the level of innovation healthcare leaders and professionals are working so hard to adopt.

Conduent is a sponsor of the Breakaway Thinking series of blog posts. The Breakaway Group is a leader in EHR and Health IT training. Download their Free Whitepaper “Leadership Insights: Gaining Value from Technology Investments.”

A Programmatic Approach to Print Security

Posted on July 17, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Sean Hughes, EVP Managed Document Services at CynergisTek.

Print devices are a necessary tool to support our workflows but at the same time represent an increasing threat to the security of our environment.

Most organizations today have a variety of devices; printers, copiers, scanners, thermal printers and even fax machines that make up their “print fleet”. This complex fleet often represents a wide variety of manufacturers, makes and models of devices critical to supporting the business of healthcare.

Healthcare organizations continue to print a tremendous amount of paper as evidenced by an estimated 11% increase in print despite the introduction of the EHR and other new systems (ERPs, CRMs, etc.). More paper generally means more devices, and more devices means more risk, resulting in increased security and privacy concerns.

Look inside most healthcare organizations today and even those with a Managed Print Services program (MPS) probably have a very disjointed management responsibility of their inventory. Printers are most often the responsibility of IT, copiers run through supply chain with the manufacturer providing support, and fax machines may even be part of Telecommunications. Those organizations that have an MPS provider probably don’t have all devices managed under that program – what about devices in research or off-site locations, or what if you have an academic medical facility or are part of a university?

These devices do have a couple of things in common that are of concern – they are somehow connected to your network and they hold or process PHI.

This fact and the associated risk requires an organization to look at how these devices are being managed and whether the responsibility for security and privacy are being met. Are they part of your overall security program, does your third party manage that for you, do you even know where they all are and what risks are in your fleet today?  If multiple organizations manage, do they follow consistent security practices?

Not being able to answer these questions is a source of concern and probably means that the risk is real. So how do we resolve this?

We need to take a programmatic approach to print and print security to ensure we are addressing the whole. Let’s lay out some steps to accomplish this.

  • Know your environment – the first thing we must do is identify ALL print devices in our organization. This includes printers, scanners, copiers, thermals, and fax machines, whether they are facility owned, third-party managed, networked or local, or sitting in a storage room.
  • Assess your risk – perform a comprehensive security risk assessment of the entire fleet and develop a remediation plan. This is not a one-time event but rather needs to be part of your overall security plan.
  • Assign singular ownership of assets – either through an internal program or a third-party program, the healthcare organization should fold all print-related devices into a single program for accountability and management.
  • Workflow optimization – you probably have millions of dollars of software in your organization that is the source of the output of these devices. Even more was spent securing the environment these applications are housed in, and accessed from, to make sure the data is secure and privacy is maintained. The data in those systems is at its lowest price point, most optimal from a workflow efficiency standpoint, and most secure — yet every time we hit print we multiply the cost, decrease the operational efficiency and increase the risk to that data.
  • Decrease risk – while it is great that we identify all the devices, assess and document risk and develop a mitigation/remediation plan, the goal should be to put controls in place to stem the proliferation of devices and ultimately to begin the process of decreasing the unnecessary devices thereby eliminating the risk associated to those devices.

The concept of trying to reduce the number of printers from a cost perspective is not new to healthcare. However, many have achieved mixed results, even those that have used an MPS partner. The reason that happens is generally because they are focused on the wrong things.

The best way to accomplish a cost-effective print program is to understand what is driving the need or want for printers, and that is volume. You don’t need a print device if you don’t need to print. I know it sounds like I am talking about the nirvana that is the paperless environment but I am not. This is simply understanding what and where is unnecessary to print and eliminating it, thereby eliminating the underlying need for the associated device, and with it the inherent security risk as well as the privacy concern of the printed page. Refocusing on volume helps us to solve many problems simultaneously.

Putting a program in place that provides this visibility, and using that data to make the decisions on device reduction can significantly reduce your current risk. Couple this with security and privacy as part of your acquisition determination, and you can make intelligent decisions that ensure you only add those devices you need, and when you do add a device it meets your security and privacy requirements. More often than not the first line of defense in IT is better management of the environment.

The New Leadership Agenda: 6 Effective Strategies for Driving the Adoption of Healthcare Technology – Breakaway Thinking

Posted on June 28, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Heather Haugen, PhD, Managing Director and CEO at The Breakaway Group (A Conduent Company). Check out all of the blog posts in the Breakaway Thinking series.
Heather Haugen
In executive conference rooms around the country, a common dialogue is emerging. In the wake of multi-million-dollar investments in electronic health record (EHR) systems, healthcare leaders are admitting that they underestimate the “care and feeding” of adopting these new applications. Whether this realization occurs from implementing a new system for the first time, or replacing an existing legacy application, the challenges are largely the same. Change fatigue, resource shortages, user resistance, workarounds, patient safety concerns – all reflect barriers healthcare leaders face adopting new healthcare technology.

But there is good news for healthcare leaders. This month marks the release of the new edition of Beyond Implementation: A Prescription for the Adoption of Healthcare Technology. The book offers healthcare leaders a playbook for approaching and leading the effort to adopt clinical information systems.

The book explores several important leadership strategies that have proven invaluable to healthcare executives around the country.

Strategy #1: Establish a New Leadership Agenda

Leadership is the most fundamental driver of EHR adoption. Because of its importance to the success of the initiative, leaders must relentlessly commit to making EHR adoption a daily priority for executive teams. This includes focusing on the factors that drive optimal use of clinical information systems long after the implementation.

Strategy #2: Stop Doing List

Time is a scarce and vital asset for every executive team, which faces a host of competing priorities and time-sensitive initiatives. The most successful leadership teams prioritize the right projects that add the most value to the organization. One strategy is to develop a Stop Doing List, a concept popularized by renowned author Jim Collins. The Stop Doing List is the process of choosing which initiatives to stop in order to focus on the most crucial activities. For healthcare leaders, this means eliminating or reprioritizing enough projects to make EHR adoption among the top three priorities for the organization. To develop a Stop Doing List, Beyond Implementation recommends prioritizing initiatives per these criteria:

  • Projects/meetings that do not directly affect quality of care or safety
  • Projects/meetings that are not related to compliance or legal risk
  • Projects that can be delayed with little overall impact
  • Meetings that can be eliminated or consolidated

Strategy #3: Engage Clinical Leadership

Providers carry a powerful voice in a healthcare setting. Leaders must actively engage providers and promote their buy-in through several strategies. One strategy includes developing a provider council. Including representation from across the organization, endorsement from top leadership, and a formal charter and vision for the body, this council should oversee and govern EHR use.  Another strategy is to engage members of the council to serve as champions of the effort by helping their departmental colleagues and serving as an extension of leadership.

Strategy #4: Create a Tone at the Top

Crucial to engaging users in the effort is establishing a tone that emphasizes EHR adoption. Leadership must promote awareness of the initiative by creating a value proposition and brand that connects the EHR system with the organizational vision and mission. Leadership must also establish a rhythm with their messaging and ensure it remains authentic when interacting with users. Leadership should make it a focus to answer key questions about the transition, such as how EHR adoption improves clinical and financial outcomes and how the change will affect users individually. Establishing the importance of the effort, as well as being open and transparent, helps users navigate and accept the transition more easily.

Strategy #5: Governance

Governance is also another key ingredient of effective leadership. Competing interests, differing opinions, and varying experiences all pose barriers to EHR adoption. Leadership must develop a well-defined governance process, which overcomes these barriers by creating policies and procedures that hold users accountable and define expectations and best practices around use of the system. The governance process should evolve over time to address the evolving needs of users as they adopt the application. After developing the governance process, leadership must measure its effectiveness to enforce accountability and make continuous improvements.

Strategy #6: Track Performance Metrics to Drive Continuous Improvements

To improve outcomes, leadership must track the clinical and financial results of EHR adoption. Leadership should identify, select, and empower the right individuals to lead this effort. These individuals should collect, analyze, and report performance metrics that are important to caregivers and will motivate engagement and improvement.

To see improved clinical and financial outcomes, healthcare leaders must ignite and sustain the movement toward the adoption of clinical information systems. It starts with establishing a new leadership agenda that places adoption at the forefront of organizational priorities and continues through strategies that facilitate engagement, communication, governance, and measurement. When leaders engage in these activities, adoption becomes a pervasive mindset across the organization for optimal results.

Conduent is a sponsor of the Breakaway Thinking series of blog posts. The Breakaway Group is a leader in EHR and Health IT training. Download their Free Whitepaper “Leadership Insights: Gaining Value from Technology Investments.”

Compromise Assessments & Penetration Testing in Healthcare

Posted on June 21, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Steven Marco, CISA, ITIL, HP SA and President of HIPAA One®.
Steven Marco - HIPAA expert
As healthcare providers continue to embrace technology, are patients being left vulnerable? If a recent incident involving patient portals is any indication, then the answer is a resounding “yes.”

True Health Diagnostics, a Frisco, TX-based healthcare services company recently became aware of a security flaw in their patient portal after an IT consultant logged in to view their test results and accessed other patient’s records by accident.  Upon investigating the issue it was determined that because True Health uses sequential numbers on their patient record PDF files, users of the patient portal could easily alter a digit in the URL and therefore view the medical information of other patients (also known as Forceful Browsing).

This recent event should serve as both a reminder and a warning to healthcare organizations using patient portals that in order to prevent a similar disclosure, implementing (and testing!) safeguards is necessary. There are two different actions an organization can take to either understand the scope of a breach and/or assess their level of security to prevent a disclosure.

Compromise Assessment: Due-Diligence Task

A compromise assessment is a due-diligence task used to verify that an organization hasn’t experienced a security breach. Essentially, it answers the question: “Have we been breached?”

Completed by a group of whitehat hackers or IS professionals, the goal is to access an organization’s various systems and verify if/when they were comprised and estimate the damage/exposure that has/could be done on their customer’s data. By gaining an understanding of the extent of the breach, the organization can in turn create a plan to remedy the issue and notify the appropriate parties of the disclosure.

Penetration Testing: Proactive Approach

In simple terms, conducting a penetration test is a proactive approach to finding any security deficiencies before a breach occurs or hackers find a way in. A penetration test answers to the question “How secure are we?”

By performing an authorized simulated attack, organizations can gain a much greater understanding of their security infrastructure. Although penetration testing alone will not ensure a network is compliant or secure, it will identify gaps between the existence threats and controls that an organization has in place.

Penetration testing has many other benefits, including:

  • Revealing where procedures may be failing – Especially if insecure services are being used for administration or if critical security patches are missing due to inadequate configuration and change management processes/procedures.
  • Exposing poor password policy – Including the use of default or weak passwords, password reuse and use of incremental passwords.
  • Justification to management – For approval of additional security technologies. For example: Showing upper management that penetration testers were able to hack into the system and email the entire customer database.
  • Acts as a “second set of eyes” – Critical if using an independent provider when hosting ePHI/PII.

Interested in more details on penetration testing? Check out HIPAA One’s penetration testing blog post.

About Steven Marco
Steven Marco is the President of HIPAA One®, leading provider of HIPAA Risk Assessment software for practices of all sizes.  HIPAA One is a proud sponsor of EMR and HIPAA and the effort to make HIPAA compliance more accessible for all practices.  Are you HIPAA Compliant?  Take HIPAA One’s 5 minute HIPAA security and compliance quiz to see if your organization is risk or learn more at HIPAAOne.com.

Value-sizing The Patient Experience

Posted on June 8, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Sarah Bennight, Marketing Strategist for Stericycle Communication Solutions, as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter: @StericycleComms

In health IT, we talk about the patient experience all the time. Many of us have dedicated our entire careers to improving the patient experience. It has become so central to improving healthcare that patient-reported experience results determine a significant portion of reimbursement.

But today’s patient experiences do beg the question: are they a pie in the sky dream or something tangible that can be addressed in our organizations?

To tackle the patient experience, we have to audit all contact points to determine areas of weakness. A great way to start is by creating a healthcare consumer journey map. Identifying each point a patient could potentially interact with your organization is key to ensuring their experience will be great. Once you have identified each potential encounter, mystery shop that experience as if you were the patient to test your brand’s current performance. When determining whether or not your organization provides a great brand experience, you may find yourself comparing your performance to the top brands you work with on a daily basis.

For example, I recall a time when I studied abroad in the United Kingdom. Upon arriving in a foreign country after 22 hours of travel with little sleep, I needed to eat. I vaguely recalled passing a familiar restaurant sign on the way to my flat: McDonalds. And though I didn’t really love the golden arches at the time, I chose to eat there. Why? Because I knew what to expect. I knew how to order, what menu items would be available, and what it would taste like.

By focusing on consistent interactions and expectations for their customers, McDonalds has created a strong brand. In fact, when asked about introducing new products during a 2010 CNBC interview, former CEO James Skinner said “[McDonald’s doesn’t] put something on the menu until it can be produced at the speed of McDonalds.”

Can your healthcare consumers count on a consistent experience when contacting your organization? Your brand experience should encompass the entire health system to build confidence and loyalty in your brand. Creating consistency across each encounter begins with simple questions. Was their initial call met with a timely, sincere, and welcoming voice? Was parking convenient? Are average waiting times reasonable? Do Center A and Center B provide the same quality support? Is their bill easy to understand? If your answers are all yes, it’s more likely that patients will continue to choose your organization.

When patients feel confidence about provided services and perceive value in the care you provide, brand loyalty is achieved. What’s more, many studies show that patients who have great healthcare experiences and are confident in the level of care they receive will have better clinical outcomes. Value-based care demands consistent, evidence-based clinical interactions. But we can’t leave out the important patient experience outside the walls of the exam room.

After my exhaustive travels, I certainly had a better outcome by relying on my trust in McDonalds’ brand. I chose to value-size my meals frequently throughout my England journey – not because it was the best tasting food, but because I could always rely on consistently convenient and quality experiences. The healthcare industry can certainly learn a lot more from cutting edge commercial companies when it comes to creating loyalty. To learn more about the patient journey and loyalty, download our e-book.

The Communication Solutions Series of blog posts is sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions, a leading provider of high quality call center & telephone answering servicespatient access services and automated communication technology. Stericycle Communication Solutions combines a human touch with innovative technology to deliver best-in-class communication services.  Connect with Stericycle Communication Solutions on social media: @StericycleComms

Big Data and the Social Good: The Value for Healthcare Organizations

Posted on May 22, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Mike Serrano from NETSCOUT.

It’s a well-known fact that Facebook, Google, and our phone companies collect a lot of information about each of us. This has been the case for a long time, and more often than not it’s to improve the user experience of the services we rely on. If data is shared outside the organization, it’s anonymized to prevent the usage of any one individual from being identified. But it’s understandable while this practice has still sparked a passionate and longstanding debate about privacy and ‘big brother’-style snooping.

What is often forgotten, however, or more likely drowned out by the inevitably growing chorus of privacy concerns, is the opportunity within the big data community for this valuable information to be used for social good. The potential is already there. The question, though, is how different organizations, and particularly the healthcare sector, can take advantage of anonymized user data to benefit society and improve the human condition.

When it comes to healthcare, data from mobile networks holds the biggest opportunity for the patient experience to be dramatically improved. To truly understand how real-time traffic and big data, in the form of historical network usage and traffic patterns, can be used for social good, let’s look at a few possible scenarios – two of which can be accomplished without needing to disclose individual user information at all.

Public health – Getting ahead of an outbreak

What a decade ago would have seemed impossible is very much a reality today. The pervasiveness of the smartphone and how people are using it has fundamentally changed our ability to leverage real-time communications data to the benefit of our society. For many people, smartphones have replaced computers as the primary device to search for information. This has value in itself, as when people use a smartphone it’s possible to place them in context of their community and travel patterns.

Zika is a recent example of a parasite spread by mosquitos that produces flu-like symptoms and can have grave consequences on a developing fetus, causing microcephaly. To control the mosquito population, local vector control agencies place field traps to capture mosquitos and periodically test the mosquitos they collect. This approach has value, but it’s slow and reactive.

What we have learned from flu epidemics is there’s typically an increase in Google searches of “flu symptoms” that emerge just before or at the same time as an outbreak of influenza. Since Zika is a mosquito-born pathogen, it will occur outside of times of the normal spread of influenza, but the initial symptoms are very similar to the common flu.

By monitoring mobile searches for any of a number of unique search terms, it is possible to quickly identify real-time locations where outbreaks may be occurring; thus allowing for a more targeted response by both vector control and public health agencies. In addition, it’s then possible to identify the extent to which migration through the area has occurred, and to where that population has traveled.

When merged with environmental data such as wind patterns, temperature, and precipitation, public health agencies can be extremely targeted about where to deploy resources and the nature of those resources to deploy. Such a targeted and immediate response is only available through the use of real-time network traffic data.

Public safety and medical deployments – disaster response

Recent earthquakes have emphasized the potential death and destruction that natural disasters can create. When buildings collapse first responders’ rush in to look for survivors, putting themselves in harms way as a series of aftershocks could cause additional damage to already weakened structures. But it’s a calculated risk. The search for life must happen quickly, which often means first responders are operating with no knowledge of the potential number of causalities within a building.

To ensure the appropriate allocation of response teams, public safety agencies working in tandem with healthcare organizations could leverage mobile network data. When a mobile phone is turned on, it automatically registers to the mobile network. At this point, the operator knows the number of devices in a certain area based on the placement of the cell tower and the parameters of that tower.

By comparing the last known number of registrants against historical network usage, the operator could guide public safety and relief agencies by understanding the number of known mobile phones in an impacted area. If needed, the operator could also assist in the identification of precisely who may still be in a damaged structure, should that level of detail be required.

Pandemic control – removing the guesswork

All major health organizations understand the next major pandemic is only a plane ride away from arriving on their doorstep. For example, when an international flight lands from a country that’s had a recent outbreak of flu or disease, there could potentially be hundreds of infected passengers on board. Those passengers will exit the plane, grab their luggage, and quickly head into the community – travelling far from the airport and growing the transmission radius significantly.

In a situation such as this, the challenge of containing or managing an outbreak is intrinsically tied to knowing where those passengers end up. How far have they travelled, how did they diffuse into the existing population, and how many circles of control need to be established in order to mitigate the risk?

Big data can address this issue. By working with mobile network operators the local healthcare community can quickly react, taking advantage of big data to deploy public health resources more effectively than they could otherwise. Operators already have access to this information, including where subscribers join the network and their current location, and this data is tremendously valuable when placed in the hands of healthcare professionals looking to stem a viral outbreak. The airline involved could also assist by providing any the phone numbers of passengers once the risk was identified.

The future of big data analysis for healthcare

Understanding human movement and social activity, powered by big data pulled from mobile networks, will have a fundamental role to play in more efficient healthcare response in the future. National, state, and local public health officials should all look to implement initiatives based on the use of big data for social good.

When you compare the use of big data against the current approach – where patient zero arrives at hospital and the local healthcare body has to try and identify who else is at risk based on the patient’s travel patterns and limited information they can provide – the benefits of this new approach are obvious.

As the conversation around the use of big data for healthcare purposes evolves, there will inevitably be new questions over individual privacy. While the examples outlined above do take advantage of subscriber behavior and individual insights – be that search terms of location information – the purpose is to understand populations or communities, not to identify any one subscriber. With this in mind, it is easy to mask subscriber identifiers while preserving the information about the population. Ultimately, the goal is to provide a more efficient utilization and allocation of society’s resources as we work to improve the human condition, not to undermine any one person’s right to privacy.

About Mike Serrano
Mike has over 20 years of experience in the communications industry. He is currently responsible for Service Provider Marketing at NETSCOUT. He began his career at PacBell (now part of at&t) where he designed service plans for the business market and where he was responsible for demand analysis and modeling. His career continued with Lucent technologies where he brought to market the first mobile data service technology. At Alloptic, he was responsible for marketing the industry’s first EPON access solution and bringing to market the first RFOG solution. At O3B Networks, Mike headed up marketing bringing to market the first MEO based constellation of satellites for serving internet service to the Other 3 Billion on the planet. Mike’s work continued at Cisco where he helped to define MediaNet (Videoscape) and the network technology transformation for cable operators. Mike holds a B.S. in Information Resource Management from San Jose State University and an MBA from Santa Clara University

Staying Connected Beyond the Patient Visit

Posted on April 20, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Brittany Quemby, Marketing Strategist for Stericycle Communication Solutions, as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter: @StericycleComms
Brittany Quemby - Stericycle
I see it everywhere I go – heads down, thumbs flexing. We live in an era where our devices occupy our lives. When I’m sitting at the airport waiting for my flight, standing in line at the grocery store, waiting to be called at my doctor’s office, I see it – heads down, thumbs flexing. Although I wish we weren’t always heads down in our phones, it is inevitable, we rely on our smartphone to stay connected.  As it stands today, roughly two-thirds of Americans own a smart phone, meaning they have access to email, voice, and text at their fingertips.

The increase in connectivity that the smartphone gives its user provides physicians a whole new way to communicate beyond the patient visit. Below are some tips that can help healthcare professionals stay connected while improving engagement, behaviors, and revenue outcomes.

Consider the patient’s preferences
Quite often only one piece of contact information is gathered for a patient and it is typically a home phone number. Patients expect to be communicated with where it is convenient for them, and in a recent survey on preferred communication methods, 76 percent off respondents said that text messages were more convenient above emails and phone calls.  If you are looking to connect with patients in a meaningful way, consider asking them their preferred method of contact to help maximize your engagement.

Use a various methods of communication
Recently we surveyed over 400 healthcare professionals to learn about the ways they are communicating and engaging with their patients. Our findings revealed that 41 percent of physicians and healthcare professionals utilize various methods to connect and communicate with their patients.  Long gone are the days when you could reach someone by a simple phone call. Today, if I need to get in touch with someone this is how it goes down: I will email them, then I will call them to let them know I emailed them, and then I text them to tell them to go read my email.  A recent report shows that on average 91 percent of all United States consumers use email daily and that text messages have a 45 percent response rate and a 98 percent open rate. Connecting with patients through multiple channels of communication can show a significant change in patient responsiveness and behavior, including an increase in healthcare ownership, a decrease in no shows, and a substantial increase in revenue.

Automate your patient communication messages
Investing in an automated patient communication solution is a great way to connect with your patients beyond the doctor’s office. It will not only increase patient behaviors, efficiencies, satisfaction and convenience, but will also dramatically impact your bottom-line.

A comprehensive automated patient communication platform allows include regular and frequent communication from your organization to the patient in a simple and easy way.  Consider implementing some of the following automated communication tactics to help you increase your practice’s efficiencies while continuing to engage with patients outside of the office:

  • Send appointment reminders: Send automated appointment reminders to ensure patients show up to their appointment both on time and prepared.
  • Follow-up communication: Patients only retain 20 to 60 percent of information that is shared with them during the appointment. Send a text or email with pertinent follow-up information to increase patient satisfaction and decrease readmissions.
  • Program promotion: Connect with patients to encourage them to come in for important initiatives your practice is holding like your flu-shot clinic.
  • Message broadcast: Communicate important information like an office closure or rescheduling due to severe weather.

The Communication Solutions Series of blog posts is sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions, a leading provider of high quality call center & telephone answering servicespatient access services and automated communication technology. Stericycle Communication Solutions combines a human touch with innovative technology to deliver best-in-class communication services.  Connect with Stericycle Communication Solutions on social media: @StericycleComms

Why Provide Consumer-minded Communications? Patients Expect Them

Posted on March 9, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Chelsea Kimbrough, a copywriter for Stericycle Communication Solutions, as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter: @StericycleComms
Chelsea Kimbrough
With technology advancing rapidly, communication has become both more accessible and more difficult than ever before. Today, Americans nationwide communicate with their smartphones via various social media platforms, mobile calls, text messages, applications, and more. In fact, 80 percent of consumers now own a smartphone for personal use, which could include making purchasing decisions and seeking out support with not only commercial industries, but with healthcare organizations as well.

Patients instinctively utilize the communication methods they are most comfortable with when interacting with healthcare organizations. These often include traditional methods such as live voice appointment scheduling and telephone answering. But as healthcare consumerism has grown more prevalent, these methods also frequently include digital and automated solutions such as online self-scheduling, appointment reminders via text message, and other automated messaging options.

As a self-professed consumer-minded patient, I tend to seek out the latter communication methods when it comes time to contact my healthcare provider. If there is an option to schedule an appointment online from the comfort of my own home, I take it. When asked if I’d like to opt in for email, voice, or text message reminders and messaging, I always indicate ‘yes.’ And if given the opportunity to meet with my physician virtually rather than in the office, I jump at it.

These features and functionalities provide me with the freedom to more proactively manage my healthcare needs without disrupting my day-to-day responsibilities. This freedom is also why I’ve become a loyal patient to my local provider. And I’m not alone.

As reported by the Beryl Institute, 87 of consumers say the patient experience is extremely important overall and 67 percent report that it plays an extremely important role in their decision-making process. Communication plays a major part in what patients view as their patient experience. If my healthcare provider were to only provide traditional live voice services, I may not have been as apt to schedule an appointment. Similarly, if they focused solely on digital solutions, they could miss out on other valuable patients.

So, what’s the answer?

Healthcare organizations should holistically approach communications with a combination of traditional and technology-based communication methods. Patients must be able to communicate however they feel most comfortable, including via a traditional phone call or by receiving important appointment information via automated emails or texts. Healthcare organizations that provide a combination of live voice, digital, and automated communication support tools are more apt to meet the diverse and evolving expectations of their entire patient population. In turn, these same organizations are more likely to successfully foster ongoing patient loyalty and satisfaction.

The Communication Solutions Series of blog posts is sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions, a leading provider of high quality telephone answering, appointment scheduling, and automated communication services. Stericycle Communication Solutions combines a human touch with innovative technology to deliver best-in-class communication services. Connect with Stericycle Communication Solutions on social media: @StericycleComms