Delivering 'Connected Care' Services

Patrick Hale, SVP & Chief Information Officer, VITAS Healthcare
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Patrick Hale, SVP & Chief Information Officer, VITAS Healthcare

What are some of the innovation solutions that you have deployed on top of the Microsoft platform? How have these solutions added value to your business?

VITAS Healthcare, works to ensure that terminally ill patients and their families have immediate access to high quality end-of-life care. VITAS operates 49 hospice programs in 16 states and in the District of Columbia. VITAS has more than 11,700 employees across the country that care for approximately 15,000 patients each day primarily in the patients’ homes, but also in the company’s 34 inpatient hospice units as well as in hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living communities/residential care facilities for the elderly.

At VITAS, every second counts when transferring hospitalized patients to their homes and dispatching caregivers to their bedsides. It also recognizes that ensuring its caregivers across the country are connected and able to act quickly to meet their patients’ changing needs-is critical to its healthcare mission. Approximately 80 percent of the VITAS’ workforce is mobile, and its caregivers’ schedules change continuously in response to the changing needs of the patients and families the company serves.

For this reason, the company sets out to innovate and accelerate these processes by deploying advanced Microsoft technologies in a practice that VITAS has coined “Connected Care.” These innovative solutions bring significant value to the company and the patients and families it serves.

While transforming the manner in which hospitals transition patients to their homes begins with an electronic interface to their electronic medical records. VITAS’ “Connected Care” solution goes a step further by centralizing electronic interfaces to multiple EMRs and placing that data in automated workflows that begin a logistical ballet to deploy its caregivers with the goals of:

• Establishing initial contact with patients and their families within 30 minutes

• Transporting patients home and into VITAS care on the same day the company receives the request

This year, VITAS launched Microsoft technologies to centralize incoming patient referrals from thousands of hospitals, nursing homes, and other long-term-care facilities. The company currently interfaces directly with hospital EMRs, digitizing the medical records, and then uses SharePoint workflows to ensure timely follow-up on each and every request for its services.

VITAS keeps a close pulse on the process, from the initial requests for patient transfers to the moment the patients have been admitted to VITAS. This high level of visibility enables its clinical operations teams to focus their efforts on areas that improve its caregivers’ speed and effectiveness at its patients’ bedsides.

Specifically, the Microsoft products and versions that VITAS has deployed include:

Client machines:

• Windows 7

• Office 2010

• Internet Explorer 9

Without a doubt, the benefits of these innovations are significant. They include:

Rapid response: VITAS Connected Care ensures rapid response to non-EMR enabled sites as well as to automatically digitizing incoming FAX requests using the same workflows that are used to manage the VITAS admission process.

Seamless nationwide connectivity: The VITAS refer­ral dashboard is user-friendly, requir­ing only 30 minutes of training before us­ers are productive. It automatically escalates work as it ages in the queue and leverages a seam­less interface to its mobile applications, to inform remote work­ers within milliseconds of hospital requests being accepted. This solution is available across the country 24 hours a day, seven days per week, and automatically balances workloads based on the demand in any region. For example, it enables VITAS caregivers in one state to quickly take over the admissions pro­cesses in other states that have increases in workloads.

Enhanced Productivity: Rather than having to depend on faxes and phone calls, staff members can efficiently access medical records directly from transferring hospitals as the records are instantly associated with incoming patients. VITAS saw a 178 percent drop in the average time required for staff members to process requests for VITAS services. What previously took seven minutes to complete by fax and phone now takes 1.25 minutes on an average with Connected Care.

Time spent away from the bedside: Within 30 days of implementation, the application enabled VITAS to reduce by 29 percent the time caregivers spend on the phone coordinating care, giving them additional time to spend with patients and families.

Keeps clinical staff informed: Full integration with VITAS mobile devices keeps remote caregivers nationwide connected and able to access within milliseconds critical information about their patient visits.

Instant nationwide adoption: The easy-to-use SharePoint framework of common workflows is enabling VITAS to add new hospital EMRs and additional electronic sources with immediate 100 percent integration.

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