HIMSS 2019: Bringing Radically Better Clinical Communications

02.05.19 TigerConnect Healthcare
HIMSS 2019: Bringing Radically Better Clinical Communications

It’s late winter in 2019 and HIMSS is just around the corner. Some of you are looking forward to the event while others simply want to escape the grip of the Polar Vortex. Either way, it’s time to get excited.

For those of us at TigerConnect, the sore feet, crowds, and long ridesharing lines can’t deter our unbounded optimism for the groundbreaking technology we’ll be unveiling for the tens of thousands of attendees that will pour onto the show floor.

Much has changed since we introduced the first secure texting solution for healthcare almost eight years ago. 2018 proved to be a year where Health Systems began to meaningfully embrace Clinical Communication & Collaboration as a vital part of their strategic plans. Our platform adoption rates hit the high 90 percent range for many of our large enterprise customers as message volumes set daily and weekly records surpassing 12 million daily messages. Collectively, these data points are indicative of an industry evolving and embracing the need for a modern form of communication.

Enter TigerTouch: The Virtualization of Everywhere Care

While it’s still early in the area of patient communication, we have recognized that including patients in the care conversation is an incredibly promising space to positively improve care delivery. By approaching virtual care from the clinician’s perspective, we chose to focus on use cases that typically occur during that critical period right before the patient is discharged and a day or two after they leave the facility. In our virtual care offering, patient-facing conversations are initiated by the health professional, which allows them to control the timing of the outreach, and shielding them from a possible barrage of patient questions and requests.

Patients, family members, and care professionals can safely exchange messages, photos, files, and follow-up appointment details. Virtual communication has the prophylactic power to head off infections, clarify medication questions, and ensure care plans are properly followed, having a significant impact on reducing readmissions and helping patients heal properly. Because virtualized care is a broad category, we narrowed ours under the umbrella of TigerTouch, which includes Virtualized Nurse Call, and Virtual Care & Rounding.

TigerTouch is the ‘everyone’ solution that brings together care pros like physicians, specialists, nurses, case managers, and when needed, the patient, onto a single platform where interactions can happen by text, voice, or group video conversation. Components include:

Virtualized Nurse Care – Nurse call requests can vary wildly in nature, and separating the seriously urgent from the seriously ridiculous is not always easy, especially when every alert looks the same. To save nurses from wearing out their Fitbits, we’ve introduced a VoIP-powered capability that lets nurses receive real-time alerts and then place a voice call to patients directly to see what’s going on. And as you’ll read later on, nurses can also call landlines using WiFi or text message patients and their families.
Virtual Rounding & Care – Apps like Skype and FaceTime are part of normal everyday life. But for care professionals, these communication tools have seemed out of reach due to compliance and other hurdles. That’s why we’re excited to bring a virtual care solution that’s tailor-made for clinicians who want to conduct video calls with patients at home, in a hospital room, or wherever.

The Quest to Radically Transform Healthcare Communication

Because transformations are often catalyzed by a series of small but critical improvements, we focused our development efforts in 2018 on two such factors – reliability and usability. We witnessed system uptime steadfastly pegged at an impossible 99.999 percent for months and user engagement that rose to never-before-seen levels. We refined and improved our technology, resisting the urge to rush features to market, opting instead to thoughtfully design and build capabilities that are as powerful as they are usable, always ensuring that what we included would improve the life of a busy nurse or physician and not add to the tech burden created by systems like the EHR.

To build on this momentum in 2019, we’re proudly showcasing five new capabilities at HIMSS that include:

  • TigerTouch Virtual Care Communication
  • Advanced SAML Integration
  • Escalated Messaging
  • Nurse-Centered Enhancements
  • Group Video Chat

Each of these areas contributes to our overarching goal as a company to not only improve productivity within the four walls of the hospital, but to also expand beyond them by making it easier for everyone – physicians, patients, nurses, and allied health staff – to communicate by text, voice, or video on a single platform. Through a combination of market observation, direct user feedback, and a genuine desire to zero in on chronically problematic use cases, we now have a solution that delivers the highest value of any clinical communication platform on the market today.

Calling All Facilities…Literally!

Lots of solutions can handle communicating within the walls of a hospital, but things can break down fast during transitions of care, especially when a patient leaves the hospital. For example, when a nurse at a long-term care facility notices that a post-op patient isn’t responding well to medication, she can reach out directly via text, voice, or video to the care team back at the hospital. Under the old model, that relatively simple situation could easily take several minutes (hours?) and a lot of phone calls to resolve.

In our quest to further connect every facility in a health system (we are called TigerConnect for a reason), we’re introducing an advancement in our Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) integration which expands the universe of potential employees that can be added to a TigerConnect instance by allowing those from non-SAML organizations to be added and provided with all of the same capabilities – text, voice, or live video communication – across a full range of facility types, even those that are hundreds of miles away.

New users can be introduced manually or through .csv upload using the new user’s email address. The integration also supports different authentication methods within an organization. This is especially useful for affiliate and referring physicians within a health system’s network whom the organization would like on TigerConnect.

The Doctor Is NOT In – Now What?

The nature of providing care means you can’t always drop what you’re doing every time you’re needed. Doctors, nurses, techs, and other hospital staff are extremely busy people, and even text messages can’t always be answered immediately. Hence, the need for Escalated Messaging.

Now, we’ll concede that we’re not the first vendor to introduce this capability, but we believe we’re the first to do it right, and here’s why. Most solutions suffer from the following design flaws: complex policies that are hard to manage and follow, name-based models that are tied to an actual user’s name instead of an assigned role, or an end user-controlled model where the escalation is set by the user and treated like an out-of-office reminder. These shortcomings are why we took a different approach.

For starters, TigerConnect message escalations are admin-controlled and prioritized by role assignment (the option for assigning to an individual is available, but recommended only when necessary). Parameters are set and maintained by the organization’s IT administrator to prevent any monkeying around by users. Escalation paths, expiration time frames, and ‘last-resort’ options are all easily set and managed by admins.

In TigerConnect, each escalated message is sender-driven and triggered on a message-by-message basis, which means users can simply tag the messages for which they anticipate needing an escalation. The clock dictates when the escalation trigger occurs and, if needed, the expiration time can be the same or different for each downstream recipient. Also, when messages escalate, a group thread is created so everyone’s in the loop, ensuring that a user who’s temporarily indisposed can remain in the conversation and see who has provided replacement support.

Finally, escalated messages come with an ‘Acknowledge’ button so that other members of the group can see immediately when the new person has taken over for the original unavailable recipient. This action halts any subsequent escalations and ensures that care continues with nary a hiccup.

Here are just a few ways Escalated Messaging can be used:

  1. An urgent request from the ED for a Neurologist to consult, but who’s tied up with another patient, in which case the Attending Physician gets the nod.
  2. A patient who’s being discharged and the first Transporter isn’t available. After the five-minute interval expires, a second Transporter is notified and acknowledges the request to take the patient to the lobby.

The business upsides are clear: Faster response times, higher patient satisfaction, faster transport times, and higher bed occupancy rates, to name just a few.

Nurses, We’ve Got Your Back

Nurses already put up with a lot – from patients, from providers, from processes. Pile on outdated and dysfunctional technology and you’ve got a perfect recipe for burnout. At TigerConnect, we think nurses deserve better and our latest set of communication tool enhancements will help make nurses lives easier and more productive, not harder and endlessly frustrating. So here’s what we did.

First, we made it even easier to log in to the TigerConnect platform. Swipe a badge and you’re in, whether you use the desktop version, a shared smartphone, or both. Just badge in or log in once and you’re good to go. This Single Sign-On capability means you can get the information you need faster while giving your thumbs a break. This is especially handy at organizations that provide devices for nurses as it makes signing in to TigerConnect at the start of a shift a total breeze.

Next, we made it easy to place a VoIP call to a landline. This is extra handy if you’re on a WiFi-only device. That beige, old school phone at the nursing station? You can call it. The switchboard operator’s phone with a crazy amount of buttons? Yep, that too. How about your 86-year-old patient’s rotary dial phone? Yes, even that.

Finally, we enhanced our support for PBX (not to be confused with PB&J, which is tastier but less functional). PBX is a phone-system exchange for voice communication that happens over a data channel across a network of wired phones. PBX technology powers hospital phone systems and is a component of nurse call systems that offer voice support. With this integration, TigerConnect users can receive, route, and respond via voice calls to PBX-based alerts as they come in.

Here’s what that looks like in real life. Let’s say a patient using the restroom has fallen and pulls the cord to request help. This alert immediately hits the assigned nurse’s phone. From the alert card in TigerConnect, the nurse can initiate a call to the patient that connects via the speaker in the room to investigate and let the patient know they’re on their way. Another use case might be a patient who had surgery earlier in the day and pushed the nurse call button to request more pain medication. Rather than walk all the way across the unit floor, nurses can inquire verbally through their smartphone to identify the degree of discomfort and relay that request to the Hospitalist to place the order.

Group Video – Because Six Minds Are Better Than Two

If a picture is worth a thousand words, video has got to be in the millions. Our latest iteration builds on last year’s 1-to-1, VoIP-based video calling by allowing up to six participants in the same video chat. Once initiated, users can be added with just a couple of taps with each participant displayed in a separate pane.

As for group video use cases, the range is nearly infinite; however, some standard ones could include:

  1. A physical therapist conducting a post-op visit to the home of a hip replacement patient and sharing live video of the patient’s mobility with the Orthopedist
  2. A remote consult of an ultrasound with a highly specialized care team
  3. An air rescue EMT sharing live EKG data with the Cardiologist and ED team back at the hospital

So that’s it! A ton of great TigerConnect stuff we’ll be demo’ing at HIMSS, plus all of our existing technology to help you regardless of where you are on your clinical communication journey.

Book Your HIMSS 2019 Demo

Traveling to HIMSS? If so, stop by for a demo or grab a drink at our happy hour. We’ll be in Booth #6348 kitty-corner from IBM. And if you’re the planner type, book a private demo ahead of time and receive a way-better-than-average ‘thank you’ gift or participate in one of our onsite surveys. Hope to see you there!

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