Taking lessons learned from healthcare communication during pandemic and putting them forward

Like many healthcare organizations at the start of the pandemic, McLaren Health Care, a 15-hospital health system across Michigan and Ohio, was forced to reprioritize many of its ongoing projects.

As COVID-19 began taking off across the country, McLaren was in the midst of implementing a new clinical communications system from PerfectServe.

“We really wanted this tool in our toolbox in the worst way,” Dr. Norman Chapin, the chief medical officer at McLaren Health Care, Bay and Thumb Regions, told MobiHealthNews. “We were having physicians who were in need of communication, but they were using tools that weren’t appropriate for transmitting patient information.”

In all of its previous implementations at McLaren, PerfectServe provided on-site support to get the input of the staff and troubleshoot any issues that arose during the go-live. But with the onset of COVID-19, both sides of the project had a decision to make: Push it off until after the pandemic or figure out a way to finish the job remotely.

The leadership team at McLaren realized that since most of their other operations had already gone virtual, they would explore all possible options to get the communication platform up and running as soon as possible.

“So I think we both kind of came to a realization that there was an opportunity to be a little bit innovative,” Chapin said. “And we quickly decided that if there was a way that PerfectServe would engage with us around this issue, that we really did not want to delay the implementation.”

With the decision to go forth virtually, PerfectServe and McLaren conducted remote training sessions for the clinical staff over Zoom.

“At first people struggled a little bit with the interactive nature of it,” Chapin said. “They were a little bit stiff. But I think as people got used to it. And I saw this in other venues where we were using virtual tools as well, people just got to be much more relaxed and you know, they’d raise their hand and if somebody didn’t see it right away, they’d just take themselves off and start asking the questions.”

After the training, it was time for the completely virtual go-live. PerfectServe set up an open support line in the physicians’ lounge and hosted Zoom sessions for staff that needed further assistance. They had staff on hand to answer questions from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. and also provided a 24-hour Zoom support link.

All things considered, the go-live went smoothly, according to Chapin. Despite some awkward moments of people not sure how to use the technology, he says the availability of PerfectServe’s on-demand support really helped out.

“Once you get over that initial hump of just, you know, the awkwardness of not having people there with you, it was almost easier in a way and honestly more cost-effective,” Matt Kothe, the corporate communications manager at PerfectServe, told MobiHealthNews. “And the results kind of speak for themselves. I think it turned out very well.”

Since implementing the technology, McLaren’s physicians and nurses can communicate via text messages more securely and instantaneously, according to Chapin.

The health system is taking what they learned through this experience with forced innovation and applying it to new projects, as well.

For example, it’s currently switching its electronic medical record provider and even though there are support people on-site this time, McLaren set up 24/7 support services using the same techniques as its previous go-live.

“So now we’re having this hybrid go live,” Chapin said. “And I think that’s one of the biggest lessons: that a hybrid go-live seems like it’s the way to go in the future. So that you have to have ways for people to almost always have their questions answered and always get in touch with a person who can help them. And we don’t need to just depend on when there’s a body sitting next to you that can really enter into real-time interactive communication with you.”

Chapin will be speaking at HIMSS21 in Las Vegas on “Forced Innovation: Lessons Learned From a Virtual Go-Live” on Thursday August 12, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. in Caesars Alliance 315.


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