Wednesday, 16 April 2014 09:05 Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 09:56
The primary objective of any healthcare provider is to focus on the patient. Whether it's a private practice or a large medical conglomeration, the healthcare system needs improved patient communication in order to ensure positive patient experiences. It was this idea of innovating patient communication that inspired JPS Health Network to evaluate its communication infrastructure and consider a move toward more advanced methods.
The network’s flagship facility is JPS Hospital (JPS) in Fort Worth, the only Level-I trauma facility in the county. JPS provides a comprehensive range of treatment for all aspects of injury, making reliable communication critical.
"We are required to have specialized teams, facilities, and equipment available 24/7 to treat life-threatening injuries,” said David Mendenhall, chief technology officer of the JPS Health Network. “Unreliable communications technology means surgeons don’t have lab reports, test results, and other information they need. We simply cannot risk our patients’ health that way."
TRAUMA CENTERS REQUIRE RAPID COMMUNICATION TOOLS
JPS already had a platform in place, but wanted to update to a new, IP-based platform to accommodate the constant movement of teams and people. Having IP telephony would provide that mobile flexibility as well as accommodate improved communications with remote clinics. In addition, a new platform would reduce costs by reducing the number of T-1 lines required, a significant savings for the hospital.
With approximately 70 different contact-center queues across the entire JPS healthcare system, achieving rapid patient access was an important goal. These teams cover multiple functions, including appointment scheduling, pharmacy, and billing. Ensuring patients had better access would improve existing service levels and the overall patient experience.
However, as a county facility, making changes and getting approval for budget and implementation are not easy tasks. Plus, the logistics of this type of installation create concerns. JPS is the only Level-I Trauma Center east of Lubbock, a span of 325 miles. This hospital cannot afford to have hiccups in communication or excessive downtime for technology implementation.
JPS also had to ensure that internal hospital communications were not impacted. One of the hospital’s key responsibilities is to get laboratory and cardiac reports to the emergency room. On the other hand are simpler functions, such as ensuring patients can contact family members as desired.
THE RIGHT PLATFORM EQUALS POSITIVE BENEFITS FOR ALL
JPS already had a relationship with NEC, so looking to the newer, IP-based systems offered was a logical step. After review, JPS chose the NEC UNIVERGE SV8500, an IP-based communications platform that supports the latest voice, unified communications, and mobility applications.
"Our decision to go with NEC was a very easy one,” said Mendenhall. “NEC’s platform offers a robust set of features at a price point that county hospitals like JPS can afford."
The benefits went beyond affordability. The migration was very smooth, and the installation only took 46 minutes without disruption to end-users. The new platform provides redundancy, so, in the event of a T-1 failure, there is an automatic shift to the SV8500, ensuring constant communication for patients.
The benefit of innovation can be seen across the hospital. Licensing, upgrades, and maintenance are easier. People can be moved, work remotely, and access information much more quickly. Call routing is much more advanced, making more efficient use of call centers, and help desk staff can work remotely just as efficiently as onsite. By allowing them to work from home, JPS can now use valuable real estate within hospitals and clinics more effectively to provide patient care while keeping high levels of support via the help desk.
"JPS was very forward thinking to consider the value of its communications infrastructure in the workflow of a business. Oftentimes, new technologies are perceived as an expense, and hospitals, particularly public hospitals, do not typically have extra money to spend," said Larry Levenberg, vice president of sales and marketing for NEC Corporation of America. "However, JPS showcases how value can be received by using innovation to improve communication and still utilize existing infrastructure when possible."
WHAT WILL THE FUTURE BRING?
In today’s healthcare environment, text reminders can be sent to smart devices, voicemails left as requested, and even heart monitoring is now available via tablets. The patient experience has been significantly improved by ensuring consistent and constant communication.
Having the IP-based platform means JPS will be able to communicate with patients through their preferred methods. In addition, the ability to more effectively manage remote clinics and staff has made a significant impact on the efficiency of the healthcare group.
"One of the statistics we just reported to our board was that we’ve taken the average speed of answer from nine minutes down to one minute after we got the NEC platform in place in all our community centers,” said Mendenhall.
"This is just the beginning. What is most exciting about this is that moving forward, JPS has laid the groundwork to add new solutions to help improve the patient experience and drive better outcomes. Without this new communications solution, that would not be possible," said Levenberg.
The migration moves the hospital closer to its long-term goal of becoming 100% IP within the next five years. "Before our upgrade, we were maybe only 5% IP," added Mendenhall. "Right now, we’re about 20%, which is a big jump from where we were." The hospital also has plans to move all its community health centers to the SV8500 platform over the next three years.
As patients become more technologically savvy and focused on mobile device use, healthcare organizations will be expected to continually improve communications and access to critical information. Patients will expect to have more information delivered rapidly to their preferred devices. The days of using just a telephone have passed, but the future holds exciting innovation for healthcare. NEC is proud to be a part of that innovation and has technology that can improve patient experience available today. You can learn more here.
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