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Secure messaging platform improves productivity for pediatric hospital

A pediatric hospital in Tennessee uses secure messaging to send notifications ranging from lab results to inclement weather alerts, and to admit patients quickly from the ER.

In the first part of a two-part Q&A, Rick Simpson, clinical applications manager at East Tennessee Children's Hospital in Knoxville, Tenn., discusses how the hospital decided to implement DrFirst and its Backline secure messaging platform, as well as how the platform has improved productivity and efficiency. In part two, Simpson talks about how ETCH uses DrFirst in its neonatal intensive care unit and radiology departments.

How did ETCH decide to implement DrFirst's secure messaging platform?

Rick Simpson: Honestly, in the beginning, DrFirst was not even one of the first ones that we had looked at. We had already looked at three other vendors, and [it was] just happenstance that we were in the process of working with DrFirst on a few other things.

The guy who had been here and who had been our rep, we had just been tossing around a few things. And he goes, 'By the way, you do know that we also offer secure messaging.' And I was like, 'No, I had no idea.' He [said], 'Yeah, absolutely.' So, [we said], 'Well, let's just throw you into the mix because we're right in the process of going through and looking at different vendors.' They came on site and did their webinar and everything for us, their demos, and we were very impressed.

What were some of the security considerations and features you had to keep in mind when you implemented DrFirst?

Simpson: We did have some of our providers [who] were using just regular text to text us back and forth. And [we said], 'That's really not a good idea. We need to get ahead of this now, and we need to go ahead and provide them with a method for secure communication.' And so that's kind of how all of this stuff started out.

One of the big things that we learned through the demo ... was that we could use it for notifications. One of the biggest issues we had with our EHR [electronic health records] is that the only way to get people notified of things is printing. And still to this day and age, we consider that somewhat archaic. That's the whole reason for having an EHR is you don't want to be printing stuff all over the place. So, we thought this would be a perfect opportunity for us to go ahead and start doing those types of order notifications.

Then, it actually expanded, and we were able to also provide lab results notifications. It's really just turned into this massive way of providing notifications. And now, definitely one of the main areas of usage is going to be our pharmacy and our docs.

We've definitely set it to be a policy currently. All orders still have to be entered in the EHR. You cannot use secure messaging to start an order. You definitely can use secure communication to verify, acknowledge or make modifications to an order, especially if there's a question from the nursing staff or from your pharmacy staff, but you can't start the order.

What other kinds of notifications are sent through the platform?

Simpson: We're also using it for if we have inclement weather. They send that out, and it alerts people so that they're aware that either, A, you need to come in and make arrangements because you're going to be here for a while, or, B, don't come in because there's a bomb. It goes to the two different extremes, but we are using it in that manner, as well.

What have been some of the benefits you have seen from using a secure messaging platform?

Simpson: It definitely has helped from a productivity perspective. One of the other things with most of the clinical staff [is] they're not just sitting at a particular area; they're running around all over the place. And so for our respiratory folks, specifically to our ED [emergency department], they now get their notifications. So, anytime we have a child that comes in that meets certain criteria ... instead of them having to sit in one location waiting for a print-off, they're now getting these notifications through Backline.

It has also brought us back to what some of the nursing staff has liked in the past. ... We have what are called our nurse managers who are responsible for direct admits from the ED. And what will happen is there's actually an order that gets placed. And so they can be seeing patients and getting those patients ready to be admitted into a room without waiting and not knowing that it's going to happen, then it happens and we have no rooms available. So, now, you've got your patient that's stuck in the ED for three to four hours. ... That's just crazy. So, from that perspective, it has made great strides in efficiency and patient satisfaction.

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