Investigate uses for secure messaging for healthcare

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Secure text messaging keeps parents and providers informed

A Tennessee children's hospital uses secure messaging to send parents updates about their child's health and to let providers know when a patient has arrived.

In the second part of a two-part Q&A, Rick Simpson, clinical applications manager at East Tennessee Children's Hospital in Knoxville, Tenn., talks about how secure text messaging is being used in different departments -- such as the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, and radiology -- to keep parents informed and engaged in their child's care. In part one, Simpson discusses how the secure messaging tool improves efficiency and productivity.

How is East Tennessee Children's Hospital using secure text messaging in the NICU?

Rick Simpson: Within the NICU, we have specialty nurses called patient navigators. It's a little bit different than what you will see in the normal adult facility from the perspective that they usually have a one-on-one relationship with that patient, as well as with the parents. Each patient navigator is assigned to a particular number of patients, so when the parent is here, it's the same face that they see all the time, or faces.

[Our secure messaging platform] actually has a function that's called a quick chat function. We started utilizing that to communicate with the parents directly. The patient navigator will discuss certain things with [the parents] and ask them if they would be interested in receiving messages and communication back and forth in a secure manner about their child. That's kind of how it is introduced to them.

And what they will do is, while they're here, they will go ahead and send them an initial message. That sends them an SMS text, which basically has a link that directs them to a secure location or a secure site. [That allows] the navigator to communicate back and forth with the parent.

It has changed the way that the parents look at us, because they now see I am participating in my child's care. It's not as if I'm just an outsider, though that's sometimes the way you feel when you're a parent. And so this actually makes it so that the parents are part of that relationship, part of that process, and we've seen pretty big strides. ... We're doing what we should be doing, which is having the parents be part of the child's care.

Since you know that it's being done in a secure manner, you're able to put the patient name, so then you're able to personalize it. Some folks have those applications that send you very generic-type messages, and at that point, it removes the emotion, the personal touch. Here they're able to say, 'Give the patient's name.' They're able to say what took place. And they do it in such a way that it's not just all the medical terms; it's going to be something that the parents can understand.

Some folks have those applications that send you very generic-type messages, and at that point, it removes the emotion, the personal touch.
Rick Simpsonclinical applications manager, East Tennessee Children's Hospital

How is the secure messaging platform being used in radiology?

Simpson: It's being used very similarly. ... The radiology folks will basically do the same thing and say, 'Hey, we can send you a text, a secure message when little Bobby is out of the MRI, and then you can come back.' They'll send the test message to let them look it up to make sure that they've received it, and then they'll say, 'What we'll do is when he's out, we'll send you another secure message. That way, you can go to the coffee shop or you can go out, whatever you want.' And then that puts them at ease a little bit.

Are there other departments in the hospital where secure text messaging is used?

Simpson: Our surgical area is now starting to use secure text messaging. We have provided phones for them in that area. ... They also have a secure messaging app, so what's happened is anytime a patient arrives, they send [a text] out to that group that says, 'Bobby Smith has arrived for his appendectomy.' The check-in nurse will go get Bobby and bring him back, and then every step of the way, they are communicating with everyone within that zone.

It basically just processes [communication] throughout the stay within the OR. They'll use that as their communication tool so that they'll know who's here, who they're supposed to be seeing. They'll also have some communication with the providers to let the providers know that the patient is here.

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