Health care is evolving more rapidly than nearly any other industry. Growing technology and shifting federal regulations influence how patients engage with care, what patients expect of caregivers, and how patients perceive their experiences. Rather than impulsively invest in new technologies, successful organizations design programs centered on an understanding of patient needs, and informed by the relationships they have developed with each patient.
Succesfully Integrating Technology
CHI Franciscan Health (CHI-FH), an eight-hospital system based in Tacoma Washington, exemplifies this notion of “relationships first, technology second.” Leading the charge in health care innovation, the system developed a multidisciplinary team for virtual health services nearly ten years ago. The Virtual Health Team implements programs to increase patients’ access to care, minimize the need to travel for services, and mitigate workforce shortages. Despite the team’s passion for health care innovation, they emphasize that these programs should supplement and enhance, not replace, in-person visits.
One prominent accomplishment of the CHI-FH Virtual Health Team was becoming one of the first hospital systems to provide virtual urgent care to the public, allowing patients to access care 24/7 via phone or video chat. Since then, the department has added numerous programs and collaborated with other health care technology companies to enhance acute care, patient monitoring, patient engagement, and telehealth services. In 2012, the system partnered with CipherHealth to implement a post-discharge follow-up solution, Voice. After standardizing post-discharge outreach, CHI-FH added Orchid for digital rounding during inpatient stays.
Interview with Virutal Health Services’ Lana Adzhigirey
Lana Adzhigirey, Program Manager of Care Transformation at CHI-FH, spoke to CipherHealth about the driving forces behind virtual health at CHI-FH, their achievements so far, and goals moving forward.
CH: Can you briefly describe the mission and work of the Virtual Health Team?
Lana: We are a multidisciplinary team of physicians, analysts, IT staff, and nurses all coming together to create a solution. We are really dedicated to challenging the status quo of health care, but we focus on relationships first, whether that’s with people in the health care system, outside of the system, or patients. We have found that technology helps, but it doesn’t achieve the same results if you don’t have the relationships to support it.
CH: What prompted the decision to create the Virtual Health Team, and what challenges were you hoping to address with this initiative?
Lana: We had some visionary leaders in the system that embraced health care innovation early on. I think partially why virtual health is so important and pivotal is because we’re uncertain about the future of health care. It is important that we are prepared and have permission to be creative. With this program, we have permission to dream and to be creative. We need to be nimble for the future of health care, whatever that future will bring.
CH: What are some of the successes have you seen since implementing virtual health services?
Lana: With virtual health, we’ve been able to diversify the way we provide health care to meet the needs of the patients where they are instead of where we are. One of the blatant successes that we’ve seen is with the diabetes management program. By having someone monitor patients’ blood glucose values in real time and call them if needed, we really helped the patients. A lot of patients lost weight and really turned their lives around. When we talk to them, it’s not about the technology or the applications, it’s about the relationship they’ve formed with the educator.
CH: What specific goals did the organization have when partnering with CipherHealth to enhance the offerings of the virtual services?
Lana: Our ultimate goal with the CipherHealth products was to address patients’ needs immediately. We embrace the golden standard around patient rounds and follow-up phone calls. Until we had Voice and Orchid, these processes were cumbersome and involved a lot of paper trails. With Voice, we were able to scale the program quickly, so instead of a few units using the follow-up calls, the entire system was using this best-practice. With Orchid, the goal was to improve patients’ experiences when they were in the hospital. Instead of catching issues on the backside, we’re proactively resolving issues and improving patient stays.
CH: What impact has Orchid had on the rounding process at CHI-FH?
Lana: I was most impressed with the customization piece of Orchid. When we piloted, one of our units decided to focus specifically on the pain management question. After a period of time, we saw that when we pulled up reports for that unit, patient responses were significantly more positive for pain management than they were before the pilot. With Orchid, we’ve been able to standardize our rounding process, which is important as health care systems grow.
As illustrated by the success of CHI-FH, technology is not the silver bullet to replace collaboration and strategic decision-making. “A tool is a tool, but the program that you develop around that tool is what drives results,” Adzhigirey explains. “It takes a lot of work, analyzing the data, creating specific goals, and then working toward those goals.” At CHI-FH, this passion for innovation, willingness to adapt, and commitment to meaningful relationships, has allowed the system to provide high-quality care to patients whenever and wherever it is needed.