Mission Health CTO shares how his health system chose, implemented secure messaging

By Laura Lovett
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The medical team at Asheville, North Carolina-based Mission Health system reported a significant increase in the ability to locate staff across fields after a hospital messaging system was implemented. 

“What we wanted was a single communication device across the enterprise,” Joseph Wolfgram, chief technology officer at Mission Health said at the Healthcare Messaging Conference and Exhibition at Harvard Medical School on November 29th. 

Adoption was the number one goal of the program, according to Wolfgram. The plan was to identify a single device that was fast, easy and reliable. It should also have the ability to login in different staff members and give them their own personal information. The Mission Health system lets staff members touch their ID card to the phone to log in.

The organization decided to go with the Ascom’s system which is specifically built for medical purposes. 

“I think there is a huge advantage to having a device built for a clinical environment,” Wolfgram said. 

Wolfgram gave the example of medical clips, to attach communications devices to user's scrubs. He said that if the device didn't come with something as simple as clips for medical professionals, it could cost hospital could spend close to a million dollars to buy their own.

Wolfgram noted that his organization, which caters to mostly medicare and medicaid patients, was working with budget constraints. This helped rule out certain products, specifically Apple. 

The organization decided to start small with a pilot program. Early users included certified nurse assistants (CNAs) and registered nurses (RNs).

Only using a few of the features available was key, said Wolfgram. Using too many features could be overwhelming for new users, he said. 

“We wanted to make reliable voice calls and secure text messaging,” Wolfgram said. “If we could get adoption up there the user satisfaction rate would go up over time.”

When the program first started the system recorded that users were sending on average 13.9 text messages for every one phone call, but this evolved to 22 texts for each call, where it has stayed. 

Wolfgram said that phone calls are highly disruptive because both parties need to be doing the same thing at the same time, whereas, texting is asynchronous.

Before the pilot study, only 31 percent of caregivers reported that they were satisfied with being able to locate an RN. That number increased to 79 percent after the study was deployed. Similar results were found in satisfaction with locating CNAs, which increased from 25 percent to 78 percent satisfaction. 

Despite the fact that doctors were not included in the pilot, survey takers found that after the Ascom system was installed, satisfaction in locating doctors increased from 17 percent to 52 percent in what appeared to be a halo effect.

Surveyed caregivers also said the system reduced the number of steps that they took each day. 

Now Mission Health now plans on expanding the system to the rest of the enterprise.