Jan 28 2022

How the Shift to Digitally Streamlined Workflow Helps Improve Care

Healthcare organizations with workforces spread over multiple locations can enhance the patient experience with platforms that help staff work smarter.

When the 13,000 employees of long-term-care provider PruittHealth meet with patients, they can’t spend time troubleshooting technology issues. They need to count on quick IT support.

For years, however, they could only submit service requests and incidents via phone or email. That changed in early 2021, when the Norcross, Ga.-based organization upgraded from its aging IT service management platform to ServiceNow.

Employees can now log on to a cloud-based self-service portal to submit requests, get instant access to a knowledge base of articles and track the status of their pending incidents.

As assisted living facilities and nursing homes embark on digital transformation initiatives to enhance the patient experience, many have discovered that a key step along that journey includes improving workflows and streamlining back-end processes for staff.

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“Our ultimate goal is to provide better service to the caregivers so they can continue to care for patients,” says Richard Bailey, senior vice president of IT at PruittHealth, which offers skilled nursing, home healthcare, senior living communities, and hospice and palliative care in Georgia, Florida, and North and South Carolina.

It’s hard to miss the benefits of today’s digital workflow platforms: faster service time, lower total cost of ownership and an accelerated return on investment by automating internal services.

“That’s one part of it,” says Laura DiDio, principal analyst with research firm ITIC. “The other part is customer service and retention. When you upgrade to a digital workflow platform, workers can accomplish a lot more in a lot less time with fewer errors, which translates into a much better experience for patients.”

Many workflow platforms also have business intelligence and analytics built into them, so they can use that data to help streamline and improve operations in departments across the organization.

“They digitize everything from human resources and payment processes to patient care,” DiDio adds.

DISCOVER: How ServiceNow supports digital transformations in healthcare.

Implementing ServiceNow in Healthcare One Step at a Time

One advantage of ServiceNow is that it provides room to grow. For instance, PruittHealth currently uses the platform only for IT, but plans to add modules to provide other departments with similar portals. The organization is also considering ServiceNow’s IT business management platform and its Safe Workplace suite as workers return to the office.

VITAS Healthcare, a Miami-based hospice care provider, has expanded its ServiceNow footprint over time after turning to the platform several years ago for one purpose: to manage the mobile devices it provides to its staff in 14 states.

The move was so successful, saving $70,000 on one month’s phone costs alone, that VITAS began using ServiceNow to enable staff to onboard new patients using Apple iPhones.

Transforming admissions to an iPhone-based process meant nurses no longer had to tote around laptops and thick binders with protocols from the facilities they regularly visit.

“We told them, ‘You don't need that enormous binder anymore. That's all on your mobile device.’ Literally, they had tears in their eyes,” says VITAS CIO Patrick Hale. “You don’t get many tears of joy in IT.”

Before implementing ServiceNow, VITAS couldn’t justify the cost of distributing mobile phones to employees. Unlimited data plans at the time were cost prohibitive, and managing minutes for thousands of devices was tedious and expensive. With ServiceNow as a management hub, however, they’re able to equip every VITAS clinician with an iPhone.

“We know where it is, we know how it’s configured. There’s a security component,” Hale adds. “But more important, we actually save a lot of money every month just ensuring proper billing.”

The system is also a source of intelligence for VITAS. For example, if a nurse doesn’t use much data, it could signal the need for training. If another routinely exceeds minutes, the system can flag the need for an unlimited plan.

“It’s not a sexy topic, dealing with your phone bill,” Hale says. “But it actually is a pretty big barrier to innovation in the space. When you have to go to someone’s home, that mobile technology becomes everything. And when you don’t have direct on-the-ground access, you’re limited on the quality and the variety of care that you can provide to your patients.”

Patrick Hale
The more automated you get, the more immediate the need for always-on IT becomes to the actual daily workflow of our clinicians.”

Patrick Hale CIO, VITAS Healthcare

ServiceNow has allowed VITAS to deepen its reliance on mobile technology. The organization recently moved scheduling of all bedside visits (clinical and admissions) to the ServiceNow-enabled mobile devices so nurses can use iPhones instead of computers when seeing patients. Integration with Microsoft Teams and other cloud-based tools also enhance clinical collaboration.

“The more automated you get, the more immediate the need for always-on IT becomes to the actual daily workflow of our clinicians,” Hale says.

ServiceNow helps VITAS prioritize care and better address the real-time needs of patients. For instance, it can flag a change in status for a patient so the caregiver can attend to those with the greatest needs.

“They now have a new urgency and immediacy of data that’s available,” Hale says. “Instead of worrying about 47 visits that were going to occur that day, they can focus on the top 10.”

Ultimately, he envisions expanding on the concept of just-in-time delivery to an “Uber for home care” model. If a patient has a need, a nearby nurse can respond to an automated alert. “When that happens, the nurse’s schedule is automatically modified to show, for example, that the appointment that she had a 2:00 had to be postponed,” Hale says.

“When you have an ecosystem of clinical resources that are online and available, and they’re geolocated, you can make very intelligent decisions that help you raise the immediacy of your care while lowering costs and improving quality,” he says.

LEARN MORE: Find out how Intel and ServiceNow combine to create a powerful remote solution.

Automation Makes Managing Business Processes More Efficient

In Central Florida, the biggest challenge for Ocala-based Hospice of Marion County is communication. It has 400 employees, half of whom use laptops on patient visits. Rural Ocala, however, doesn’t have the level of connectivity, such as widespread LTE and fiber lines, that’s available in cities.

“We’re the horse capital of the world,” says IT Director Darrell Poteet. “We have more horses here than we have people. What we don’t have is good communications. But we have a large outbound staff, and they have to communicate all the time. We're doing end-of-life care for our patients, and families want to be able to get ahold of their clinical support people.”

One of Poteet’s first projects after starting at Hospice of Marion County in 2010 was to adopt Quest’s KACE Systems Management Appliance (formerly called the KACE K1000) to automate business processes such as onboarding.

“KACE took something that could be pretty complex in the organization and allowed us to script it,” says Poteet, explaining that previously they had to cobble together spreadsheets and Microsoft Word documents to track the process, but there were often gaps. “We would miss giving somebody something they needed to do their job. There was no way to really manage it centrally in the company so we could be sure that we weren’t missing things.”

RELATED: Learn how ServiceNow supports automation in healthcare.

A few years later, Hospice of Marion County added KACE Desktop Authority for printer management and other tasks. The organization has four campuses, and its clinicians work from different locations. Connecting them to the right printer was a challenge. Desktop Authority automated the process of matching staff to printers based on where they logged on to the network.

Through the years, the organization used those two KACE products to add new features, such as reimaging laptop and desktop computers.

“We go through a lot of laptops. They get dropped, they fall off the roof of a car, milk spills on them,” Poteet says. “But nurses in the field work with patients; they need what they need, and we’ve got to get that back out to them quickly.”

With KACE, Poteet’s IT staff can automatically image a computer, copying over a worker’s data, applications, setups, desktop and icons to the new device.

“Often, by the time they get to the office, we’ve got that system imaged,” Poteet says. “Before, it could take us two days to prepare a laptop.”

Poteet credits such automated workflows for the organization’s success in meeting the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as sending up to 40 percent of the office-based workforce home with notebook computers. “We’d have never survived if we hadn’t had those functions already in place,” he says.

Stuart Bradford/Theispot

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