For the past 12 years or so, San Francisco-based MedAmerica has relied on a web portal to keep doctors in touch with other physicians and clinical staff. More recently, as the BYOD trend has helped define mobile use in the healthcare space, CIO Nancy Burghart-Hall and her team have been busy rolling out an in-house mobile app aimed at streamlining time sensitive communications among the physician practice management group’s 2,000 providers, who span 125 locations across nine states.
“Our strategy has been to manage communications among clinicians, who are located inside and outside of the hospital, as part of an overall mobile strategy,” Burghart-Hall says.
Launched in 2012, the HIPAA-secure mobile app enables communication among providers via email, voicemail, and text. It also grants access to work schedules—so physicians and clinicians can swap shifts on the fly, if necessary—and a MedAmerica directory with contacts for anyone in the organization.
With 1,500 downloads to date, Burghart-Hall feels the app’s uptake is going very well.
“Now, we want to extend it to the physicians and the communities in which we practice, to the on-call panels at the hospitals, the specialists and consultants, so that our ER doctors can talk directly, in a HIPAA-secure fashion, about a case,” Burghart-Hall says. “We’re getting ready to look at how we can include those providers in our panel groups, and allow them to download our app and use it as well.”
For Burghart-Hall, perhaps the biggest challenge associated with this project has been determining how much to invest, given that MedAmerica’s provider population is approximately 50 percent over (and under) the age of 40.
The current generational transition taking place may suggest IT is driving the adoption of technology before the other half of the physician population is ready to adopt it, but Burghart-Hall is striving for “an acceptable balance” that promises to both improve quality of care and increase efficiency.
Going forward, the IT team plans to bolster MedAmerica’s mobile app by partnering with another vendor that has a national provider directory. Such a move would greatly expand the expertise available to the physician practice management group’s ER doctors. However, the challenge here is the same as that experienced by anyone trying to exchange health information: knowing who’s on the network at all times.
Burghart-Hall says she’ll consider the project a success when providers report they’re able to communicate electronically—and efficiently—in a HIPAA-secure fashion. For the time being, though, she’s focusing on extending the app to MedAmerica’s communities.
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As a B2B journalist, John Farrell has covered healthcare IT since 1997 and is Intel’s sponsored correspondent.