UnityPoint Trinity Health – Lessons learned on the road to improving clinical communication

By Paul McLoone, MD, CMO/CQO, UnityPoint Trinity  /  03 Nov 2015

As healthcare providers continually work to identify solutions to help improve care quality and coordination, an analysis of current process and protocol is a standard starting place. If it’s decided a change is in order, there are a number of considerations to take into account before committing to a resolution. Each care system functions differently, and each have cultural and historical communication norms that can act as obstacles.

At UnityPoint Health, a 10-hospital, 3,500 physician and specialist system in Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois, our clinical leaders decided to proactively and systematically implement a solution to connect nurses, physicians and patients, across the care continuum – a challenging, but essential, step to improving care coordination.

We found a successful solution and path for implementation, and wanted to share a few reflections on lessons learned along the way:

  • Be mindful your organization’s culture – Implementing a new solution is not as simple as flipping a switch. You need to have physicians and clinical team buy-in from the beginning, and keep them engaged in the process to better ensure they understand the process and stay supportive. We learned that by identifying respected care team champions right out of the gate, it was easier to implement changes across the organization.
  • Make the system a standard – Set the system up as the standard instead of as an option. By introducing a new system as something that will stick around for the long-haul, staff will be more likely to learn and adapt to it. Standardizing it also ensures everyone will be operating on the same system, streamlining processes.
  • Get it right the first time around – Be sure to set up the solution right the first time, as multiple refinements can be frustrating to busy physicians and nurses. Thorough research and planning (as well as education) ensure hospital leaders are on board to help facilitate a successful implementation.
  • Have an internal project manager – It’s important to utilize the solution provider’s expert support to maximize the capabilities, but local ownership helps to ensure a smoother transition. Creating an expert local team gives staff a familiar face to go to with any questions or issues they may have.

There are always challenges and lessons to be learned in implementing something new, especially in refining healthcare processes and protocol. Our solution for the approach was to be consistent, embed the technology and hard-wire it into their processes. This resulted in a 36 percent improvement in hospitalist average response time, increased nurse satisfaction and improved average response times of more than 50 percent at most of the individual hospitals.

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