Location Matters: The Importance of Meeting Clients Where They Are
In a recent webinar, Ashley Puchalski, clinical care director of Ohio’s Hospice and Marcie Vaughan, CEO and president of Seneca Health Services in West Virginia, joined me to discuss how their organizations use technology to deliver care wherever their clients are. We covered multiple topics, including, how to improve access to care, leverage technology to effectively deliver services outside clinical settings and monitor the safety of staff. All of these actions have helped improve the satisfaction of both the providers and clients. Let’s dive in!
Each organization’s journey is unique because their clients’ needs are unique. Ohio’s Hospice was using a third-party call center support service which patients felt depersonalized their experience. They also had only one lead nurse who was responsible for both triage and dispatching calls, causing stress within the nursing staff.
According to Puchalski, Ohio’s Hospice wanted to “avoid delaying access to patient needs by having a better visibility of staff location, the use of Google Maps, things like that to be able to get them to the patients and trying to impact our speed to care.” With real-time data, they are able to see staff location and who is closest to provide care to the patient. Dispatches can also determine which clinician can provide the best care to patients depending on their needs.
For Seneca Health Services, a major issue was their location. West Virginia is a rural, sparsely populated state, and the organization was dealing with transportation issues and poor internet access at patients’ homes. Their first innovation was creating mobile clinics to increase access to treatment for substance use. Adding telehealth rooms also allowed people to attend sessions. This helped eliminate the internet barrier, and allowed people who were not tech savvy to go to one of these clinics and join a session. The clinics also reduced travel time for patients. Social media and staff were key contributors to getting the word out that these mobile clinics were available.
Because the mobile clinics were so popular, Seneca created connection hubs. The hubs are PCs equipped with cameras and microphones that are located in private areas of public libraries, allowing people to participate in online sessions.
I asked both Puchalski and Vaughan some questions about their journey towards integrating new technology.
“What are some of the challenges, lessons learned and advice you can give to an organization wanting to implement some of the things you have?”
Puchalski: Make sure that it’s communicated what the goals are. We continued to evolve it as we went. Just really asking the staff as well as the patients and families.
Vaughan: [referring to the mobile clinics] It is difficult to gauge your cell reception in those areas, so we had to change locations initially. My tip would be to check those things out and consider those elements when you’re deciding the locations for a mobile clinic type service.
“What are some of the responses from your staff from implementing these new technologies?”
Vaughan: I think all of our staff members are excited about how much more accessible our services are to individuals. We live here. We know the challenges with regard to transportation. We know the challenges in accessing care from qualified individuals. And each one of these different service programs allows us to meet the needs of those clients with the least disruption to them. Our staff is excited and appreciate that we invested in this technology to better serve members of their own communities.
Puchalski: They're very reliant on the current tools and technology that we've continued to build and enhance, not only from a triage perspective and having access to patient records, but also having an understanding of when they can get a field team member to the patient's home.
“Have you seen technology as a pivotal strategy to success in the programs and services you are delivering? Have you seen the evolution of your staff obviously become reliant on it?”
Puchalski: My team has definitely become very heavily reliant on the technology. To think about going back three years ago without the current tools and enhancements that we've put in place would certainly impact our speed of care and challenge staff in the field because those pieces go so closely together and are so intertwined.
Vaughan: My staff would not want to go back to three years ago, not only because technology has increased access to care, but it's also changed their place of work. We actually have professionals who work from home a certain number of days because individuals are accessing their care using telehealth. If [clients] do live in an area where they have good reception and they have a smartphone, they can receive their care while they're on their lunch break at work or while they're in the comfort of their own home. Staff would hate to see us go back to a pre-technology service delivery, and so would clients.
Being able to meet clients where they are is key is to providing the quality and whole-person care that everyone deserves. These two organizations realized that and found successful solutions to overcome location barriers to be able to provide the best care possible. Watch the full webinar here.
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