Technology key to better clinical decision-making, transfers at University of New Mexico Hospital

In rural New Mexico, where many patients must travel 250 miles or more for care, clinicians in remote areas are relying on a new technology that bridges the gap between patients and specialists.

That platform connects them to the University of New Mexico Hospital (UNMH) in Albuquerque, part of University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center (UNM HSC).

During an October webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by TigerConnect, Phil Baker, director of the Rapid Response Team and Transfer Center at UNMH, discussed how the organization is using technology to improve decision-making around consults and patient transfers.

Five key takeaways:

1. The journey to more efficient patient transfers began with the TigerConnect partnership. In 2018, the UNM HSC Physician Advisory Board selected TigerConnect to replace the organization's pager system. The goals were to support HIPAA-compliant and transparent two-way communication, while providing an easily accessible directory of clinicians and care team members. In August 2021 alone, UNM HSC employees sent 7.9 million messages using TigerConnect.

2. UNMH's Transfer Center saw an opportunity to improve external communication with rural facilities. External providers frequently call UNMH specialists for consults or requests for patient transfers. To make informed decisions and recommendations, UNMH physicians often need additional patient information, in the form of pictures, videos or files. Yet, some rural facilities don't have computers, scanners or adequate Wi-Fi connectivity. "Despite these limitations, we realized that most people have access to a smartphone," Mr. Baker said. "As a result, we decided to use TigerConnect to communicate more effectively with external providers."

3. TigerConnect is an easy, cost-effective way to connect with external providers. In January 2021, UNMH repurposed the TigerConnect Patient Engagement solution to communicate with external providers. "We've white labeled TigerConnect Patient Engagement SMS text messages. In addition, we can include a customized link and a callback phone number," Mr. Baker explained. External providers can now share pictures, videos and files while maintaining HIPAA compliance. It's simple to add external providers to the contact list and external providers don't need to download or log in to an application. "During the implementation, I met with rural facilities around the state, including several on Native American reservations," Mr. Baker said. "Many were very excited about sending attachments securely so our providers can make more informed decisions."

4. UNMH's Transfer Center has a new dedicated provider who uses TigerConnect to help with triage. The hope is this resource will improve patient throughput and hospital capacity, while reducing calls to sub-specialists. The Transfer Center provider communicates correct, pertinent patient information to UNMH physicians via TigerConnect. Looking ahead, UNMH hopes to have a dedicated Transfer Center provider available 24/7.

5. Utilization of TigerConnect Patient Engagement for consults and transfers is on the rise at UNMH. In June 2021, UNMH reached a high of 55 external providers sending patient images and files to the Transfer Center via TigerConnect Patient Engagement. "We expect that number to increase as we refocus efforts on internal education and roll out the program to more departments," Mr. Baker said. The dermatology department loves the program. All dermatology consults are now conducted by TigerConnect Patient Engagement, which has improved the quality of care, while increasing provider satisfaction.

"Many times, providers can make informed decisions by just reviewing the documents on TigerConnect. They can call the Transfer Center directly to begin the transfer process or can relay recommendations which can be texted to the external provider. Thanks to this solution, providers spend less time on the phone and our operations are more efficient," Mr. Baker said.

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