Mobile Device Management (MDM) Case Study
Advanced Technology, Tender Care Benefit Guardian Angel Hospice Patients (Cont'd)
If there's a change in a patient, we can quickly notify the patient care team. Our technology really helps to keep everyone informed and on the same page.”
- Josh Rice, IT Director, Guardian Angel Hospice
About Guardian Angel Hospice
Guardian Angel Hospice Facts
A highly secure way to deliver prescriptions and treatment plans to hospice nurses in the field
Cloud-based fax solution supports highly secure communication among all members of a patient’s healthcare team; mobile device management helps secure smartphones and tablets
Faster implementation of doctors’ orders, increased security, optimized patient care
Guardian Angel Hospice provides end-of-life care that maximizes comfort, dignity and quality of living for people without regard to their ability to pay. In the last year alone the agency delivered 55,700 patient days of care for 550 hospice patients in the 23 Central Indiana counties it serves. In everything they do, Guardian Angel staff strive to model the organization’s core values of professionalism, teamwork, stewardship, integrity and service.
Nurses and other healthcare professionals care for hospice patients in their homes, in skilled care facilities and in hospitals, carrying out orders faxed by physicians to Guardian Angel Hospice offices. Since nurses spend nearly all their time at patient locations, they had no way to see the orders until they returned to the office. Guardian Angel wanted to get the information to its nurses more quickly to keep patients as comfortable as possible. Federal regulations and the organization’s commitment to protecting confidential patient information meant that any solution had to be highly secure.
Ring Central Office@Hand from AT&T provides efficient transport for the faxing of patient information. Doctors can fax orders to the hospice offices just as they always have, but nurses now receive the information quickly on their smartphones which helps to enhance patient care. Guardian Angel further helps to secure patient information with MobileIron Connected Cloud from AT&T, a mobile device management solution that enables Guardian Angel to wipe data from lost or stolen devices. The solution helps the agency protect patient information and comply with federal regulations.
Values-Driven Patient Care
We have to have good processes to protect all of our electronic health information.”
- Josh Rice, IT Director, Guardian Angel Hospice
Guardian Angel Hospice strives to bring comfort and peace to people at the end of their lives. The agency was founded in 2002 by hospice veterans who introduced a new standard of physical, emotional and spiritual care for patients in Central Indiana. "Life is precious,” Guardian Angel’s credo proclaims. “We believe that our patients deserve the same loving attention at the end of life that is showered on babies as they enter this world."
The agency has grown quickly over the past decade yet it remains faithful to the vision and mission of its “founding angels.” From the beginning, Guardian Angel has been a values-guided organization, said Brian Rude, Guardian Angel Chief Operating Officer. “We constantly find ourselves asking the question, ‘What's the right thing to do?’ which keeps everything patient-centered.”
These guiding principles have established a strong foundation for the organization. “The care we give patients is the very best that we can possibly make it,” he said. “One of our main goals is to get hospice care to anybody and everybody who needs it, regardless of their resources.” This objective and the agency’s commitment to being an employer of choice separate Guardian Angel from other hospice providers.
Best Solutions to Support Patient Care
Much in demand, Guardian Angel Hospice nurses often travel to several counties to see as many as 10 patients in the course of a day. Being out of the office most of the time made it a challenge to keep up with some of the administrative duties associated with patient care. “In the early days it was all paper charting. They used alpha-numeric pagers and the office had just six PCs,” said Guardian Angel IT Director Josh Rice.
Over the years the agency has replaced many paper processes with digital solutions designed to give staff more time to spend with patients. Nurses today enhance their productivity with AT&T smartphones that support email and text messaging and provide turn-by-turn navigation to patients’ homes. A custom mobile app enables nurses to see their daily schedule and retrieve patient addresses and phone numbers, clinical notes and task lists from Guardian Angel servers.
But even though the hospice had made great technological advances, some of the physicians and other care providers with whom it works have not kept pace. Providers that haven’t upgraded to online transmission systems still fax patient orders to Guardian Angel. “Some doctors run their office the old-school way, so we have to be able to field a mix of different technologies here,” Rude said.
Guardian Angel had to store the faxes until the nurses returned to the office to retrieve them. Nurses’ busy schedules could mean a delay in carrying out doctors’ orders; the organization needed a quicker way to communicate information to medical staff in the field in a highly secure manner.
A Bridge from Old School to New Age
As it explored solutions, Guardian Angel considered installing a fax server until its AT&T account team suggested that Office@Hand could make the capital expenditure unnecessary. The solution makes it easy to get information to the staff, freeing them to work from a patient’s bedside or anywhere else.
Faxes delivered to Guardian Angel are quickly available for nurses to view on their smartphones and, if necessary, forward to another email address or fax number. “Office@Hand gives us a bridge so that we have a way to keep documents in our electronic realm,” Rice said, “and doctors that are doing it the old school way can still have their paper realm.”
The protection for patient information is a vital concern, especially since federal authorities have announced new HIPAA compliance audits. “In the past, they just investigated breaches that they learned of,” Rude said. “Now they're actively evaluating organizations to determine whether or not they're meeting the requirements, so the initiative we’re focused on with Office@Hand is pretty significant.”
Having staff document the services they provide electronically speeds up Guardian Angel’s billing processes and increases accuracy. “The mobile documentation piece is more robust than it used to be,” Rude said.
Additionally, the organization’s electronic medical records and customer relationship management applications make it easy for Guardian Angel staff to communicate patient developments to physicians. “It's good customer service to keep referring doctors apprised of the care that's being given to their patients,” he said. “They really appreciate it.”
Safeguarding Patient Information
Delivering patient information directly to staff smartphones streamlines work processes but at the same time creates the potential for a security breach should a device be lost or stolen. “We have to have good processes to protect all of our electronic health information.” Rice said.
He noted that safeguarding this information is vital not only to maintain the sanctity of each patient’s records, but because there are significant financial consequences if the information is intercepted. “The penalties for failing to protect patient information are so steep that they can put you out of business,” Rice said. The agency also stands to lose revenue if a device turns up missing since nurses use the devices to document patient care. Without this documentation, Guardian Angel would not be able to bill for its services.
Despite these high stakes, Guardian Angel didn’t have a solution to help secure staff’s mobile devices. “We needed to ensure that if our staff lost a device we could make sure that no one could get access to the electronic personal health information on it,” said Rice.
Managing Risk More Effectively
Hospice officials asked their AT&T account team to come up with a way to protect the organization’s mobile devices and the sensitive patient data they contain. The team recommended MobileIron Connected Cloud from AT&T, a solution that enables Guardian Angel to manage all of its devices. “It was just a godsend,” Rice said.
The agency’s IT Department can now mandate password protection for devices rather than less-secure four-digit PINs and force users to change the password every 90 days. If a device is lost or stolen, the department can quickly lock it and wipe it clean of information, thereby keeping patient information highly secure.
The ability to protect sensitive information shows that Guardian Angel is actively managing risk, Rude said. “It indicates a level of protection that we've attained,” he said. “We can demonstrate to a HIPAA auditor that we have taken these steps, which gives us peace of mind.”
Rice said MobileIron has also made life easier for the IT Department by automating inventory control and device management. “We no longer have to worry about who has each device,” he said. “A single user interface lets us see if all of our devices are active and if everything's in compliance.”
Thanks to MobileIron Connected Cloud from AT&T, there are fewer technical issues to handle, which frees the IT staff to make progress on departmental projects instead of spending time reacting to staff’s device problems.
A Foundation for Continuing Success
Rice believes Guardian Angel’s use of technology sets it apart from other hospices. “They can’t share information as rapidly as we can,” Rice said. “If there's a change in a patient, we can quickly notify the patient care team in less than ten seconds, so the closest person can step in and take action. Our technology really helps to keep everyone informed and on the same page.”
Because technology changes so rapidly, Guardian Angel’s staff works hard to stay on top of new applications that could further simplify operations, enhance communication or increase staff effectiveness. The agency’s AT&T account team has been helpful in recommending new solutions and assisting in the deployment and training phases of technology integration. “AT&T has helped every step of the way, not just with AT&T products, but with those of AT&T third-party vendors,” said Rice. “It's been a huge help to us.”
The hospice is counting on AT&T to support future endeavors. “We're a growing company and we hope to stay that way,” Rice added. “I like having AT&T there with us to help us expand, so when we add new locations they can help us quickly drop in new equipment and find better solutions.”
Ever since the agency’s “founding angels” created a hospice with the highest possible standard of care, Guardian Angel has measured its performance by the strength of its relationships with patients, families, vendors, staff and the community. By this standard, it considers its interactions with AT&T an unqualified success – and a factor in improving the hospice’s dealings with others.
“AT&T helps Guardian Angel Hospice operate efficiently for the benefit of its patients,” Rice said. “Ultimately AT&T is really our backbone for everything.”