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Could This Be the Social Networking Platform Health IT Leaders Have Been Waiting For?

October 9, 2013
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Next Wave Connect goes live with impressive lineup of healthcare organizations

At the last HIMSS meeting in New Orleans, I saw a great presentation by Ferdinand Velasco, M.D., vice president and CMIO, and Luis Saldana, M.D., associate CMIO, of Texas Health Resources on their efforts to use social media to enhance internal communications.

Dr. Velasco described how THR sought out an enterprise social networking platform, and it chose to use Yammer, which he described as the internal equivalent of Twitter. The benefits of enterprise social networking, he said, are that it can help engage physicians in initiatives, take advantage of “crowdsourcing” and solicit feedback. “We use Yammer to solicit input on how to modify the EHR and work flow,” he said. A hospitalist may ask a question about how to document something or on the use of a problem list, and a family doctor from somewhere else in the organization will answer. We have more than 250 Yammer groups, and some people don’t even use e-mail to communicate anymore — that’s how integrated it is into their work flow.”

Velasco said Ed Marx, THR’s CIO, uses Yammer extensively to engage with employees and get feedback. “You know what he is doing constantly,” he said.

Well, now Ed Marx and other CIOs are taking advantage of a new social networking application that was unveiled at the CHIME13 Fall CIO Forum yesterday. Next Wave Health, an investment advisory firm focused on health IT, has launched Next Wave Connect to allow healthcare professionals to collaborate within and across enterprise boundaries.

Connect may help organizations address issues such as meaningful use, ICD-10, privacy and security, and new reimbursement models.

A press release from Next Wave claims that 27 organizations are founding members, including Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Rush University Medical Center, Seattle Children’s Hospital and Sharp HealthCare.

Next Wave quotes Darren Dworkin, CIO at Cedars-Sinai, as saying that although his organization has looked at many enterprise social networking tools, it couldn't find one that met its needs until now. “It's the first enterprise social networking application we've seen that helps us collaborate within Cedars-Sinai, and allows us to do so with our peers across the industry. We're all trying to solve the exact same problems at the exact same time -- it makes sense for us to work together. Until now, we haven't had the right social tools."

Connect allows members to designate their communities as "open,” allowing anyone to participate, or “closed.” Closed communities require participants to be pre-approved, and limit conversations to a private circle of collaborators, the company said.

Connect uses community managers and advisors to assist members in facilitating collaboration. The managers help set up groups that connect members with common interests introduce groups to advisory council experts (ACEs), who will answer questions, assist members in making connections, and ultimately create and publish resolutions. ACEs that Connect members have access to include: THR CIO Ed Marx; Rick Skinner, CIO at University of Virginia Health System; Marc Probst, CIO of Intermountain Healthcare, and Jeffrey Ferranti, M.D., chief information officer and vice president for Medical Informatics at Duke Medicine.

Drex DeFord is CEO of Next Wave Connect. He is a former CIO of Steward Health Care, the Boston-based integrated health system that has been one of the original Medicare pioneer accountable care organizations. Prior to his tenure at Steward, DeFord held CIO positions at Seattle Children’s Hospital/Research Institute and Scripps Health.

This announcement makes it clear that Connect has impressive leadership and several high-profile health IT leaders involved. Is this the enterprise social networking tool organizations have been looking for? And will it help break down organizational barriers to help solve problems?