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In Tacoma, CHI Franciscan Leverages IT to Transform Care Delivery

April 7, 2017
by Heather Landi
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The virtual urgent care service has achieved a 95-percent patient satisfaction rate and saved over $1.5 million in health care costs and 10,511 hours of wait and travel time

Many hospitals and health systems are piloting mobile and digital technology projects, such as telehealth projects, to improve patient outcomes, enhance the patient experience and also with the aim of reducing health care costs. In many cases, these projects impact one service line, such as telehealth visits offered in the emergency room. At Tacoma, Wash.-based CHI Franciscan Health, clinical and executive leaders are going much broader and deeper to leverage health information technology to transform care delivery.

CHI Franciscan’s Care Transformation team launched in 2009 with a team of four people focusing on one small project, virtual urgent care, according to Lana Adzhigirey, R.N., program manager, Care Transformation, Virtual Health Services at CHI Franciscan. Today, that team has grown into a multi-disciplinary and multi-dimensional service line with more than 150 clinicians and IT professionals. What’s more, the initiatives that the Care Transformation team has implemented are resulting in significant positive impacts on patient outcomes, avoided healthcare costs and unprecedented system efficiencies.

As such, the project was awarded semifinalist status in this year’s Healthcare Informatics Innovator Awards Program.

The CHI Franciscan Health system, which consists of eight hospitals and a large network of physician clinics, has a mandate to redesign its healthcare delivery towards a value-based system serving the Pacific Northwest. The health system’s Care Transformation initiative is a massive project that is patient-focused in scope and has the dual benefit of added value to business and clinical outcomes. The Care Transformation team consists of a number of providers, nurses, information technology specialists, analysts and others roles and responsibilities, all of which focus around providing care to patients where they are, and eliminating any geographic, time commitment and language barriers in accessing that care, Adzhigirey says.

To date, the Care Transformation team has implemented a number of successful programs, most utilizing digital and mobile health technologies—virtual urgent care, post-discharge outreach, a virtual intensive care unit (ICU), virtual consultations with nurses and specialists, virtual diabetes education, regional telemetry monitoring program and a virtual inpatient companion program.

St. Anthony Hospital, Gig Harbor

Going back to 2009, the program had humble beginnings with its four-person team focused on the virtual urgent care project. “We started out with a telehealth initiative, and then we quickly realized that if we just work with technology and just implement technology, it doesn’t get us far. So, we redesigned our concept to include any and all programs across the care continuum for the patient so that we are working with people first, and technology second,” Adzhigirey says. “That has really blossomed into a large team that went outside of telehealth and we decided to call it Care Transformation.”

The team then focused on a virtual diabetes program to enable patients to use an app on their smartphones to interact with their diabetes educators for better diabetes management. The Care Transformation has since broadened the initiatives to both the acute care side and the outpatient side.

“We’re very focused on a multidisciplinary approach” Adzhigirey says. “In healthcare, it’s very easy to get siloed into either a service line or a specialty and even the acuity of the patient, so I think we are unique in the way that we want to make sure that we approach it as a multidisciplinary team. So, we have providers, we have nurses, we have some IT folks, we have program managers, so a variety of people.”

St. Elizabeth Hospial, Enumclaw

However, Adzhigirey notes that one challenge early on was building credibility around the program among clinicians, physicians and executive leaders “Telemedicine was brand new back then. So, we implemented it with our employees first, and our employees actually helped use that service and then talk about it so that word-of-mouth really helped to solidify that program and then spread it out to the community,” she says. Jessica Kennedy-Schlicher, M.D., now runs the virtual urgent care program as the medical director of the virtual and transformational health services line at CHI Franciscan Health.

The results of the Care Transformation team’s work, to date, have been very impressive:

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