From telemedicine, to new facilities, to remote work, Si3’s expertise is behind some of the biggest changes of 2020.
Patrick Murfee says his goal in IT is to make technology as simple as everything else we depend on.
“You turn the lights on and they work. That is what technology needs to do,” says Murfee, who serves as director and client operations leader for Si3. “We want to make sure we provide dependable, easy-to-use solutions.”
Here is the reality: making things work simply for users requires a lot of technology and focused effort.
Si3 is used to being involved in critical incidents. The level of technology deployed due to COVID-19 makes the last few months entirely new territory.
From clinical expansion to making technology work remotely, many of the demands of our new reality are tech heavy.
That has meant a challenging time for our IT team, and a new way of working.
Fast turnarounds and flexibility, while managing a high volume of work, are the order of the day.
“We are supporting the organization faster than ever,” Murfee says. “It strikes me how our teams rise to the challenge. And, how meaningfully connected our work is to patient care, even though we are not at the bedside.”
SUPPORTING RAPID EXPANSION
Like most of us, Murfee has a memory of what things were like before COVID-19, and it was very different.
“Anything from the first quarter, you could have told me that was a year ago,” he says. “This experience has been full of new things, that’s for sure.”
The team supported the building of the COVID unit at Cox South, working with architects and engineers to design and connect the unique space.
“We have needed to be more agile. In the past, it would take us 4-6 months to build a unit. With the COVID unit, we did it in two weeks,” Murfee says.
With the unit complete, Si3 moved on to preparing for an accelerated construction schedule on the third and fourth floor at Cox South. That work is alongside more facility expansion than ever. Si3 is currently supporting the new hospital project in Monett, our new super clinics, as well as growth in ambulatory care.
'THIS IS AN INTERCONNECTED WORLD'
Look closely at many of the Incident Command projects of the last few months and you’re likely to see Si3’s work.
Incident Command leaders use a lot of data to inform their decisions. For Si3, that means technology behind the scenes to track and analyze numbers. Those numbers drive new dashboards that can quickly get information to decision makers.
“This is an interconnected world and technology is the backbone of that,” Murfee says.
Si3 is also central to getting the best information to clinicians. In the past few months, they have developed and perfected a system of alerts and notifications, as well new documentation around COVID-19 diagnoses.
Getting patient results in record time
CoxHealth is using technology to keep patients and providers informed – quickly. The same technology Si3 supports for appointment reminders is now being used to let patients know when their COVID-19 test results are negative.
“Manually, it can take 8-10 people each day to make those calls. We want to get those out in a technology-driven way,” Murfee says. “It takes that burden off of staff and gives patients a quicker turnaround.
“Everything that has been required to make this run smoothly has depended on technology.”
Telemedicine and call centers
Murfee’s teams have led an unprecedented rollout of telemedicine inside our hospitals. Telemedicine is allowing for remote care in the ED and in our COVID units, reducing the burn rates of PPE.
“We can help providers lay eyes on a patient without having to be physically there. We have really expanded our presence in that area.”
Outside of the hospital, Si3 has been a key driver in expanding telemedicine for our ambulatory providers, who have been providing patient visits with Microsoft Teams.
“We were able to roll out that service in a matter of days.”
As clinics reopened, Si3 worked with providers and clinic leadership to communicate with patients and help them seek care at our clinics.
“We had a request for a call center on a Thursday, and we stood it up by Friday,” Murfee says.
Si3’s efforts have also allowed a record number of employees to work remotely. Teams can be physically distanced while maintaining -- and in some cases increasing -- productivity.
“Historically, we have been an onsite organization,” Murfee says. “Remote work didn’t have a lot of presence outside of Health Information Management and coding.”
As needs have shifted in the last few months, Si3 stood up a new virtual private network (known as CoxHealth or CHVPN) for teams to work remotely.
Murfee says the VPN system is a great example of the technology required to make a successful, smooth experience.
We have had secure remote access for some time. It has offered access for backup or emergency use, but users know that logons and establishing the connection can be an inconvenience.
“In permanent solutions, productivity matters. It must be as simple and easy as being in the office,” Murfee says.
VPN moves some of the security features, like the two-factor authentication required by SRA, into the background. VPN is a more secure connection and allows users to smoothly log on and see all of their drives and applications.
Now, more than 2,500 employees are working remotely, on a full-time or temporary basis. The number of teams that will become permanently remote continues to rise.
Those employees include the majority of Si3: 90% of the Si3 team is working from home.
“We displaced more of our team in case we need to house the child education program out of Primrose,” Murfee says. “Overall, it’s been a net positive. It’s a brand new frontier for us.”
‘LIKE SPRINTING FOR A MARATHON’
For Murfee, the question going forward is deceptively simple: How does Si3 become even more agile?
“Technology is the foundation of a lot of the elements of what Incident Command is asking for,” he says. “We know our organization is relying on us.”
The Incident Command structure and the current crisis has made that more clear than ever. Murfee says it is a different paradigm than 10 months ago.
All new projects are reviewed weekly by a group of organizational leaders.
“Vice presidents and leaders outside of IT are critical to our success,” he says. “It all comes back to having the agility to make decisions and move on what is strategically important.”
For his own teams, Murfee and Si3 leaders are working on how to maintain their current pace for the long term.
“Just the amount of activity we have stood up and innovated, it has changed our cadence,” Murfee says. “It’s like sprinting for a marathon.”
Teams have invested in cross training, so colleagues can support one another. When needed, Si3 is able to access Cerner resources in Kansas City for support.
“We are trying to be forceful about people taking time away. Getting rest and time away is equally important. We need people to rest when they can.”
The work makes Murfee and IT proud to play a role in a crucial time for health care.
“A great IT department is one that is supporting what the organization is doing,” Murfee says. “We’re a trusted partner that can take things quickly from a request all the way through to a solution.”