April 21, 2011

‘Wizard’ tool set to enhance provider communications

‘Wizard’ tool set to enhance provider communications

Last month, Vanderbilt Medical Group began clinic-by-clinic adoption of the provider communication 'wizard,' an electronic tool developed to facilitate, verify and report follow-up communication with referring providers and primary care physicians (PCPs).

In the interest of patient safety and continuity of care, referring providers/PCPs expect prompt information about specialist findings and patient status following clinic visits, surgery and hospital discharge, whether from a consultant's letter, an operative note, a discharge summary, an updated medication list, a radiology summary, a lab summary, etc.

When they don't receive this follow-up, they become more apt to refer patients elsewhere.

The lead promoter of better follow-up communication from Vanderbilt providers has been C. Wright Pinson, M.D., MBA, deputy vice chancellor for Health Affairs and CEO of Vanderbilt Health System.

In addition to making this communication easier and quicker for providers and their teams, the wizard supports improvement by tracking whether or not this word is getting sent.

“This is the single way that VMG expects communication of documents to occur,” said Jim Jirjis, M.D., MBA, medical director of Adult Primary Care and chief medical information officer for outpatient care.

“We're now beginning to work with clinics to establish an 'every time' communication process. This is about excellence in the way we treat our referring providers and PCPs, who have told us that they look to follow-up communication as a gauge of respect, reliability and responsiveness.”

The wizard is built into Vanderbilt's electronic medical record application (StarPanel), and is integrated with the Referring Provider System, which contains verified contact information for some 30,000 referring providers and takes into account these providers' individual preferences for receiving written communication by fax or by mail (most prefer fax).

The wizard user selects a provider, attaches the relevant documentation from the electronic record and hits send; the system handles the faxing, and any unsuccessful transmissions bounce back to a central staff for resolution. (When the referring provider/PCP is a fellow VMG member, the documents go straight to docs4you, an electronic in-box attached to the provider's StarPanel account.)

The wizard was piloted in Thoracic Surgery, Neurology and Gastroenterology, and it has been available to all VMG providers for more than a year.

A brief accompanying manual allows new users to adopt the wizard on their own.

The wizard is now used after 46 percent of VMG patient visits for which the name of a referring provider has been documented.

Stephanie Shirley, a project coordinator for VMG clinical systems, is introducing VMG providers and their teams to the wizard, beginning with groups that today use it the least.

“Everyone has been so great in understanding the importance of Vanderbilt's provider communication initiative and adopting the tool,” Shirley said.

The provider communication wizard and the Referring Provider System were created by Dario Giuse, Ph.D., associate director of the Informatics Center; Jun Kunavut, health system analyst programmer II; and Danny Roberts, health systems software engineer II. Sue Muse is the project administrator.

As of this week, the Referring Provider System also powers the “Find a Doctor” feature on VanderbiltHealth.com. VMG members can use the system to submit new photos and updated curricula vitae to VanderbiltHealth.com.