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Chris Holda, VP of IT at IHAI recently caught up with Chris Holda, J.D., M.B.A., who is Vice President of Information Technology at IHA, a not-for-profit multi-specialty physician group in southeast Michigan that is part of Trinity Health, to learn how IHA has empowered staff to easily interact with each other and patients from anywhere using virtual health capabilities.

Virtual health connects clinicians, patients, care teams, and health professionals to provide health services, promote professional collaboration, support self-management, and coordinate care across the care continuum. Read on to learn how IHA is taking advantage of virtual health capabilities for staff telecollaboration and provider-to-patient telemedicine.

What prompted IHA to look for a virtual health solution?

We’ve grown significantly over the past few years. We now have more than 520 providers and nearly 410,000 patients spread across 60 offices. So we needed an efficient way for staff to communicate with each other and patients, and we were also looking for opportunities to streamline workflow.

Why did you choose Skype for Business to empower staff with virtual health capabilities?

Skype for Business was an easy choice because it worked with the Microsoft Office tools our staff were already using. And because it offers a HIPAA business associate agreement, we felt comfortable that our security and compliance needs would be met.

How are you using your virtual health solution for telecollaboration among staff?

As we’ve expanded, it’s no longer practical for our dispersed team members to meet and consult in person. With Skype for Business, staff can convene virtually and share expertise and files anytime from wherever they are. We can also provide training more efficiently using live and recorded video conferences.

How are you using the solution to streamline patient workflow?

I’ll use a personal anecdote as an example: Not long after we made Skype for Business available to our staff, I saw our IHA pediatrician with my sick child. The pediatrician said she suspected my child had strep, and before she finished her sentence the medical assistant (MA) was in the room with a strep test kit. The pediatrician had instant-messaged the MA so that she didn’t have to leave the room to track down the test kit. Being able to instant- message staff to coordinate whatever is needed for a patient visit streamlines workflow and enables our providers to provide efficient, high-quality patient experiences.

What’s an example of how you’re using Skype for Business for telemedicine with patients?

In the past, our infectious-disease physicians who are based in Ann Arbor would have to make a 90-minute roundtrip drive to see patients at St. Joseph Mercy Livingston Hospital. Now, they’re meeting with those patients via Skype video conferences. That means the patients can be seen more quickly. And our physicians are saving all that driving time.

How did user adoption go?

Funny story: when I first shared that we’d be rolling out this new solution in a meeting with about 70 practice managers, I was actually booed. They’ve been through a lot of new technology deployments that took a very long time and hindered rather than helped their workflow.

But pretty quickly after we made Skype for Business available to our offices on a voluntary basis, it took off like wildfire—because both administrative and clinical staff who used it found that it saved them time and helped them provide better patient care. Now, 95 percent of our staff are using Skype for Business.

So we went from being booed to a 95 percent adoption rate. Not bad.

To sum up, what are the three greatest benefits IHA has experienced with virtual health capabilities?

Easy real-time communication with instant messaging. The ability to meet and collaborate from anywhere, whether that’s video conferences, online training, or sharing files. And the fact that it’s built into Microsoft Office. Our staff constantly comment on how easy it is to use with their other tools.

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