Saleh Ghasemi is the Director QHN Technical Services, which is part of HHC Enterprise Information Technology. Ghasemi and his team of 40 are responsible for all the desktops, the service desk and helpdesk, web-based applications and intranet across 5,500 users in two major hospitals and satellite clinics.
Queens Health Network is a member of HHC and a major healthcare provider in the borough of Queens.
A major part of Ghasemi's role is to provide business continuity in a 24/7 organization and manage all the IT communications between Technical Services, Administration Services, patients and hospital staff.
Ghasemi had been frustrated by the available hospital staff communication channels not being fit for purpose for conveying urgent IT notifications. They were mostly using mass broadcast emails and the intranet. Ghasemi explains that,
“Emails became irrelevant to people. After a while they were not even reading them because they all sound the same and look the same.”
In common with many healthcare environments the limitations of email were glaring.
“We couldn’t really communicate with everybody in our organization because we still had a good population of people who did not have email accounts. And if they did have email, they did not have computers to access them in an emergency or even a regular basis.”
Ghasemi always thought there was a better solution — something with “bells and whistles” that will actually pop up on the screen and get the attention of staff. He came across the SnapComms’ hospital communication channels while researching alternatives online.
In March 2011 the Technical Services team implemented four new staff communication channels — SnapComms Desktop Alert messages, Scrolling Newsfeeds, Staff Quiz and Staff Surveys and Corporate Screensavers — across QHN.
Example of a screensaver message:
Communicating planned and unplanned outages - The IT area uses the desktop alert channel as an outage notification tool to communicate both scheduled and unplanned outages and to keep hospital staff updated with any issues around system downtime. Ghasemi says,
“We find it to be very effective because you can focus desktop messages to certain groups… let’s say certain clinical applications and PCs that have that application on it. You can send that desktop message only to those people and specifically tell them what you expect them to do.”
Outside the IT area - SnapComms is mostly used by the clinical administration departments that need to be able to notify hospital staff in the event of an emergency occurring such as fire, infant abduction or hazardous material spills.
Color-coded templates have been created that administrators can speedily use, just by changing out the description information and reissuing. Individual reports on who has received each fresh notification and within what time scales can still be readily obtained.
Example of a desktop alert message:
News and information updates - Other hospital departments use SnapComms for news and information updates. For example, Ghasemi says that the SnapComms channels were used in preparation for joint commission audits.
“It’s a good tool for letting people know what is going on and be aware of auditing presence in an area.”
Reaching dispersed hospital staff with training and quizzes - QHN also use the staff survey and staff quiz tool to collect information and for training purposes. For example, resident clinical staff need to be educated on certain procedures and processes. But it’s difficult to get doctors, students and everyone else together at the same time. So presentations and training documentation have been created that embed a quiz at the end, which staff take once they have gone through the material. IT then sends the relevant department a spread sheet of who has taken the quiz, together with trainees’ marks. The department then manages the communication back to staff.
Dedicated Message Administrators - While IT has total access to SnapComms and can communicate with staff in both hospitals and issue emergency or back-up communications, they have also set up different administrators with varying levels of authority that can create and send desktop messages for PCs located in their own department or hospital.
Message targeting based on Active Directory settings - The QHN team have created groups in the SnapComms database using Active Directory in order to expedite the communication of emergency events and administrative updates. Technical Services’ approach has been to empower the different administration and clinical areas of the hospital and provide them with training, reports and templates and give them access to use SnapComms as they saw fit.
Ghasemi explains, “We provide a tool for them and how they use it and what they use it for is based on their need.”
SnapComms messages now preferred over e-mail - SnapComms messages are preferred by Queens Health Network staff over emails. Ghasemi says that, “Especially the administration thinks it is an effective way of communicating with the rest of the population.”
No surprises - Ghasemi is pragmatic when considering the benefits of using SnapComms in an Hospital environment. He says, “It hasn’t surprised us in a bad way. I expected this tool to be very effective and it is.”
Speed and targeting of hospital communications - The ability to target messages to certain groups of staff or clinical applications has had significant advantages and when a system goes down unexpectedly time is of the essence.
“One of the major benefits of this system is real-time.” Ghasemi says that, “You have a lot of control over when, who and how to send these messages to. That is one of the major benefits of this system that you cannot get via other conventional communication.”
Other hospitals within HHC have become aware of the SnapComms tools and have asked about how they could be used throughout the corporation. Meanwhile within QHN Ghasemi believes that there is a lot more they could do with the hospital communication tools but have yet to use them to their full potential. “The tools can be used a lot more effectively and more often and do a lot more things. We have not really taken advantage of all the capabilities, that much I can tell you.”
Example of a screensaver message:
“I expected this tool to be very effective & it is.”
Two major hospitals and satellite clinics
Local hosting of the SnapComms solution using:
|Desktop Alert Messages||Desktop Tickers|
|Staff Quizzes||Staff Surveys|
|Corporate Screensaver Messaging|
Address the problem of email fatigue, which resulted in urgent communications failing to be noticed
Communicate with hospital staff with no email access
Delegated communications - Empower hospital departments to communicate with their own staff and groups
Deliver emergency and outage communications fast
Improve control - of how and when hospital communications are issued
Multiple Message Administrators
Targeting of messages to specific staff groups or clinical applications users
Speed of communication when a system goes down unexpectedly
Highly targeted distribution ensures staff only receive communications that are relevant to them
Can communicate with everyone in the organization, even those with no email accounts
Staff survey and quiz features to collect information and support training initiatives
A platform which supports other less overt communication channels for more general hospital communications to staff, such as news and information updates
“Emails became irrelevant to people. After a while they were not even reading them because they all sound the same and look the same… I always thought there was a better solution and I found it.”