Back in 1969, four physicians partnered together to form what would become the Huntington Internal Medicine Group (HIMG). The following year, a plane crash claimed the lives of the entire Marshall football team, members of the coaching staff, boosters and two physicians, who were members of a different medical group. The remaining four members of that group joined with the four HIMG partners, bringing the total physicians up to eight. And with that number of doctors, the physicians were able to begin specializing.
Since those early days, HIMG has become what CFO Richard Queen calls a “medical mall” with over 70 providers and family care specialists, a full pharmacy, imaging center, lab and infusion center available under a single roof. They are the only medical group in the area that operates at such a complex level outside of a hospital. And given the diversity of the patient base, with 65% Medicare patients and the other 35% from private insurance, they share a great deal of the communication challenges as a hospital with a fraction of the infrastructure.
Though HIMG’s facility is by no means small, having moved into an abandoned Wal-Mart in 2006 that was part of a $21 million remodel, the challenges of communicating with such a large patient base are monumental. HIMG sees more than 17,000 visits a month, over 850 visits a day.
First and foremost, all communication must be secure. Any transmission of patient data over an unsecure channel of communication is a HIPAA violation, and HIPAA violations can be incredibly costly. So, security is always a top priority.
One of the biggest changes from 1969 to now is the incredible access to mobility. Today doctors can travel from place to place both in and out of the facility and expect to be easily reachable via their mobile devices.
Patients also expect this mobility. A patient expects to call at any time and talk to “my doctor” on the phone, or at least a member of the doctor’s staff. Often patients will call their HIMG doctor even in emergency situations, rather than visiting an emergency room, so time and access are critical factors.
To complicate things further, the general movement in patient-doctor communication has increasingly become non-face-to-face where many programs need the patients to simply report over the phone or online. This can improve outcomes greatly because the constant communication, without requiring the patient to visit the facility, is excellent at spotting trends. And in spotting trends, care can be delivered more precisely.
To address these communications challenges, IS Director, Wes Simpkins, contacted Advantage Technology. “I chose Advantage Technology because I knew they would be there. There is no one else in the area that I would recommend,” Mr. Simpkins said. He had worked with Advantage Technology many times in the past at a manufacturing company before joining HIMG. He found Advantage Technology’s technical expertise, response times and competitive pricing to set it apart from any competition. Advantage Technology is also a complete IT solution, not simply a telecommunications company. So if help with the servers or network were needed in addition to communications equipment, Advantage Technology would be able to help.
Together Advantage Technology and HIMG developed a two year, four stage IT overhaul plan that centered around upgrading the network and installing a ShoreTel phone system. This included over 600 phones, routing to mobile phones, a comprehensive call center, call reporting and management of after-hours calls. “I would call ShoreTel a truly modern phone system,” said Mr. Simpkins.
In the past, the team at HIMG were locked in a position of managing communication failures, but with the help of Advantage Technology and ShoreTel, they can begin planning more strategically to bring even more cutting edge tools to their patients and doctors. Moving forward they will be adding new mobile devices and online interactive tools and maybe even wearable technologies to help spot trending medical issues. With the help of cutting edge technology, Huntington’s medical mall has a bright future with better communication and better patient outcomes.