Skip Rollins – Freeman Health System
It’s not often that healthcare is compared to retail, but as hospitals and clinics become more reliant on technology to provide streamlined services, Leonard “Skip” Rollins says his staff is all about providing an “Amazon experience.”
“When it comes to patient education and scheduling, it’s becoming more on demand than ever before, and from an IT perspective we have to try and be mindful of how quickly things change so we are ready with new technology models,” he says.
Rollins is the CIO of Joplin, Missouri-based Freeman Health System, a locally-owned, not-for-profit network of hospitals and clinics. Locations include Freeman Hospital West, Freeman Hospital East, Freeman Neosho Hospital, and Ozark Center, a mental health facility. Together, the network’s more than 300 physicians provide general medicine, cancer treatment, heart and vascular care, neurosurgery, orthopedics and many other specialties.
With so many different practices, Rollins and his team are building mobile applications and platforms that give doctors more freedom to work outside the hospital, and at the same time empower patients to be more involved with their care.
Rollins says these projects represent a larger healthcare shift toward Virtual Medicine, or the use of virtual encounters and technology to provide services.
“We’ve found that there is no traditional model for this [shift] because hospitals and clinics are all doing it in so many different ways,” Rollins says. Freeman Health System decided to use technology that doctors, patients and nurses were already comfortable with.
In August 2017, Freeman Health System launched a mobile platform that has streamlined communication inside the hospital.
When nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants arrive at work, they stop at a kiosk at or near the nurses’ station to pick up a Freeman-issued and authorized iPhone. These phones are connected to the hospital’s wireless network and telephone system. Using the phone, they can review patient information, look up a patient’s doctor or any other member of the patient’s care team and contact them directly, because the platform connects doctors’ personal devices to the hospitals.
For example, if a nurse has a question about an electrocardiogram (EKG), that nurse can securely send the image or a text message to the cardiologist for his or her review. This allows the physician to be released from the need to have their laptop close by, and allows them to attend their kid’s soccer game or go out to dinner, knowing they can participate in the decision-making process, without looking at a computer screen.
While it’s not surprising that younger physicians, nurse practitioners and other “physician extenders” have taken to the platform very quickly, Rollins says less tech savvy physicians are also benefiting from the new tools.
They can focus on the face-to-face patient discussions that they are used to, while the extenders can take care of the rest, using the new, efficient system.
Human side of healthcare
Life is getting easier for patients, too.
“We are trying to put more user friendly tools in people’s hands; we believe an iPad or iPhone is a much better vehicle to use for our electronic patient encounters,” Rollins says.
In 2016, Freeman Health System piloted a program that gives patients the ability to FaceTime or Skype with out-of-state visitors. On top of these virtual visits, as Rollins calls them, the organization is in the process of building a platform that uses predictive analytics to track tests and general health.
This information is then used to help nurses and doctors see when they should schedule follow-up appointments. One day, Rollins sees Freeman Health System even using this information to provide patients with daily updates on their health.
“If you think about people with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, they have to be constantly interacting with their healthcare providers to monitor and manage this condition. We expect that someday we will partner with the patients to monitor their care with mobile devices,” he says.
But even if the day comes when patients track their heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and eyesight from their phone, Rollins says Freeman Health System will always provide a human touch to healthcare.
“I personally am happy to be late to a meeting because I was busy walking a patient back to their room, and that is the kind of culture we are taught to apply to our work here,” he says.
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