Connection is the foundation of a strong clinical collaboration platform. Dr. Shafiq Rab, CIO at Wellforce, believes that healthcare communication should not only bring physicians together but also physicians and patients in a frictionless way.
In this episode of The Connected Care Team, Dr. Rab discusses the role TigerConnect plays in the digital transformation at Wellforce and the importance of bringing joy into physician workflows.
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Dr. OConnor: [00:00:00] Welcome to the connected care team podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Will O'Connor. And today we have with us, Dr. Shafiq Rab from Wellforce.
Dr. Rab. Good afternoon. Welcome to the show.
Dr. Rab: Thank you, Dr. O'Connor. Thank you for this opportunity to speak with you today.
Dr. OConnor: Yeah, it's great to uh, it's great to have you here. Um, Let's, let's dive right in. Would love to hear a little bit about you and your role at Wellforce and a little bit about that organization.
Dr. Rab: My name is Shafiq Rab. I’m the Chief [00:00:30] digital officer and system CIO for Wellforce Inc. Uh, Wellforce is a very unique place. It has an academy of medical center known as Tufts medical center and Tufts children's hospital. It has two large community hospitals. One is Lowell General that also has another hospital system, the hospital with it, Melrose-Wakefield, and Lowells. They are north of here. Uh, It also encompasses about 2,100 [00:01:00] physicians who are part of a clinically integrated network. Uh, It also uh, encompasses three home health foundations together. So you can say that Wellforce Inc is a place where we have academy medical center, community health centers, community hospitals, home health.
All aspects of, of care that we can provide in a community so that we can provide a frictionless care to our community. [00:01:30] We have that energy. We have that commitment for our people who we serve.
Dr. OConnor: It seems like it's a fairly wide geography spread over a fairly large area.
Dr. Rab: That is correct. Thank you for saying that though. We are Eastern Massachusetts from near the border of New Hampshire up to Cape Cod. We are spread out over. Thank you for noticing that.
Dr. OConnor: Yeah. Yeah. Well, it's, it, it, you know, it's one of those types of geographies where it sounds like being able to communicate across that [00:02:00] network would be valued at a, at a premium. I would love to hear a little bit about why you actually chose TigerConnect.
Dr. Rab: Well, first of all, we love your CEO. He's a very ambitious and a good human being. I have to tell you that. The decision in participating with your company, the vision of the CEO and the vision of the company, and the people like you Dr. O'Connor who work there and guide the company. I think the vision [00:02:30] of TigerConnect is very bold.
As a company, it believes in service and it believes in making innovative products that actually help not only the health system but also the communities that it serves. Our interest initially was just to look for a texting solution. And it is not just a texting solution, but we found out as we started getting involved more with the company [00:03:00] and the people who work there, is their vision of connecting people together.
And from connecting means not only communication for physicians but also communication for all caregivers and including the patients. So the idea of having the same information in lickety split, whether you are part of an EMR or whether you are [00:03:30] not part of an EMR. Whether you are part of a system or not part of a system.
So think, the beauty of it. It takes away as I call it the discrimination of being part of something. But that means if you want to communicate with anybody, you can. At the time that you want to communicate, you can. So what it takes, it takes away the extraordinary mystery of [00:04:00] being able to talk to each other in time of need.
Or in time of when you really need the most important information. So you’re asking your fundamental thing that, ‘why did you select TigerConnect?’ So the simple answer is TigerConnect connects.
Dr. OConnor: Very good answer. Very good answer. You know, one of the things you said really struck a chord with me where, because there are health systems trying to do this [00:04:30] within their EMR. Talk to me a little bit more about that specific aspect of it and why you believe it's important to take a different approach.
Dr. Rab: So, you know, it's nice that you can connect within your EHR and it's a good product. There is nothing wrong with it, but here's the thing; healthcare is not limited to your system. That means, you can live in one hospital, you can be a patient there [00:05:00] and you may be discharged and you may go to a doctor that may have the same EMR or EHR that your system has you're lucky. But if they don't have the same EHR, then you, how will you communicate?
So, number one reason for us to understand that the healthcare, health, and care are not governed by EHRs. They’re governed by a condition that a patient has or a [00:05:30] community member has, or a customer has, and they want to get relief. They want to come be seen in a, in a, in a, in a acute care or in a primary care, or in the home care, they want to go to a laboratory, they could be in a pharmacy, all settings where cares are provided or they're living in healthy life, walking somewhere so that they can live.
That means the community member or the customer or the patient [00:06:00] is living life. And our job is to provide some way to communicate. Whether complete your walk or come and take your prescription or the doctors talking among themselves securely: ‘Hey man, I need your help. I need your consult.’ Or ‘What do you think I should do in this criteria that is happening to the patient?’
So to answer your question, sometimes there is a limitation by either [00:06:30] HIPAA by either government or by either the limitation of the EHR to talk outside. We don't want that. We want people who are within our EHR, or not to communicate with each other securely, safely about the patient.
About the care provider, about the caregiver, and also patients among themselves. TigerConnect provides that.
Dr. OConnor: Yes. Yes. Yes. I think, you know, we, we do [00:07:00] see that as a important piece to include everyone. And you know, as you said, there are lots of people outside that immediate care team who are involved in the care and coordination of care for that, for that patient.
And you know, that has been a, that has been a philosophy of ours that we've we've chosen to go with is be, be inclusive.
Dr. Rab: And Dr. O'Connor, there are other products that TigerConnect has. One of them is your product that allows us to listen to [00:07:30] alarms and other things. So we can communicate internally immediately about that. Within the EHR, outside the EHR.
Dr. OConnor: Yeah. Talk to me a little bit more about that. Cause that, that is a piece that people are really starting to think about now is having all of your communication on one platform. And whether that be a message from someone, a call from someone, or perhaps a message or an alert or an alarm from [00:08:00] a physiologic monitor or the nurse call system.
Talk to me a little bit more about that and your thinking around, including those types of information in your communication platform.
Dr. Rab: So if I use your words this is clinical platform or alarm management and event notification patient engagement, physician scheduling. These are only words, but in real meaning what is it? What it means is that when you are providing care for a patient [00:08:30] or a consumer or a community member, when you're providing that care, you'll need to talk to your colleagues.
Whether it's a nurse person, whether it's a doctor person, whether there's a case management person, we call that collaboration. Right? But if there is some alarm that's happening, we call it V-tach, somebody's having a V-fib, that means a heart is running very fast and the ventricles cannot [00:09:00] be in this place.
Right? So we gotta tell somebody, ‘Hey man, this patient is going into v-tach’ before it goes to someone else. So that alarm will tell you, ‘Hey, oh somebody's throwing bigeminy or trigeminy. That means PVCs are going premature, ventricular contractions are happening at the rate that can totally be very bad.
Ultimately, somebody’s got to do something about it.
Right? So in reality, we're talk, we're trying to talk about things that may [00:09:30] deteriorate the condition and somebody should take care of it. Similarly, we're talking about, if you go home and then you need to go see your PCP, that's actually known as patient scheduling.
So what I'm trying to tell you, if you can do all of that in one place, isn't that a beautiful thing? Rather than click here, go there. Call your mother, call my father and talk to 20 other people and use three other software, how's that gonna work out, man? [00:10:00] So it's not frictionless anymore. You know what I'm saying?
So that's what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about when we say it's a collaboration platform. I gave you all these examples so that people can understand technology is not technology. Technology should be meaningful. It has to be pleasurable. So, and it's useful. That's what the technology's here for. Technology is not here to dictate the terms, but be helpful [00:10:30] in providing the right care for the right patient at the right time, every time.
And, and we need enablers. So to make it easy.
Dr. OConnor: A couple of the words that you just used there, you know, pleasurable and, and useful. I think it's important that any technology that we're expecting people to use is that way, and is a joy to use and is easy to use.
And I think that's why we've struggled for [00:11:00] so long to get physicians, to use the EMR in particular and other folks, many times they had to be dragged, kicking, and screaming. And, that was the next thing I really wanted to ask you about is what's your strategy? What's your thinking around, you know, getting physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, everyone that needs to use this communication platform to make it work. What's your strategy around getting everyone to use it?
Dr. Rab: Our CMIO Dr. William Harvey [00:11:30] is leading the effort. And I tell you Will, is a very good soul. But what we are doing is that first of all, it’s a buy-in. That means we have convinced we have shown we have got their input and we have actually included them in the decision process. That's the one. Second, but also showing this to the nurses we are showing to the other caregivers and we already have deployed it in our community.
Plus we had also given it to all our private physicians. [00:12:00] So that means whether you work for us or not, you have access to it. At the same time, the two community hospitals have already deployed it. The main academic medical center is deploying it in the middle of, in the middle of it. So that's number one.
Number two, we have people who are the, from a your company supporting that. There's a training for it. There's the access to it. And most importantly, that what I have to tell you, there’s not a lot of learning for it. [00:12:30] So there is a second company, which I have never called from my phone and so it's very similar to that experience that it just works.
Like I said before, there’s a directory, there’s a privacy and there is a certain ring and certain way to get to certain people. So we are taking care of that in the back end. So what I'm trying to tell you is that we're trying to make it pleasurable for people to use it in a single click. It’s right there, you have your conversation.
You can either dictate on it or you can [00:13:00] type it, the person gets it. You get the reply back. It's very similar in the olden days. Dr. O'Connor when I needed you, I knew your cell phone number. So I'd call you, ‘Hey man, I got to send a patient, will you take it or not?’ That is similar to that.
Dr. OConnor: You know, if we make it easy uh, people will, people will use it.
Talk to me a little bit about, you know, cause this takes a lot of effort to, to do this and put this all together and, and anytime you're spending time and money inside an organization, you need to have a return on investment.
You need to justify [00:13:30] your costs of, of what you're working on and what you're doing. Talk to me a little bit about the impact that you hope that this initiative has for Wellforce.
Dr. Rab: So I think that, so number one, our CEO, Mike Dandorph is a very good human being. Uh, he told me that Shafiq I hired you because you believe in bringing joy in the lives of the caregivers and the people who work here and then in the community. So because there is a deep [00:14:00] commitment here to serve our doctors, our caregivers, and the people who work here.
Of course, we have to do the ROI and we have to do the cross-analysis and all those things. One of the key things that has helped us to make this possible is that the physicians and the caregivers who are not part of our EHR, who are not part of our health system, can still communicate with us. And we can communicate with them.
[00:14:30] That is is the key element here that if anybody wants to talk to us, about taking a patient or us giving them a patient or they want to talk something about some information that they have and they'll want to learn about it, and they want to get to their colleagues, they can get them instantaneously.
So that was our number one impetus to make sure that we can communicate within ourselves, outside and [00:15:00] anybody else who'd like to communicate with us. That's the number one impetus. Second in the ROI was that we also wanted to make sure that the clinical decisions could be done immediately by communication, not waiting for adverse events to happen, not waiting for bad things to happen.
So that, that communication part when needed uh, there’s an e-mail, you can send an email or you can send a mail or you can talk never. So those are different ways of doing it, but, [00:15:30] but clinical information and clinical alerts, and those things that are possible. Similarly physician scheduling uh, can also be possible.
So when you're asking for that, then right, the biggest sort of turn, and this is number one, it makes a lot of things, simple, lot of things easy, and it makes, it takes the nervousness out of people who are [00:16:00] working on it.
And lastly, it brings joy and easy easiness to the workflow of the caregivers.
So like, there's, there's a TV ad and I don't know whether I can use that or not, but that is priceless. You can't buy that. So, so, so just go an ROI on that, you just can't buy that.
Dr. OConnor: I think we can let you use that. I want to ask one final question, Dr. Rab. Actually, I have two more. I think [00:16:30] we have time for two. I'd like to ask about physician scheduling and in my experience, that decision and that work is often made at a departmental level.
How did you organize and build consensus across your organization to make a organizational decision on physician scheduling?
Dr. Rab: So what we do at Wellforce, we don't do it ourselves. There is a [00:17:00] advisory group. There's a work council. So first thing we don't believe that tools are important. What is our utility? That means the physician leadership and the whole thing is run by Dr. Mike Wagner. So I mentioned these names because these are luminaries who have helped me to get to do things because IT and technology and tools they’re just tools.
They are there to support. The real idea is can we have open [00:17:30] scheduling or not. So if you don't want to open a scheduling, we'll put a blip on it and say, this doctor does not provide open scheduling, call this number. So he, you know, we can do all that, but yeah, but the thing, the credit to this goes to the care providers and caregivers at Wellforce, they are truly the heroes.
And they truly are great people to work with. Believe me, if you, like I said, if [00:18:00] you, God forbid, if you ever need care, come to one of our places and you will see how the caregivers actually go out of their way to serve the patients. I mean, this is truly a blessing place, so it was not a big deal for me.
Talk to the scheduling people, talk to other people, whether we put this thing, we put some other. But the consensus was that, if you want new patients, we can bring some other software like Zocdoc and other thing, but connect it to the same place.[00:18:30] At the end of the day, we want to connect to the same place so that we have one workflow.
And if the patient wants to connect to us, whether email, they can, the want to call us, they can, they want to text us, they can. They want to do a bot, they can. They want to do a video, they can. So the thing is that our number one goal is to provide a choice. A choice, if you had a millennium Z, or you are like [00:19:00] me.
Use your preferred method. There's only one message outside Wellforce. We are here to serve you and with our caregivers, with our employees, and with our administrative staff. We are all here for you. One component is TigerConnect and the components that were are using to make a frictionless care. That's, it's so simple.
And it is very hard to explain where this philosophy doesn't [00:19:30] belong or people don't understand. But here we are here for the patients. We are here for our company. God has given us this tool. So we'll use it. That’s pretty much it.
Dr. OConnor: Well, Wellforce sounds like an amazing place Dr. Rab, they are they are lucky to have you, your, your perspective on, on communication is one that would benefit any organization that they truly are blessed to have you as well. So, I really appreciate you taking the time today to uh, to join us here on the [00:20:00] show.
And uh, I hope you will come back and talk to us again, as you continue your implementation of TigerConnect.
Dr. Rab: Uh, I will gladly come if you have me, I should be so lucky. Thank you.
Dr. OConnor: Okay. Thanks, Dr. Rab.