Hospital goes social, puts 'paper last'

by Healthcare IT News

In opening its new, flagship hospital in the state capital last month, MaineGeneral Medical Center took a bit of a gamble promoting the a $312 million Alfond Center for Health on Facebook.

"Healthcare tends to lag a little bit in terms of social media," Nicole McSweeney, director of marketing and communications for MaineGeneral, said. "It really lagged here in Maine."

MaineGeneral counted down the final 100 days before the Nov. 9 opening of the Alfond Center via Facebook and through a temporary website, Posts included photo galleries, history of MaineGeneral and event listings.

Twitter, however, was not really a consideration given local trends, said McSweeney. "Twitter in Central Maine is not that widely used," she said.

The Facebook page for the new hospital has about 2,100 followers. While that's barely a blip compared to the 723,000 "likes" the Cleveland Clinic has, it still is more than twice as many than before the countdown started, according to McSweeney.

The campaign seems to have worked. An open house promoted on Facebook drew 12,000 visitors in one weekend in Augusta, a town with a population of fewer than 20,000.

When the hospital opened, MaineHealth had to transport 120 patients in a single day from the two old inpatient facilities in Augusta and Waterville, which were being consolidated into a single campus.

"A lot of people wanted to watch," McSweeney recalled. But management was concerned about violating the privacy rights of the patients being moved, so McSweeney relied on Facebook to try to keep the public away.

"We made a commitment to post hourly updates" of the move on Facebook, McSweeney said. She reported getting 11,000 page views that day, and the transfer was successful. "There were very few hiccups. Things went very smoothly," McSweeney said.

Since the opening, the Facebook page has had a profile of an executive each Sunday. McSweeney also posts updates on new services and observances of health-related events, such as World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.

The old hospital in Waterville is being remodeled into an outpatient center with a 24/7 emergency department, to be called Thayer Center for Health when it opens next fall. Expect to see updates on Facebook.

The Alfond Center for Health is modern in terms of information technology, though the IT shop is more functional than groundbreaking.

Allscripts inpatient and ambulatory EHRs were in place at the old facilities, and those transferred over, said CIO Danny Burgess. "We coupled our existing technologies with some new technologies," Burgess said.

Burgess said his top priorities for 2014 are complying with ICD-10 by the federally mandated Oct. 1 deadline and meeting Stage 2 requirements for the meaningful use EHR incentive program.

The hospital is not fully paperless, though most data capture and retrieval is electronic, according to Burgess. "It's a paper-last environment," he said.

Mark St. John, administrative director for technology services, said that MaineGeneral is consolidating much of its IT infrastructure into a 1,400-square-foot data center in the new facility, and also has built a distributed antenna system into the facility to help ensure reliable wireless coverage.

Patient-facing technology includes a real-time location system from Traverse City, Mich.-based Versus Technology, with integration of devices from a variety of other vendors.

A Responder 5 nurse call system, provided by Rauland-Borg, Mount Prospect, Ill., is integrated with the RTLS, as is Vocera wireless communications hardware, St. John said. With the help of Philips Intellispace Event Manager software, nurse calls and in-room patient monitors are tied to the Vocera "badge" that each nurse wears. When an alarm sounds, the nurse can go to the patient's room or simply make a call from the wireless communications badge, St. John said.

This setup allowed MaineGeneral to replace its pagers within the hospital, though the organization still does use the antiquated technology because its service area across mostly rural Kennebec County is sparsely populated, and wireless broadband coverage is spotty, according to St. John.

Each inpatient room has a 44-inch HDTV, and TeleHealth Services, of Raleigh, N.C., is supplying patient education services over the in-house cable system, St. John said. Clinicians can turn the screen on their in-room computers to show videos as well.

For staff, about 30 meeting rooms, including a large education center, have been outfitted with videoconferencing equipment to communicate with other MaineGeneral facilities. So far, the links have mostly been used for meetings, though St. John expects to see the organization employ the technology for medical and nursing education.

"I think it's not as widely used as it's going to be in a year," St. John said.

[See also: Maine aims to lead on telehealth front]