How TextMarks Text Messaging Helped Healthcare Management Services Facilitate Critical Communication During The COVID-19 Pandemic
Healthcare Management Services partnered with TextMarks in order to meet state and federal communication guidelines for eight skilled nursing facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the process, they transformed communication for patient families and improved staff safety and morale.
Increase in Communication Efficiency
Reduction in Costs Compared To Nearest TextMarks’ Competitor
Families Impacted by Improved Communication Across Eight Locations
Healthcare Management Services provides administrative support services to eight California skilled nursing facilities located in Los Angeles, Escondido, and Sacramento.
The company needed a robust communication solution to meet federal and state regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic. When offerings by current Electronic Health Record (EHR) providers proved inflexible and expensive, the company realized they needed a more affordable and flexible approach to patient family communication.
TextMarks provided a customized SMS solution integrated with unique databases for each of the eight facilities in support of streamlined communications for 400+ families.
As COVID-19 ravaged California, the disease hit senior care facilities particularly hard. To keep vulnerable populations safe, state and federal regulators quickly rolled out a spate of requirements for healthcare and skilled nursing facilities. Strict guidelines around patient family communication were enacted in order to ensure families received critical information about patient condition and quality of care.
Greg Sewell, Director of Clinical Analytics & Reimbursement at Healthcare Management Services, knew that in order to meet the new requirements, he would have to completely transform how the facilities they service executed patient family communication.
The requirement was simple: The facility needed to communicate with family members and staff within a 24-hour period if there was a new COVID-positive case and let them know what was being done to control the spread of the virus.
The execution, however, proved daunting. “We’d never really been in a situation where we had to communicate with everybody at one time. Every once in a while, an emergency would come up, and most of the time the solution was making personal phone calls.”
Making phone calls proved to be extremely burdensome. “We definitely were overwhelmed with contacting hundreds of family members every day or even weekly,” said Sewell. “We wanted to find a better process.”
Sewell began evaluating technological solutions to improve the efficiency of the communication effort. “We needed to come up with a way to communicate this information with our families, and we chose to go with a way that we could openly communicate with them and push information out to them rather than requiring them to search for it,” Sewell shared.
Text Messaging Supports Rapid Broadcasts & Fluid Information
Sewell and the Healthcare Management System team had to decide which communication medium would be the most effective.
They considered email, but with its limited open rates and their need for quick communication turnaround, they knew it wasn’t the best fit. “We considered email as an option, but it takes longer. We do testing for COVID in our facilities on a weekly basis, so the information’s moving very rapidly. To sit down and put out a full email message gets very complicated.”
[pullquote-left]“A text message is just very simple. It gets quick details out that are just enough to help people understand that we’re on top of it.”[/pullquote-left]
Due to near 100% open rates and an established precedent for short, rapid communication, text messaging was clearly the best option for getting information to a large number of staff and families quickly: “A text message is just very simple. It gets quick details out that are just enough to help people understand that we’re on top of it. If they want more information, they can always call the facility.”
Sewell initially pursued a solution that integrated directly with the facilities’ Electronic Health Record (EHR), but quickly came to a dead end. At the time, there was no solution that could be deployed within the EHR and an upcoming one would be cost prohibitive.
“So, I went out searching for different ways that we could increase our communication with the family members and the staff. I looked at several different options, and I found TextMarks.”
Finding A Text Messaging Service Partner
During his research, Sewell compared several text messaging services. Given the scope and scale of the company’s communication needs across eight different locations and hundreds of family members, finding a partner that could address their needs at an affordable price wasn’t easy. “A lot of similar options allowed you basically one or two keywords or groups, and then you only had so many messages per month. And so, we would basically have to sign up each building separately in order to get them a keyword and to get so many messages.” Simply put, “TextMarks had the best pricing for what we needed.”
[pullquote-right]“It was a pretty simple process. Within a couple of days, we had everything set up”[/pullquote-right]
In TextMarks, Healthcare Management Services found a balance of product capability, customer support, and affordability that would make the solution work: “When I reached out to them, it was a match that worked out really well, because they were able to meet our needs specifically,” he said. “With TextMarks, I was able to get enough keywords to manage the whole set of buildings that we work with. And, the amount of text messages that we’re allotted within that plan more than covers all of the buildings for a whole month.”
Sewell needed multiple layers of command and control across eight different facilities. The TextMarks Customer Success team got to work and helped engineer a system that gave each facility manager the ability to manage communication at their location. “We were able to set it up so that each building has its own portal, and they’re able to control who has access and who doesn’t have access. Each building is in charge of its own communication system.”
Additionally, a super-admin command and control function to monitor and ensure facility administrators send information in the right way was set up. “I also have the ability to see what they’re communicating out to the families, so I can give them some guidance so that we’re not sending information that should be protected.”
With support from TextMarks, the system was deployed rapidly: “It was a pretty simple process. Within a couple of days, we had everything set up with all the buildings, and by day three, I was able to set up Zoom calls with each building and roll it out to them, and they took off with it.”
By partnering with TextMarks, Healthcare Management Systems deployed a solution in compliance with both state and federal regulations in just three days. According to Sewell, when compared with alternatives, TextMarks resulted in at least a 50% to 60% savings.
A Secure and Efficient Line Of Communication
For security purposes, it is important that each facility have visibility into who opts into the notification system. TextMarks worked with Healthcare Management Systems to develop a series of opt-in questions to gather information from each family member including name, email address, and patient relationship. This information populates a database which can be verified and vetted.
“We can control who’s in and who’s out, so we’re not sending out messages that we don’t need to,” Sewell describes. “If we have a patient that discharges from our facility, each manager knows how to go in and take somebody out, because they’ll no longer need those messages.”
[pullquote-left]“It’s a really easy system, and it provides a very clear and direct communication.”[/pullquote-left]
Integrating SMS messaging opt-in information into the patient intake process also ensures that getting families added to to receive notifications is seamless: “We now include a memo with all of our admission packets. When we have a new resident that comes into the facility, this memo is included, allowing the family to sign up from the day that the patient comes into the facility. It’s a really easy system, and it provides a very clear and direct communication.”
Sewell feels the addition of text messaging has allowed each facility to offer a better level of care for patients and families: “TextMarks allows us as a facility to be transparent with our family members, which we think is very important in increasing the trust that these families are placing in us to take care of their loved ones. We feel that it’s very important to make sure they have open communication, and that they always have an idea of what’s going on. If there’s ever something that’s going to impact the facility as a whole, they are going to hear it from us now with this type of a communication system.”
In addition to increasing transparency, the SMS messaging system has also significantly decreased the workload needed to get information out to the families. What used to take hours can be communicated more effectively and in a matter of minutes. “I would still say it’s reduced the man-hours by probably 80%,” Sewell adds.
Reliable Communication Amidst Chaos
In late May 2020, amidst a surging pandemic, widespread protests broke out against police brutality. Some protests descended into chaos and portions of Los Angeles became increasingly volatile.
“We have a building in one of the areas where the protests were really going on strong, and unfortunately, were turning into very unfortunate situations. We had a building right there, right in the heart of it,” Sewell described.
[pullquote-right]“It’s reduced the man-hours by probably 80%”[/pullquote-right]
Staff and families saw the unrest on the news and began to reach out for answers. Sewell saw that the same text messaging system could be used to provide staff and family members with facility security updates. After checking with the facility and confirming that everything was still okay, Healthcare Management Services pushed out a notification via SMS.
“Having that ability to communicate to everybody at one time and say ‘Hey, we want to alert you that the building is okay, so whatever you’re seeing on the news, just understand, building’s safe, everybody’s on site, they’re okay.’ It was helpful for everybody,” said Sewell.
Positive Impact to Family and Staff
[pullquote-left]By partnering with TextMarks, Healthcare Management Systems deployed a solution in compliance with both state and federal regulations in just three days.[/pullquote-left]
SMS texting messaging from TextMarks has provided peace of mind for helpless families isolated from their loved ones during the pandemic. “We’ve gotten the feedback from families that it does help curb that anxiety. We’ve even had family members call the facility and say, ‘We got your text message. We just want to let you know that we’re rooting for you guys. We know it’s hard. Thank you for continuing to take care of our family members.’”
For staff, the efficiency of text based communication makes being frontline healthcare workers a little bit easier. “All our administrators and our facility teams have picked it up and really appreciate the ability to communicate out to their families.”
TextMarks is proud to have made a positive contribution to the well being of patients, family, and staff of the skilled nursing facilities served by Healthcare Management Services. Our mass text messaging platform is a quick, ubiquitous, effective communication method for many situations, but it’s particularly satisfying when it’s used to help people in difficult circumstances.