Release of Information: How to Social Distance Successfully

05.12.20 Shelley DauSchmidt

10 questions to ask when transitioning your ROI team to remote work

We have all seen rapid changes to the way we work, due to COVID-19 and the measures needed to curtail its spread. Amid layoffs and closures, much of the workforce, including many workers tasked with ROI, are now navigating a new, work-from-home environment.

Even as some states begin to relax stay-at-home orders, there is a great deal of uncertainty about what the next several months will look like. One thing is for certain: They won’t look the same as they did before the coronavirus.

Untangling the complexities of ROI amid social distancing

Until there’s a vaccine or cure, health experts say that social distancing is one of our best tools to prevent the spread of the virus.

What does social distancing mean for HIM leaders across the country? It means there has never been a better time to transition your ROI team to remote work.

Historically, ROI work required people in the “records office” to scan, copy, fax, and even hand-deliver patient records. In today’s digital and interoperable healthcare environment, many ROI tasks can be completed just as effectively, efficiently, and securely at home, with the right tools and processes in place.

We’ve been inspired by our Moxe partners as they’ve rolled up their sleeves and come up with creative solutions to quickly transition mostly in-office workforces to mostly remote ones.

If you’re looking to transition your ROI team to remote work in this era of social distancing, here are 10 questions to consider:


1) Are you thinking big enough?
 

Now is the time to get creative and reexamine your processes. Look at the workflows you previously thought could only be completed by someone who was physically in the office. What are the barriers to those workflows being completed at home/offsite? How can you overcome those barriers? What resources, technology, or partnerships will help you remove those barriers?

One of our partners spoke about how crucial it is to have information technology (IT) allies who are invested in the success of the organization’s ROI program. Leverage IT and other partnerships to solve problems.

Challenge yourself to say “What if we could . . .” more than “But we’ve never . . .”—after all, unique challenges call for unique solutions.

As you innovate to help your employees work from home when possible, remember to involve the frontline folks who perform ROI tasks. They can provide valuable perspectives and insights.

 

2) How will you ensure protected health information (PHI) remains just that—protected

Whether your team works in the office or remotely, HIPAA rules remain the same. Talk with your team about the unique challenges that working at home may present. For example, many of your team members may not have a separate, private, home office. If they’re working at the kitchen table or another shared space, how will they prevent their family members from viewing PHI? Are your systems that contain PHI, like your EMR, configured to automatically log off users who have been idle? Do your team members have access to a secure, HIPAA-compliant network connection? Do they have a smart speaker that needs to be shut off? Is there a paper shedder nearby?

Identify employees who will need remote access. Determine device usage and confirm that it is limited to the staff member—not family or friends. Additionally, keep a log of remote access activity. Establish a list and protocol for what needs to be amended in the new remote environment. Work with your security officer to establish protocols that maintain patient privacy in the new remote environment.

 

3) Do your team members have access to the tools and resources they need to successfully work at home? 

Have you been meaning to transition the contents of that white binder with important process documents and contacts online? (Don’t be ashamed; we all have the binder.) Now is a great time to transfer the information to digital since the processes might be amended given your newly examined workflows. Bonus points if you rejuvenate the file structure (you can call it spring cleaning).

Ensure all of your team members know where to access your department’s most up-to-date policies, procedures, and workflows. Now is also the time to establish a secure VPN connection and troubleshoot that your entire team is able to access (we all know how that first login attempt can go).

 

4) Do you need to reeducate your requestors? 

Whether your ROI team is working from home or not, the more clearly you define what information, approvals, etc. you need from your requestors, the more your ROI team can focus on fulfilling requests instead of following up. Especially if you are making any changes to the way you receive ROI requests or send PHI, ensure ROI how-to materials are clearly communicated on your organization’s website, in new patient information packets, after-visit summaries, or anywhere else requestors may look for information about requesting patient records.

 

5) For those tasks that require an in-office presence, how can you help your team members socially distance while in the office?

Once you’ve examined your workflows, you might identify that some aspects still require in-person efforts. The best way to successfully social distance in an office is with thoughtful planning. With your newly examined workflow, create a detailed list of exactly which components need to be performed onsite.

Work with your team to define roles and responsibilities for these select tasks, and define go exactly who/what/when/how they will be performed.  What can you do to limit contact?  Can you limit attendance? Perhaps you have employee A work in the office on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to handle in-person tasks, and employee B works in the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with thorough cleanings in-between. Can you position your desk pattern differently to ensure physical distance? Discuss safety supplies, availability, usage, and proper disposal. Keep the feedback loop going, and reevaluate tasks and protocols regularly.

 

6) What will replace your morning coffee chats or lunchroom check-ins? 

During this challenging time, employee morale can certainly take a dip. While quarantine may require physical isolation, remote work shouldn’t mean zero face-to-face time. In the Harvard Business Review article “8 Ways to Manage Your Team While Social Distancing,” the author notes that frequent communication helps boost morale and team member engagement. Additionally, the article highlights the importance of transparency in times of crisis. Consider scheduling a daily team videochat to keep your team connected to you, to each other and to information that affects their work. Share challenges you’re facing in working remotely, and encourage your team to do the same. Use instant messaging platforms to engage regularly and include opportunities to focus on positive aspects of coworkers’ lives—cute pets are always a win.

 

7) Are there parts of your ROI workflow you can put on auto-pilot

If you look for them, automation opportunities abound. What ROI activities can you put on auto-pilot so that your team is only dealing with exceptions, rather than every request? What are the time consuming, perhaps mundane tasks your team would gladly hand off to an office RO(I)bot, if you had one? Chase lists, anyone?

Automation has been critical not only to meet the increased request volumes over the past several years, but also has made the transition to remote work easier. By its very nature, automation requires little to no human intervention. That sounds like a big social distancing win to us.

 

8) Are there ways you can give your team members the gift of time? 

With an entire household quarantined together, you might find that a workday no longer fits within a typical 9-5 window. Are there ways to add flexibility to the schedule?

This question also goes hand-in-hand with #7. If there are pieces of your ROI workflow you can automate, the time saved can allow flexibility for your team to work on other tasks and manage their particular quarantine needs, such as helping their kiddos with their book reports—fingers double-crossed that schools will reopen this fall.

 

9) Are you thinking about the future? 

Uncertainty about the future can cause a lot of anxiety. We’re in the same boat: we don’t know what tomorrow, next month, or next year will hold. While we can’t control the uncertainty, we can control how we respond to current challenges and prepare for the future.
The more we can innovate and adapt today, the better equipped we’ll be for whatever the future throws our way.

When we are able to resume in-office work and the threat of the virus is behind us, will things look the same? Our guess is they won’t. While circumstances have forced us to change, ideally some of the changes we’ve made—changes that have enabled us to work smarter, not harder, and more collaboratively despite our physical distance—will stick. We also hope the extra kindness and grace we’ve experienced in our communities will stick, too.

 

10) How can Moxe help?

We cannot express our gratitude enough. Thank you for the work that you and your teams are doing to support our healthcare systems.

Your work is more important than ever, and Moxe is here to support you. We’re excited about how our new Digital ROI feature can give you an affordable, scalable, no-contact solution to make the transition to remote work easier.

Whether you’re interested in finding out more about how our Digital ROI solution can handle your chase lists, want to share a unique ROI challenge your team is facing in this era of social distancing, or need to call in backup support for your child’s pesky algebra homework, we’re here for you. Drop us a line.

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