Houston Hospice Wows with New Technology

Digital Health Transformation Rolls into Hospice Care

By Suzy Martin, Blogger, Houston Hospice

According to the recent article More Than Just Tech: How Houston’s Smart Hospitals Are Embracing Tech Innovations by Emily Reiser, “Texas Medical Center (TMC) member institutions are leading the nation in innovation and setting the standard for what smart hospitals can look like and how they will transform the healthcare landscape in the coming years.” As a TMC member institution, Houston Hospice is leading the way in Digital Health Transformation in the hospice care industry.

The 42-year-old nonprofit hospice organization implemented several new technology solutions that help doctors and nurses communicate more effectively with patients and families during 4th quarter 2021. In addition, admitting patients into hospice care is now streamlined and hospice field teams have greater access to online, on-demand, multi-lingual interpreters, as well as accurate procedural instruction available 24/7. Funding for this digital transformation effort was made possible by grants, donations, and the COVID-19 Economic Relief Fund.

Workstations on Wheels (WOWs) rolled into Houston Hospice to the excitement of nurses across the organization.

Thomas Moore, RN, directed the WOWs acquisition and implementation for staff at Houston Hospice.

“I can’t wait to chart immediately so that I can continue to help others,” said Thomas Moore, RN, Director of Specialty Teams, and nine-year veteran of Houston Hospice.

These eight mobile workstations help nurses document care and update electronic medical records EMRs in real time. Houston Hospice is the only hospice using WOWs in its Inpatient Unit and within its 13-county service area in Southeast Texas.

Prior to this update, nurses recorded notes on desktop computers at each of three nurses’ stations. Now that WOWs are being introduced, patient information will stay up to date which streamlines workflows. In addition to new technology, Houston Hospice uses hardware that is well known throughout the world.

The nurses at Houston Hospice also use iPads to chart notes and share confidential information securely within the seven-member hospice team called the Interdisciplinary Team (IDT). Faster charting means a better work/life balance for these IDT members. In addition, 60+ iPads (with more arriving in the future) and keyboards have been deployed for these health professionals.

Houston Hospice physicians also use secure electronic devices to assess the needs of patients and communicate updates instantly. “The [Houston Hospice] physicians use mobile laptops and iPhones, which work in much the same way as the WOWs to provide up-to-date information for the physicians during visits, to document the visit, email clinicians’ concerns about the patient, and to provide patients and families with information that they may be looking for from clinical information. I can email the nurses questions about the family’s concerns during rounds, and I often get a response before I leave the patient’s room,” said Thuy Hanh Trinh, MD, MBA, Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians, Fellow of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Wound Care Certified, Hospice Medical Director Certified and Team Physician, Houston Hospice.

Hospice RN using WOW technology at Houston Hospice’s Inpatient Unit in the Texas Medical Center.

WOWs, iPhones, iPads, and laptops are important components of improved patient management at Houston Hospice. To make these technologies work well with one another, the best software solutions must be utilized so that hospice patients and families will have the greatest care possible. To achieve this, the organization uses state-of-the-art cloud technology to obtain and share hospice information instantaneously, including everything from patient intake to documentation to scheduling, all on a secure network.

When collaborating among team members, Houston Hospice relies on a healthcare platform that is secure and performs in real time, making high-quality care more accessible and efficient. The software increases accessibility to documentation and records and streamlines the admission process. Telehealth (seeing patients via video or audio) is also available to keep patients safe from others who may have viruses or other illnesses while caring for their unique needs.

Houston Hospice nurses may find the need to research procedures specific to the needs of their patients. To accomplish these kinds of immediate goals, nurses have access to a software program that contains 1,800 procedures in various specialty settings. In addition, the program maintains compliance with current national guidelines and empowers nurses with the knowledge and confidence to make informed clinical decisions.

As Houston Hospice is a member institution of the world-renowned Texas Medical Center that hosts 10 million patient encounters annually, translation services are in great demand. The nonprofit has hired one of the best translation companies in the world to help communicate with patients from all over the world. The interpreter service provides 14,000 professionals, who are on demand interpreters and available via audio and video in 30 seconds or less.

“The visually-enhanced translation services have been an excellent resource to help connect our patients, their families and our hospice team members,” Trinh said. “Having the mobile translation system with visual contact makes communicating with patients and families easier and more personable. The translator may be better able to address the patients who have difficulty expressing their needs, such as those with slurred speech, when the translator can see the movements of the patient’s mouth and body language.

Dr. Hanh Trinh, MD, MBA, pictured in the
Garden at the Inpatient Unit at Houston
Hospice in the Texas Medical Center.

“For example, one of my patients spoke Cantonese, but I was unaware of which Chinese dialect when I made the request. I had requested the Mandarin translator, who recognized the patient’s dialect even though the patient was speaking with a muffled voice, and she was able to refer me directly to the Cantonese translator for the patient’s support. I think the translator’s ability to see the patient made a difference in realizing what was needed during the visit. The visually enhanced translation system has been a great asset to ensure our hospice team can address the patients’ and families’ needs at any time of day or night,” Trinh said.

As Houston Hospice continues to find new ways to help patients and their families, the use of advanced technology continues to play a key role. “Technology used by Houston Hospice is designed to improve communication between doctors, nurses and patients,” said Scott Watson, IT Manager, Houston Hospice. “This improved care coordination allows for the care of patients remotely and saves time for both the doctor and patient.”

When working to advance technology in the healthcare industry, speaking with colleagues about best practices adds value to the organization’s progress. “We are collaborating with a hospice in Tyler [Texas] to share best practices for healthcare technology implementation,” Watson said. “As we continue to share valuable insights with one another, we will improve hospice care for patients across Texas, the U.S. and even the world.”

As a subject matter expert in IT, Watson has made a prediction that technology in the hospice environment will only get faster and easier to use.

Houston Hospice’s compassionate care is unmatched, reaching hundreds of patients daily. It continues to offer vital services for patients and families, using state-of-the-art practices and procedures. As the organization continues to reach new patients and families who could benefit from hospice care, it will continue to look for new ways to advance hospice care for patients of all socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities, and beliefs, regardless of their ability to pay.

For more information about Houston Hospice, visit https://www.houstonhospice.org/what-we-do/services/