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Posted: 5/21/2014
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Health Quality Innovation Collaborative Nonprofit Helps Doctors, Patients Improve Healthcare Through Online Collaboration

In Ontario, the Health Quality Innovation Collaborative (HQIC) is taking a cloud-first approach to solving systemic barriers to collaboration in the healthcare sector. Using the Yammer Enterprise social networking platform from Microsoft, HQIC launched the Synapse network, facilitating secure, real-time communications in online circles of care to streamline care delivery. Doctors and patients now can work more closely together to improve health outcomes.

Business Needs
A physician since 1997, Dr. Sanjeev Goel entered the medical field because he wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. He founded the Wise Elephant Family Health Team in 2010 in Brampton, Ontario. “I was attracted to family medicine because I liked the challenge of being a generalist and looking at the patient in a holistic manner,” says Dr. Goel. “The family health team is a new delivery model in Ontario that reinforces this idea by putting the patient at the center of a team of allied healthcare practitioners.”

While this model appealed to Dr. Goel because it’s based on collaborative, patient-centric care, he and his colleagues recognized that their clinic’s one-to-one communication technologies—email, telephone, fax—did not support their team-based healthcare delivery objectives. “At the clinic, we need the free flow of one-to-many communications among doctors, allied health professionals, clinic staff, and patients to coordinate efficient patient care,” says Dr. Goel. “Our EMR [electronic medical record] system did not facilitate communication among providers. We wasted time trying to reach people by phone and waiting for emails, time we could be spending on providing care.”

Clinic physicians did not have an efficient way to communicate with specialists, hospital staff, or providers in other clinics, which increased the risk of delays in the exchange of important patient data. “We needed to work more closely together to improve continuity of care, and to provide care where it’s most appropriate—at the clinic, at home, or at the hospital,” says Dr. Goel. “For that to happen, the various healthcare providers needed a flexible, secure, communication platform that we can access on multiple devices, wherever we happen to be working.”

Solution
In August 2012, Wise Elephant physicians founded a nonprofit organization called Health Quality Innovation Collaborative (HQIC) and launched a collaborative health platform called Synapse that’s open to healthcare practitioners and medical organizations in Ontario. Dr. Goel and his colleagues turned to cloud computing and enterprise social networking to find a platform to enable their vision for connected, responsive, team-based patient care.

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* With our Yammer-based network, we have the tools to truly transform healthcare in a sustainable manner. *

Dr. Sanjeev Goel
Family Physician, Wise Elephant Family Health Team

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In September, 2012 they chose the Yammer Enterprise social networking platform. Dr. Goel and his colleagues in the medical field can use Yammer collaboration software and business applications to connect with each other in patient-centric health teams and provide proactive, responsive care.

“Today, we have more than 3,000 healthcare practitioners in HQIC, and they send an average of 2,600 Yammer messages a week using their laptops, smartphones, and PCs from anywhere they need to connect with each other to expedite patient care,” says Dr. Goel. “Because we implemented Yammer, we can provide HQIC members with extensible, user-friendly collaboration that still meets the medical field’s stringent privacy and security requirements.”

HQIC hired developers to build extra functionality into the Yammer-based platform, including interoperability with EMR systems so that physicians can remotely access their EMR solutions. The developers created several additional solutions, such as eLink, which connects healthcare provider teams to coordinate patient care; eConsult, which consultants use to access patient information; and eReferral, which physicians use to streamline communications with specialists.

“For example, healthcare practitioners at Ontario’s Healthlinks program use Synapse to coordinate care networks for patients with complex health problems,” says Dr. Goel. “Synapse is now the basis for our region, facilitating communication among 110 healthcare coordinators and 20 family health teams. We have more than 3,000 members and are growing at a rate of 20 new members a month.”

HQIC recently launched the miDASH patient portal. More than 1,000 patients are using this virtual network to access their medical information and connect with each other and their healthcare providers. miDASH is compatible with mobile devices, which means that patients can log on to the solution anytime, anywhere.

Benefits
Thanks to its adoption of Microsoft technologies, HQIC is on the vanguard of healthcare innovation, enabling secure, real-time communication and collaboration among patients and their care teams that’s revolutionizing healthcare delivery in Ontario. “With our Yammer-based network, we have the tools to truly transform healthcare in a sustainable manner,” says Dr. Goel. “At the center of digital ‘circles of care,’ patients work in partnership with their healthcare providers, exchanging information online to streamline care delivery.”

Keeps Patients at Home
Healthcare practitioners use Synapse to deliver care to patients who can remain in their homes, which is a less expensive and more convenient option. Now patients can upload data from devices, such as a blood pressure kit, directly into their records on miDASH. “The telecare nurse monitors the patient remotely. She sends me a message through Yammer if she notices an abnormal result, and I can provide proactive care to avoid a potentially dangerous situation,” says Dr. Goel.

Drives Healthcare Efficiencies
Synapse facilitates the flow of health information, which drives efficiencies across the spectrum of care. Physicians can set up patient referrals and consult with specialists online to hasten diagnoses. “I can share a photo with a dermatologist and get treatment advice in minutes,” says Dr. Goel. “Our clinic is more collaborative and efficient so we can spend more time on patients with complex care needs.”

Empowers Patients
Patients using miDASH gain a new level of control and involvement in their care. They can send an instant message to their clinic’s receptionist to book appointments, view their lab results, and form online support groups. “HQIC is launching an app for women to update their health team on their pregnancies, and our Yammer-based platform also includes a patient survey tool for feedback,” says Dr. Goel. “It’s the ability to see that we are actually making a difference in people’s lives that I’m most proud of.”

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