Business Continuity for HIM Professionals During Coronavirus Epidemic

Created 04/05/2020 at 02:57 PM


COVID-19 has created many unique challenges for HIM Professionals in how to maintain business continuity in an ever changing environment. While continuity planning is not one-size-fits-all, there are many shared aspects that can be addressed with technology to ensure a seamless transition to Work From Home for HIM.

Key things to consider and plan for:

  • Patient access
  • Processes that need to stay on-site
  • Telephones
  • Faxes
  • Mail
  • Connectivity
  • Equipment

Patient Access

It is important to maintain patient access through the entire process. AHIMA has provided guidance to discontinue patient walk-ins (here) which requires creative ways to assist patients.

  • hXe is an ideal solution for maintaining patient access because it allows patients to create their request online, digitally and submit to your facility. It's extremely user friendly, even for the technology challenged.
  • Outside of hXe, provide convenient methods for completing a form and submitting it to your office. Keep in mind many do not have access to a printer or way to scan or fax the request back to you (hXe solves these challenges).
  • Create signs and voicemail prompts to inform and educate patients
  • Focus on maintaining short turnarounds (less than a day if possible) to minimize inconvenience for patients.

Who Should Work From Home

One of the primary motivations for moving staff to Work from Home should be risk mitigation. COVID-19 is proving to be highly contagious and it's not clear how contagious it is when staff are not displaying symptoms, although growing evidence suggests it can spread this way. Moving staff remote reduces the chance of a single person causing the entire department to be quarantined. We have already experienced this first hand and it's much better to have planned for this ahead of time than need to implement it while staff is starting quarantine that day.

For staff that will stay on-site, you may want to consider moving them to separate areas of the department and impressing upon them the need to minimize contact with others in the department.

Telephones

Depending on your telephone setup, here are a few suggested solutions:

  • Ask IT if they have the ability to deploy softphones (software phones that run on a user's computer). This is the ideal solution and allows employees to work seamlessly from home.
  • In the absence of the above, temporarily subscribe to a Virtual Office solution like 8x8 which will let you setup a remote telephone system that can be deployed onto each user's workstation or mobile phone. Individual extensions can be forwarded to each users' new extension. Main lines can be forwarded to a new ring group.
  • Setup voicemail to email, including a telephone prompt that explains due to the current circumstances, please leave a message and staff will contact you back with XX time. If staff will use personal phones, they should block their number for outbound calls.

Faxes

  • Identify if physical fax machines can be forwarded to inbound electronic fax queues (e.g. Rightfax). From there, have RightFax distribute to an email group or to a share folder. Fax machines can either be forwarded to the new number on the machine itself or at telecoms level (preferred). This is transparent to the outside world.

Mail

  • Either rely on the on-site staff to scan and distribute incoming mail to the remainder of the team; or,
  • Assign staff a schedule to go on-site for a short period of time to scan mail into a share drive for the remainder of the team to access.

Connectivity

How will your users connect? Citrix, VPN or remotely connect to their existing workstations? Citrix provides a secure environment for them to work inside, but can provide challenges if all of their applications are not available. VPN will generally required a company provisioned laptop or desktop due to security concerns.

Equipment

  • If your facility is running low on equipment, the most common solution is to allow users to take their workstation home and use VPN.
  • Relying on users' personal computers should be avoided at all costs. While the resources within the network can be secured with Citrix and other remote connectivity, users' personal computers may have malware and/or keyloggers that record how to connect to those resources.
  • If there is an equipment shortage and IT does not want workstations brought home, another solution may be Chromebooks which are cheap and well suited for remote connectivity needs.

For a sample continuity plan and patient access scripts/voicemails, please go to our home page and click the link to download the plan.

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