New Intranet Helps Small Hospitals Tackle Big Challenges

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The expense was within reach and you could implement and manage it with limited IT staff.

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Two challenges met Bob Krickbaum at the door when he became CEO of Edwards County Hospital in November 2010 — internal communications and policy and procedure management. Both were so disjointed that staff, clinicians and senior leaders at the hospital, located in Kinsley, Kansas, had to nearly conduct a scavenger hunt to find information, policy templates and procedural outlines.

“It was an absolute mess,” said Krickbaum. “When two directors of nursing left before I came on board, half of our policies disappeared. Every department created their own policies, their own templates and there was no way to share them throughout the organization and ensure that they were being read.” Internal messaging depended on blast emails and word of mouth, which meant some staff were not receiving key information. This also made collecting staff feedback a cumbersome task.

Edwards County Hospital is a member of Pioneer Health Network, a collaborative rural health network of hospitals in Western Kansas. Other facilities within Pioneer Health Network’s 18 critical access hospitals were facing similar challenges. That is when Jason Friesen, the network’s director of operations called, which specializes in streamlining hospitals’ internal communication and management through web-based solutions. Friesen contacted several similar-sized health care facilities that were already using’s intranet platform and discovered that the system performed well, especially for small and rural hospitals: “The expense was within reach and you could implement and manage it with limited IT staff.”

Edwards County Hospital volunteered to be the first in the Pioneer Health Network to launch the intranet. “We chose it because it did not rely on one central person to manage it. All departments can keep it updated. That helps the IT staff share the responsibility, and makes other departments accountable,” said Alisha Herrmann, director of information technology at Edwards County Hospital.

On-site training began after a governance committee was assembled and a kick-off meeting was held in October 2011. The litmus test was a 70-year-old environmental services staff member who identified herself as not only as the most technologically inept person on staff, but she also admitted that computers kind of scared her. During the training, she was able to sign onto her internal email and find policies. “I catch her on the portal all the time,” said Thyra Strate, RN-C, Edwards County Hospital’s quality director and risk manager. The new intranet portal went live December 15.

The system adeptly addressed the senior leaders’ concerns about streamlining internal communications and centralizing policy and procedure management. Now, anyone is able to log on and see everything from the day’s cafeteria menu to the latest messages from senior leadership. Standardized forms, such as vacation requests and timesheets, are readily available on the intranet portal. “And, even if you tried, you can’t lose a policy now,” said CEO Bob Krickbaum. Managers submit new policies for senior leadership approval and post them to the portal. The intranet portal archives all revisions, and staff members have to electronically acknowledge that they have reviewed the policy. “We’re not able to mandate that people read the policies,” Krickbaum added, “but we’re able to hold them accountable.”

After a presentation on how Edwards is deploying the intranet portal, Minneola District Hospital in Minneola, Kansas and others in the Pioneer Health Network are preparing to roll out new intranets.

Friesen said the system not only refines how hospitals communicate and manage policies internally, but it also leverages modern technology to help small and rural hospitals operate more efficiently. “Health care is taking everything digital,” Friesen noted. “As a network of small hospitals, we’re always trying to share information from one member to another. The best thing you can do in health care now is remove silos and get people, departments and institutions talking to each other. is helping us do that.”

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