VC Notes Archive Office of the Vice Chancellor
Friday, August 26, 2016

Five Questions

Even though everybody's back in school and hard at work in some form or fashion, the calendar tells me that there's one more week of summer left before the fall sets in. Old habits, I guess. The calendar also tells me it's the last Friday of the month so it's time to answer your questions.

I read all of your comments and questions and appreciate every single one - even the ones that take me to task on some issue or another. I appreciate knowing what's on your mind. And even though I can't answer every question in this space, I do send all the rest to senior leaders for review and possible action.

Now, on to your questions.   

Q:  Did you realize that we don't have adequate sidewalks on the campus? While you are doing all of the building and construction, why aren't you adding sidewalks?  We see notes all of the time about health and walking; however, we cannot safely walk around campus. One takes their life in their hands to try to walk to their car (or anywhere on campus) without adequate sidewalks. Just a thought.

SidewalkA:  I agree with you that our sidewalks are not as plentiful as they should be to support a “walkable campus” consistent with the ideal of a healthy workplace.  But we are moving in the right direction. Through much of the 61 years of our history on the Jackson campus, buildings have been added in a somewhat piecemeal fashion, and sidewalks that connect the various parts of the campus in a coherent manner have to some extent been an afterthought. Another contributing factor is the cost of sidewalk construction, which can be 50 percent higher in this part of Mississippi due to the Yazoo clay content of the soil.  About five years ago we developed our first long-range master facility plan, and this plan is guiding campus construction of buildings, roads and sidewalks, among other things. The plan is currently being updated, and the update will include recommendations for new pedestrian pathways. Also, when the East University Drive and Alumni Drive road projects are completed, they will include new sidewalks.

Q:  In regards to helping patients, we really need to rethink our phone systems. Because I have no clinical duties, but my department name sounds similar to a clinical department, I sometimes get calls from the clinical side of things. Most of these calls are easy to transfer. However, every once in a while, I get a call that is more difficult. Today I got a call from someone trying to reach a specific clinical department.  It was hard to find a number to give them to call.  So my suggestion is that each clinical department (ER, oncology, urology, etc.) be given one main number as a contact number so patients and doctors from other hospitals can find their way easier. In addition, if such a contact number exists, then we need to update our database search in order to indicate which number is the main contact. We can have it underlined or mark it with an asterisk or even put "MAIN" next to the number. It is now hard to discern which number is the main contact for clinical departments. Thank you.

A:  Thank you for thinking about how to improve our processes and the experience of those trying to connect with us.  I'm told by DIS Communications staff that most departments, and certainly the larger ones you mention, have a “main” phone number.  Back in the days when we had a printed phone directory that number was easier to locate, but we stopped publishing the directory in 2008.  (We still maintain a campus directory on the Intranet but because of the format it is not as current as it might be.)  The easiest thing to do when you're not sure is to transfer the caller to the Medical Center operator at 984-1000.  They have access to a constantly updated database that indicates the main number of a department or unit when one has been designated.  Alternatively, you can access this database yourself via the Intranet home page via the OnCall Scheduling/Contact U application. Click on the link and type the department or unit name in the “Last Name” field.  Several choices may appear but one of them should be the main department number.

Q:  Why are we having to download and use an app to get our UMMC email on our phones?  I'm hearing it's not as easy as how we are doing it now.

A: Information security has always been a concern for health-care providers and educational institutions. However, protecting and managing the mass amounts of private and confidential information we handle on a daily basis is more important than ever. Almost every day we read about criminals infiltrating a hospital's networks and using that information for their own gain. Ensuring the security of our data falls under the purview of DIS, but each of us shares in that responsibility. Now that just about all of us are using our personal devices to conduct UMMC business (I know I'd be lost without email on my phone), we are implementing a secure, enterprise-wide method to protect the work-related information we are all passing through these little computers in our hands. The solution we've settled on is the Good Work app. Through this app, for both iPhone or Android, you can safely and securely access your UMMC email and associated calendar from your phone. The new app takes a little getting used to, but once I got over the initial setup and started using it I no longer noticed that I wasn't using the previous method. Is it as easy to get to your email as just clicking on the mail application that came with your phone? No. Is the added security worth every extra step? Yes. A major safety feature of the Good Work app is the ability for DIS to remove all content associated with the app if your phone happens to be lost or stolen. This lessens the risk for any information, including protected health information that may have been in your email, to fall into the wrong hands. By August 31, everyone who wants to continue accessing their UMMC email on their phone is required to download the Good Work app from their device's app store and go through the set up process. Additional information can be found on this website or by calling the Help Desk.

Q:  I would like to applaud the efforts to make UMMC a high-reliability organization. There is a risk factor that I feel should be addressed. It is the "stealth" use of cell phones while working. I see many employees who work with a phone earwig or earplug in their ears. Team members interacting with them may or may not see it, may or may not realize that the person they try to interact with is actually involved in a phone conversation with a third party. There is no policy on earwigs/earplugs or cell phone use. This is a potential patient/work safety issue and a problem with professionalism. I understand that cell phones are important to our work. Being on the phone while others are unaware of it is dangerous.

A:  I agree with you in every respect except one. There is a policy against the use of ear buds, headphones and Bluetooth listening devices in public and work areas at UMMC. For employees who encounter the public, and that's just about everybody, I believe this practice would be perceived as almost rude. To me it sends the message that you don't want to be bothered to answer a question from someone who might be lost or to even say hello. Just as important, as you say, is the potential effect this behavior has on quality. Having a phone conversation or even listening to music is a distraction.  Distracted people make mistakes, don't fully hear and follow instructions, and can't perform their work as effectively since their attention is divided.  Many studies have established this as fact. And the results can range from substandard work to an on-the-job injury to an error that harms someone.  The policies relating to listening devices can be found here.  I think our leaders and managers can use some discretion in applying these policies depending on the circumstances but in general I think earbuds on the job are not a good idea.

Q:  I was thrilled to read about the healthier food initiatives being brought to UMMC employees. As employees of the state's only academic medical center we have a duty to be role models for our patients. I hope  this is only the beginning and we can continue to see moves toward incorporating more organic and/or local produce.  My next wish/hope for UMMC is we can lead the way in becoming a greener campus particularly in the food areas on campus by offering recycling for bottles and minimizing the use of Styrofoam containers.

A:  So many of you have written to me to complain about how our current recycling efforts are falling short, particularly related to the use of Styrofoam containers and other disposables in the cafeteria. All I can say is I hear you, and it pains me as well to know that these products will wind up in a landfill. Unfortunately, many of our practices relating to recycling are driven by market prices for recyclables and the comparative cost of alternative food service containers. Simply put, the economics of recycling and alternative products are such that we can't afford to operate a comprehensive program without a substantial loss and/or significant price increases to our food service customers, that is, our employees, patients and visitors. We hope this situation will improve soon. I wish we had the resources to make it more of a priority but at the moment we do not.

As I've said before in this space and elsewhere, my top priority is continued momentum in clinical quality improvement. We are making great headway in this area through the hard work of our clinical teams, support staff and leadership. I truly appreciate your engagement in this work, on our journey toward A Healthier Mississippi.

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