It’s the last Friday of the month, so today I’ll answer your questions.
As a reminder, I receive many questions and comments from you, and I read and appreciate all of them. I can’t respond to them all in this column, but I pass the rest of them on to administrators to review and act on, where feasible.
After my last VC Notes, I received several suggestions on improving service to our internal customers, and have passed those along. Thank you!
Now, on to today’s questions.
Q: I know you have seen this question before, however, in light of recent events, I believe it is worth asking again. What is being done to protect our vehicles parked at the stadium during the day? Specifically, what changes have Campus Police made to better protect our vehicles this year? On Sept. 5, Tropical Storm Gordon rolled through Jackson and various vehicles were broken into in the pouring rain. The week before that, a truck was stolen out of overflow, and just yesterday, Sept. 18, more vehicles were broken into in broad daylight. Rain or shine it does not matter to them, but it matters to us. I know the police and the cameras are over there, but I personally, as well as others, do not see them patrolling as much as they used to. Instead they are parked and looking down at a computer or a phone, even at the busiest times of the day for commuters. (I would feel safer if a cop was watching my every move walking to and from my office.) It costs a lot of our hard earned money to fix/replace things after a break-in. People also feel very violated and lose trust in the police force. Please tell me this will not be a recurring theme as it has been this month. I hate it for all of us at UMMC.
A: Our Campus Police are aware of the incidents you mentioned and Chief Michael Stamps has told me he is committed to enhancing security in these parking areas. We have increased the visibility of police and security officers and instituted additional patrols in unmarked vehicles. We also have plans to deploy new technologies to enhance surveillance. We continue to work with other law enforcement agencies across the metro area, who are experiencing similar incidents, and we are pursuing several active investigations of these crimes. Unfortunately, one person moving through the parking lot can hit several vehicles with a “smash and grab” technique and quickly exit the lot on the far side. I encourage everyone to not leave valuable possessions in plain view in your vehicles. It takes only seconds to smash a car window, grab a billfold or a phone, and move on. In most cases, no vehicle alarm will sound. Our police force is large, but so is our campus, and the police can’t be everywhere at once. I assure you and others who park at the stadium that there is heightened awareness about these types of property crimes and we will do everything possible to prevent them from occurring.
Q: Could you please give us an update on the University Wellness gym in the adult hospital that is supposed to open this fall? Is it scheduled to open soon?
A: Unfortunately we’ve had some unanticipated issues with the leadup to construction of the fitness center that have moved the timeline. The project has gone out to bid twice and both times the bids submitted exceeded the allocated budget. We’ve also gone through several designs to make optimal use of the space and provide the best experience for users, causing additional delay. With these matters still pending, the Office of Planning, Design and Construction does not have firm start or completion dates at the moment, but we continue to be committed to this project. I will let you know when we have a firm timeline.
Q: Dr. Woodward, I am an employee and as it happens, also a patient who has to see several physicians here on campus. I consider myself very fortunate to have such excellent care available at such close proximity to me since I have a very rare condition. I have to keep a very close watch on my accounts because it seems that my employee discount is very rarely applied to the accounts where I am qualified to receive it. When I do contact customer service they are very quick to review the accounts and apply the discount on the accounts where it is applicable. I just do not understand why I have to ask for it. Since that is something that all employees are given on accounts that qualify, shouldn't that be automatic? When I discovered it I went back two years and had not received it on most of my accounts. It has now been corrected.
A: I’m sorry you’ve experienced this issue with your billing. Members of our team in Revenue Cycle tell me that all registrants for our services who are on the State Health Plan should be asked at their initial visit whether they are UMMC employees, and that status should be entered into the electronic health record. The discount is applied once the employee has met his or her deductible. This status is retained in the EHR through subsequent visits, but there should be periodic checks to make sure the patient is still affiliated with UMMC. As a result of your comment, the team will be reinforcing the correct registration process for UMMC employees and family members on their state health insurance with all registration employees.
Q: I know that we are all in the new era of being in the tech-savvy age now and often find ourselves having to text our doctors and NPs about patients (of course not using any identifying information). Have we given any thought to using a secure messaging/HIPAA-compliant mobile software program like pMD? I have used it at other clinics and hospitals. It is very user-friendly. It would allow us to be able to discuss our patient needs more freely and allow us to meet the patient needs in a more timely fashion.
A: I am pleased to report that help is on the way! Next month we will ask our governing board to approve the acquisition of Epic Secure Chat. This tool allows members of the care team to send secure text messages in real time from Epic’s mobile apps (Rover/Haiku/Canto) and also while working within Epic “hyperspace.” It also uses push notifications, read receipts and auto-forwarding, and accommodates image messages, all within a secure and HIPAA-compliant environment. These conversations are linked to the patient’s chart and, if desired, can be incorporated in the medical record to enhance efficiency and safety. You’ll be hearing much more about this when our Epic team begins deployment of the system, pending IHL approval.
Q: Does the new School of Medicine building have areas that are open to all students? Several employees from different schools on campus have told me their students have been surprised by being asked to leave the patio near the coffee shop, open study spaces and open lounge areas because they are for School of Medicine students only. This is very unneighborly, unfair and offensive to non-medical students, especially the use of the patio because the coffee shop is open to the public. There aren't any signs indicating that the areas I mentioned are for medical students only. If there are areas in the new building where non-medical students are welcome, could signage be posted in those areas to make them feel welcome?
A: The patio area or plaza adjacent to the School of Medicine education building is available for use by all members of our UMMC community. Similarly, the common areas on the ground floor are available to all students and staff for study, conversation, etc. The Office of Medical Education schedules the lecture halls and classrooms, and these are available for use by other campus entities when not required for medical education activities. The building is closed except for badge access from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. weekdays, weekends and holidays.
Thanks again for submitting your questions and comments. I view them as opportunities to improve our performance and gain a better understanding of what’s on your mind, as we make our way toward our common goal of creating A Healthier Mississippi.