VC Notes Archive Office of the Vice Chancellor
Friday, July 26, 2019

Five Questions

Good morning!

It’s the last Friday of the month so today I will answer some of your questions.  As a reminder, I receive many questions and comments through the response feature of VC Notes.  While I read all of them, I’m only able to answer a few of them here.  The rest I pass along to senior administrators for their review and possible action.

Now, on to your questions.

Q:  I recently called Billing to discuss my account from a previous appointment, prior to paying my bill, and when I asked if the balance included my employee discount, I was informed that the employee discount is not applied until after the deductible is met. I asked several of my co-workers about this and none of them were aware of this. So I feel this is very misleading and is not a benefit to the employee to use our provider/facilities unless it is for an inpatient admission. Essentially, if you are an employee, there is no benefit to come to UMMC for "routine" care once you pay the co-pay and any balance left over once insurance pays, if you don't receive an employee discount. This is no different than using an outside provider/facility. So is this information correct, and if so, why is this information not communicated up front or is there a policy/benefit information stating this? I haven't been able to locate anything outlining our employee discount for using UMMC provider/facilities.

A:  The employee discount, which is also available to other dependents covered under your plan, is an employee benefit and is posted on the UMMC Intranet under Human Resources as an “Employee Perk.” I checked with HR and they confirmed that the discount is also discussed at new employee orientation.  You are correct that the discount is applied only after the deductible is met; this is a requirement of the State Health Plan.  For employees whose contracted charges never exceed their deductible, then yes, it’s only a potential or theoretical benefit.  But since one never knows when an illness or injury might occur and how much the associated charges might be, it’s still a benefit, and a significant one at that.  There are many other factors that might lead an employee to select a UMMC provider.  We certainly hope to earn your trust.

Q:  I am a nurse on the inpatient side, so that means I work 12-hour shifts with few and limited breaks due to patient acuity. Several days when I go home I realize I have only had what is equivalent to a bottle of water during my whole shift due to the fact that we cannot drink at the nurses’ station. When discussing this with others, we found out it is not a Joint Commission regulation, it is an infection control policy. I am wondering if we can get that changed?  So that bedside staff can carry a closed container of water with them while they are charting at their work station (similar to what someone would do if they are working at their desk). Families are allowed to drink in patient rooms and out in the hallway. If families are allowed to do it, it doesn’t seem like it is an actual infection control issue.

A:  I forwarded your question to our Infection Prevention team.  Here is the response:  There is not a standard from Joint Commission regulating drinks and food at work stations.  Also, there is not an infection control policy regarding drinking water in the nursing areas.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have guidelines for protecting health care workers.  Nursing stations and other patient care areas can harbor potentially infectious bacteria and viruses.  Consuming food and beverages at these areas increases exposure risk to health care workers and risk of transmission to susceptible patients.  There has recently been a release from the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) and the CDC regarding an increase of Hepatitis A related to foodborne-type illnesses that should heighten our awareness of transmitting infections.  For all these reasons, staff should not be consuming food and drinks or applying cosmetics in the patient care environment.  With Infection Prevention guidance, areas can be designated in the hospital – outside the lounge or breakrooms – that are low-risk areas with no potential for exposure where nurses can have drinks.  This would not include the computer workstations, which can be in multiple locations all over the unit, due to the potential for exposure to bloodborne pathogens and environmental contaminants.

Q:  I was recently informed by DIS that UMMC no longer supports Dropbox on UMMC devices. This information came only after I opened a support ticket; I never received any formal DIS announcement about the planned change in support. I am a graduate student who relies on Dropbox to sync class assignments and various other files between computers here on campus and at home. The decision to no longer support Dropbox means that the UMMC computer I am supplied by my doctoral mentor no longer can access or sync my Dropbox files from the Dropbox server. I don't understand why Dropbox was a valid program you could install up to one month ago, but now there has been a sudden change to stop access. I understand that UMMC must comply with certain security procedures to protect patient data, but my graduate program does not work with human subjects or human data. Why the decision to stop supporting Dropbox? Furthermore, users were never formally informed of this change and are likely clogging up the IT system with tickets about Dropbox and making more work for our DIS support.

A:  I shared your question with DIS.  There must have been some misunderstanding, because they replied that Dropbox was never a supported file-sharing software at UMMC.  We did engage with a different vendor, Box, for a time, but were unable to reach a long-term contractual agreement.  Since then, we have migrated to OneDrive, which is a Microsoft product.  A campus-wide information campaign noting the termination of Box and promoting the use of OneDrive was implemented.  Currently, there are no controls in place to prohibit the use of Dropbox, Box, Google and other file-sharing systems.  But UMMC only has contracts and protections with Microsoft (in this case OneDrive and Office 365) and other vendors with individual agreements vetted through Legal and Contracts Administration.  Our Data Classification and Privacy Policies do not endorse the use of data-sharing tools outside of the contractual agreements in place, such as Business Associate Agreements (BAA), Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) and Data Use Agreements (DUA).  That said, we recognize the need to collaborate with other institutions and entities on multiple platforms for the furtherance of research, education and health care.  But each of us must recognize we are charged in our annual compliance and security training with the protection of personally identifiable information (PII), protected health information (PHI) and intellectual property on any and all platforms.  If you need help or instructions on the use of OneDrive, please call the Help Desk at 4-1145 or take a class from Technology Learning Central.

Q:  Currently there is only one hybrid/electric vehicle charging station on campus, and it is open only during office hours. I think it would be a good message as an academic center to promote the use of "eco-friendlier" vehicles by having more charging points, such as at Garage C and at the stadium.

A:  You are correct that we do have only one charging station – at the motor pool facility on the extreme eastern edge of the campus.  With the trend toward more electric and hybrid vehicles, we have begun exploring options for additional stations in locations that are more convenient for our campus community.  By the way, I’m told there will be a charge for using these stations (pun intended).

Q:  If the Governor declares the day after a holiday such as July 5 a state holiday, why do state employees at UMMC not get it as a holiday?

A:  Governor Bryant did indeed authorize the executive officers of all state agencies to close their offices on Friday, July 5, the day following the Independence Day holiday.  But in his proclamation, he made these closures discretionary “after considering the interests of the people of the State of Mississippi and the staffing needs of their respective agencies . . .”  Shutting down our outpatient clinical operations for the day would not only result in inconvenience for our patients, but would cost us a full day of revenue without offsetting expense reductions, something we simply can’t afford.  The good news is that for the next four years, July 4 will fall on a day that will provide for a three-day weekend, including holiday pay for those who are here holding down the fort. 

That reminds me that Labor Day is just around the corner, an indication that our summer is flying by.  I hope you enjoy what’s left of it, as we steadily advance toward A Healthier Mississippi.

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