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Behind the scenes of the oneVCH Projects Approach: Reducing the use of fax machines


​​Do you have an idea you would like to bring to life to make Vancouver Coastal Health a better place?                

The oneVCH Projects Approach​ gives staff and physicians at all levels of the organization the ability to take the lead on a project from concept to completion, seeing the impact of their work firsthand.

To help demystify the process, we reached out to Heather Boersma (Regional Director, Virtual Health) to learn more about her experience reducing the use of fax machines in a clinical setting using the Projects Approach. 

Where did the idea for this project come from?

Faxing is used quite pervasively throughout health care and VCH, but it's an antiquated form of communication. It's not great for the environment, and it's the largest cause of privacy breaches in the health authority. Many sectors have moved away from faxing, and the goal of this project was to look at one clinical area and see if we could replace faxing with other options we have available at VCH.

How was your project implemented?

We worked with VCH's Priority Access team in a pilot project, because they do a significant amount of faxing. The team does all the long-term care referrals in Vancouver and the North Shore, and these referrals can come from acute care, home health, and community clinicians. They typically fax a significant amount of clinical information – sometimes documents as long as 50 pages!

We looked at the options we could use to reduce their fax use, and mapped out what would work best for the group. Changing faxing process impacts more than that team, it impacts everyone they use faxing as a communication tool with. E-Fax, an electronic faxing system that is sent from a fax machine and received as an email, was chosen for their referring sites as it would be the least disruptive. Email was chosen for the residential care sites that they send their referral packages to.

How did the change management process go?

It went really well! It took some time, because this group interacts with so many different stakeholders -- numerous long-term care facilities, acute care sites, and home health offices. With this in mind, we chose to start with just one site to iron out the process before rolling the project out widely.

There was some initial nervousness about the change in the process, but in the end we were surprised to hear that some staff liked the new process better! By receiving an email instead of a fax of the referral, many people can review the same file at the same time, which is a huge benefit.

How did using the oneVCH Projects Approach pathway affect your project outcome?

It worked really well, especially because my project had a small scope. I've led large projects before, and so the process is intuitive for me. But I think both Wave and the oneVCH Projects Approach would be really helpful for people new to leading projects. It's great to have a place to document everything, and make sure things are getting done.

How do you feel now that your project has been implemented?

It feels good that we can make a difference, both in the ability to share clinical information and environmentally. We calculated that 11 trees a year are being saved by eliminating the faxes from this one team, and that's quite significant. It's aligned with a number of things that we're working on as an organization, that's for sure.

The Priority Access team was great, and their willingness to be the first group to try something new was very impressive. We want to expand this project to other teams, and are planning to work with Vancouver's Home Health team next. It's very exciting! 

SOURCE: Behind the scenes of the oneVCH Projects Approach: Reducing the use of fax machines ( )
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