February 11, 2020

Building a Technology System

Nearly 24 years ago when Deb Mullen began her career as Rehabilitation Services Coordinator at Concord Regional VNA, technology was scarce. The only employees who had computers worked in the Billing Department. Things began to change two years later.

“A small group of us began researching which computer software worked best for us,” said Deb, who is now Chief Information Officer. “We worked collaboratively with three hospitals, including Concord Hospital and another home health and hospice agency.”

Along with information technology implementation, Deb, a physical therapist by trade, was also managing rehabilitation therapists and team assistants.

“When we initially introduced the computer system, we used it internally for about two years,” she said. “In 2000, we deployed laptops and I helped train employees. I did not have a technology background, but I had an interest in it and I like to educate.”

Over time, as the agency cared for more patients and increased the number of employees who were needed, its reliance on technology increased.

“As computers played an increasing role in everyday operations, the senior team determined a dedicated information technology position was needed,” Deb said. “They created a Clinical Information System Manager position and I accepted the role.”

Equipping employees with information technology solutions in healthcare’s ever-evolving environment is critical. Training and supporting employees with equipment and applications helps the agency stay ahead of the growing demand for its services and improves efficiencies in operations and clinical oversight.

Today, our agency has hundreds of devices, including 188 laptops, 110 desktop computers, and 336 cell phones, as well as many applications (apps) used on a daily basis to allow our employees to deliver the best possible patient care.

Under Deb, the Information Technology Department supports all employee use of technology. The department also provides data reports, Intranet updates, and supports use of copiers, desk phones, and other technology equipment.

As Concord Regional VNA has grown to meet the needs of more community members, so has Deb’s list of national and local awards.

In 2009, she was named the Administrative Manager of the Year by the Visiting Nurse Associations of America for her work
to improve the agency and its ability to serve the community. She has educated staff on laptop computer use, developed and implemented automated scheduling and a physician portal system, and completed regulatory software updates. “Having a clinical background with technology knowledge gives me more insight than someone who only has a technology background,” Deb said.

Three years later, Deb was named the Mary Ellen LaRoche Home Care Public Policy Award recipient for helping Concord Regional VNA provide the best possible care and for being an ambassador for the agency, the industry, and other healthcare organizations.

In 2017, Concord Regional VNA was awarded the Change Healthcare Feature Adoption Partner of the Year for its useof Direct Messaging and Deb was awarded the Change Healthcare Focus Group Partner of the Year for participating and providing feedback on products. Deb has served on Change Healthcare’s advisory council for a number of years.

“I participate in many of their development groups and have had the opportunity to host site visits for participants to come and learn how we use the software to the fullest extent.”

Board and Community Support
The agency invests in its staff to help employees gain knowledge and skills and studies have shown that it improves retention rates. More than 40 employees have worked at the agency for 15 or more years.

“I think that has helped us grow and advance clinically,” Deb said. “Employees have different certifications for many specialties, including wound care and using intravenous medications. Some agencies may want to implement something but do not have the community support or the resources to do so, whereas we do.”

In 2008, the agency received a generous gift from Eugene and Anne Slusser of Hopkinton to help lease and eventually purchase the 30 Pillsbury Street building, including equipment
for a state-of-the-art training room for employees. One advantage, she said, in working at a not-for-profit agency is that she has been able to learn, add, change, and grow along the way.

“If I was still in the same position I was 15 years ago, maybe I would not be here,” she said. “Along the way, I have always been challenged and allowed to take on more responsibility and expand what we were doing. “It is really not work when you like what you do.”