By Aine Cryts

Newton, Mass.-based Life Image, which provides access to points of care and curated clinical and imaging data to healthcare clients, is routinely communicating with its clients as the company monitors the spread of the coronavirus, says Matthew Michela, the company’s president and CEO.

“Our customers depend on our technology to be able to access and share medical information,” Michela tells AXIS Imaging News. “Our outreach is twofold: Communicating business-continuity measures and taking proactive steps to ensure our staff remains healthy and can support normal clinical operations, and reiterating how to efficiently utilize Life Image solutions to streamline workflows for more efficiency. This is based on questions we have fielded from customers that a wider audience may find helpful.”

The company is doing customer outreach by phone, email, and video calls to address concerns related to the coronavirus, according to Michela, who adds that Life Image is also updating its corporate website. In-person visits to hospitals have stopped. In addition, social-distancing practices began within the company 2 weeks ago. To date, Life Image has conducted tens of thousands of touchpoints with providers all around the country, he adds.

“Life Image hospitals are on the front lines of care delivery and have been asking us to help them manage the coordination of accessing and sharing chest CTs with physicians and patients by expanding their image-exchange services to facilities not yet connected,” says Michela. “These customers have also expressed concern about undiagnosed and diagnosed patients arriving with CDs as opposed to having those exams digitally transferred and available before the patient arrives. Our outreach addresses these concerns and lets customers know that Life Image has a number of established tools to assist during this public-health crisis.”

AXIS recently discussed with Michela Life Image’s approach to communicating with customers about its business-continuity plans and ways it can serve hospital clients’ needs during the coronavirus pandemic. What follows is a lightly edited version of this conversation.

AXIS Imaging News: What are you telling customers about your company’s business-continuity plans and ways you can help them?

Matthew Michela: A hospital customer came to us more than 3 weeks ago to let us know they weren’t allowing any on-site vendor meetings. This was our first indication that other customers would start to implement similar protocols in an effort to protect their facilities and slow the spread of the virus. Within days of that initial indication, we evaluated our business-continuity plans by performing a live-fire test to ensure our operations could run smoothly with a fully remote staff ordered to stay in place.

This activity proved successful, allowing us the confidence to implement when required and ensure our customers would retain accessibility to our platform. On March 13, we communicated to customers that we’re moving to fully remote operations in order to protect our own staff, and, thereby, continue to have service and support staff at their disposal. Given that access to our platform is essential for thousands of patients daily, and this access will likely become more important as the healthcare system is stressed, business continuity is essential to our operations and theirs. While the industry is starting to understand that healthcare workers on the front line must be protected in order to provide care, it’s not yet recognizing that there are non-hospital-based support staff, such as Life Image employees, who maintain critical systems that also need to be protected. We at Life Image do recognize this obligation and, therefore, take business continuity very seriously.

AXIS: How often are you communicating with customers? When did you start?

Michela: Life Image started getting organized in mid-February. As the crisis continued to progress, we reached out to customers to let them know we tested our continuity plans, and that we’re confident in the ability to maintain operations and support. We monitor the crisis and the industry, since the situation changes daily.

While we plan to maintain a routine cadence of communication, the frequency and message is dependent on the current situation, which is rapidly changing. If information is urgent, we may start to communicate more frequently or through other channels, such as video updates.

AXIS: Why are you doing this? Arguably, it takes your teams away from other vital work.

Michela: Life Image provides critical support to health systems by facilitating the exchange and access of information. We also connect healthcare organizations with providers, patients, and referral sites. Thus, we need to make sure our platform is up and running all the time. Patients’ lives can actually depend on it.

As with most organizations in the healthcare marketplace, this outbreak has shifted priorities and, currently, it’s of utmost importance that we ease any concerns of our customers that we’re able to control.

Aine Cryts is a contributing writer for AXIS Imaging News.