Patient Engagement: Build a Strategy for Patient Empowerment

dr-patient-selfie-42511727_sRemember the days when the provider-patient relationship was centered primarily on the interactions that occurred during a visit? Whether it was in the exam room, over the phone or at the hospital, these were the places where the provider-patient relationship was built. Now, patient care encompasses more than just the traditional office visit and a physician’s bedside manner. A lot more emphasis is being placed on the patients—engaging and empowering them to partner in the healthcare process.

Patient Engagement is a hot topic in healthcare – a quick google search and you’ll come up with countless references to infographics, successful approaches, and tools to help build a patient engagement strategy. You will also find articles that discuss how patient engagement can have positive effects on improved quality of care and patient outcomes. The frameworks vary from simplistic to more complex, but the common theme is partnering with your patients and building ownership of their health and healthcare. Some examples of an effective PE strategy include: providing patient-specific education, making patients’ health information available online, including the patient in developing care plans and coordinating with other caregivers.

With an increased focus on patient engagement and interoperability incorporated in Meaningful Use Stage 2, many of these suggested practices can be accomplished using your EHR. Although many providers are anxiously awaiting the Final Rule Modifying MU Stage 2 in 2015 – 2017 and hoping for lower thresholds on the patient engagement measures like Patient Electronic Access and Secure Messaging, it is safe to say these measures are here to stay and will have increasing threshold(s) over the next few years.

So if there was ever a time to start building or improving upon your engagement strategy – the time is now! Whether you go at it on your own or use your EHR to help accomplish these goals the resources are abundant. What will your strategy include? Maybe you’ve been actively engaging patients for years and have some best practices to share. What helps to empower your patients?

Choose a Partner, Not a Vendor

tree-blog2In today’s day and age, we are all guilty of looking for instant gratification. When we shop, we want same-day shipping, or we want it to be in stock so we can pick it up. To make matters worse, we can get the same product from 100 different vendors. So if Widget World doesn’t get it to me fast or cheap enough, I’ll just get it from MyWidgets.com. These buying trends force vendors to compete on price alone and reduce the quality of the buying experience and service.

When you are buying a 60 inch TV or a laptop, it’s a non-issue, but is this mentality flowing through into your business decisions? If you are looking for HIT solutions, you’ve no doubt seen that most vendors are starting to sound the same, look the same, claim the same benefits and are simply competing on price and how fast they say they can get you up and running.

I believe we should go back to the days of partnerships! A partner makes the effort to understand the problems that your business faces. They consult with you in order to ensure their solutions meet your needs. Partners value the relationship more than getting you to sign the next contract.

You don’t want another HIT vendor, you want a partner. Partners are the better choice!

  • Their success is your success- they’re not just in it for a quick sale. They’re truly invested in your practice’s growth and success, and will continually offer you meaningful guidance and resources.
  • Your visions align- their mission matches your practice goals. An HIT partner who shares your vision will offer more benefits with stronger and longer lasting relationships.
  • Your voice matters- collaboration, sharing of insights, and engagement is important to them. Your involvement is genuinely valued, and they’ll listen and will take action to improve their products or services based on your feedback because they have your interest in mind.

Let’s face it, what I’m suggesting is not rocket science and yet I often see relationships as a distant second to immediacy. I urge you to stop, take a breath and think. When I have a need, can I call someone that knows my practice? If an issue needs escalation, can I get to second or third level management? Can I have a conversation with the Executive team when I have a question about their vision or direction?

If you need the answers above to be “YES”, make sure you find a partner.

What’s your criteria for choosing a partner?

What is all this talk about “The Cloud?”

cloud-gears-blogOver the past several years, you probably have heard people talking about “The Cloud.”  It sounds very exciting and mysterious! You may have thought:

What is The Cloud?
Am I in The Cloud?
How can I use this whole Cloud thingy?
I want to be in The Cloud!

Let’s see if we can ’demistify’ Cloud-computing and put your mind at ease. In its simplest form, Cloud computing is the centralized sharing of applications, services, data, and resources from a variety of computing devices. What that means is, anything you do on your device is stored somewhere other than in the device itself. Think of The Cloud as a central repository for e-mail, photos, videos, and other data that you can access using the Internet. A Cloud computing company is keeping your data safe and sound for you, so you don’t have to carry around bulky hardware or worry about setting up security solutions. The Cloud also allows you to share or collaborate.

Still confused?

What if I told you that you probably use The Cloud all day, every day? Some simple examples of Cloud- computing include applications like Facebook and LinkedIn, services like Gmail and Twitter, resources like Wikipedia or Google, and all kinds of data. For most of us, every time we snap a selfie, it is stored in The Cloud. All of these aspects of Cloud computing are available to us on almost all of our devices. We can share our personal pictures, videos, and e-mail on all of our laptops, tablets, smartphones, and even our watches!

So how does SRS use The Cloud?

You may be surprised at the answer. Every time you load your main dashboard, shared Cloud resources put together the screen to display your requested data. Every Rx transaction is routed through the SRS eRx Pipeline to be analyzed and submitted for the patient and communicated with the pharmacy. Every ICD-9, ICD-10, or HCPCS code is selected from a shared Cloud data resource. Patient data files are transferred through a routing system called CCX. The SRS Patient Portals are complex Cloud applications offering data to patients whenever and wherever they request it. The benefits of Cloud computing are endless.

So the next time someone mentions “The Cloud” you can confidently respond: “I am all about The Cloud!”

CMS Offers Welcome Relief for Transition to ICD-10

reliefIt’s time for those still advocating a delay of ICD-10 to abandon the fight—but they can take heart in the recent concessions offered by CMS. The AMA, concerned about the complexity of ICD-10, has asked for some measure of protection from potential adverse financial impacts of the transition to the new code set, and CMS recently agreed to a one-year compromise.

Recognizing the challenges for providers, CMS has agreed:

  • Not to deny claims based on the (lack of, or incorrect) specificity of the ICD-10 code, as long as the reported code is a valid code from the right family of codes.
  • Not to subject providers to penalties under 2015 quality reporting programs, (Meaningful Use, PQRS, or the Value-Based Payment Modifier), as long as a valid code from the right family is reported for the measure(s).
  • To create an ICD-10 Ombudsman to help negotiate solutions to ICD-10 related problems.

CMS has also acknowledged realistic challenges on its side, and is insulating providers from resulting financial harm by agreeing:

  • To authorize advance payments if Medicare contractors are unable to process claims in a timely fashion (as defined by CMS) due to problems with ICD-10.
  • Not to penalize providers under MU, PQRS, or the V-BPM if CMS “experiences difficulty calculating the quality scores.”

You can read about the above in CMS’ own words in its FAQ document.

Notwithstanding the above, it’s time to get serious about preparing for the transition to ICD-10, if you have not already begun that process. Fortunately, there are some ICD-10 solutions embedded in EHRs and PM systems that make code selection easier than others, but regardless of the particular system you employ, there is a learning curve for physicians, clinical teams, and billing staff members.

PQRS and Prada: The Importance of Building Your Quality Wardrobe

prada-blogWith summer now in full swing, I’m going through my summer attire and have found myself questioning my fashion style. I feel like it’s time to trade in my classic look for something more stylish!

I see a similar trend when I talk with clients about PQRS reporting—they are looking to revamp their reporting style. With more providers subject to penalties under both the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) and the Value-Based Payment Modifier (V-BPM) programs, there is more riding on quality reporting—so it is important to ensure you are dressed for success.

Why building the right quality reporting “wardrobe” is important to your revenue:

If not reporting PQRS in 2015:

  • All PQRS-eligible providers are subject to a 2% PQRS penalty in 2017 and
  • An additional Value-Based Payment Modifier penalty based on group size:
    • 2% for Solo practitioners and groups of 2-9 providers
    • 4% for groups of 10 or more providers

If reporting PQRS in 2015, practices will be evaluated on quality and cost:

  • Solo practitioners and groups of 2-9 PQRS-eligible providers could see a potential increase of up to 2% in 2017
  • Groups of 10 or more providers could receive between a 4% penalty and a 4% incentive

Select the option that’s the best style and fit for you from the list below:

This chart summarizes the PQRS reporting options. The definitive source of requirements is: www.cms.gov/pqrs.

This chart summarizes the PQRS reporting options. The definitive source of requirements is: www.cms.gov/pqrs.

Are you dressed for quality reporting success? Let us know what ensemble fits you the best!

Cultivating Innovation – One Hack at a Time

HackathonNo lazy hazy days of summer for SRS. This week SRS is hosting its inaugural annual Summer Hackathon. What is a hackathon? A hackathon is an event for computer engineers, programmers, designers, and other creatives from across the company to collaborate in the design and build of new products and/or features within a finite amount of time. The word hackathon is a portmanteau of the words “hack” and “marathon.” “Hack” is used in the sense of exploratory programming activities, and “marathon” is used to convey the intensity, competiveness, and focus required to deliver a working solution in a short period of time.

So why hack? These intense tech benders create a venue for self-expression, creativity, and innovation leveraging technology and collaboration. It allows us to approach challenges differently, which can result in innovative ideas and solutions to existing and future problems in healthcare. In fact, hackathon ideas often turn into real-world products and features.

The theme for this year’s Summer Hackathon is based on healthcare productivity. We received over 40 ideas from across the organization—ranging from existing product line enhancements to new product lines based on emerging industry trends. Out of all the ideas submitted, the product development team has selected 15 ideas to pursue. Each team will demo their concepts in a “science fair” style format at the conclusion of the event. Prizes and recognition will be awarded based on presentation, creativity, and impact on healthcare productivity.

The team is very excited about our first hackathon. We believe investing in innovation is paramount to our clients’ success, and leveraging tools like hackathons to foster and cultivate innovation will ultimately provide premier creative solutions that will drive value for our clients and their patients.

It all starts with an idea… any ideas to share?

Patient Engagement Pride: We All Can Use a P.E.P. Talk!

cheerleaderPatient engagement has become a confounding challenge in the world of healthcare. It isn’t enough to simply offer a portal; in order to successfully meet the requirements of Meaningful Use, patients actually have to participate. I mean, c’mon, what kind of tomfoolery is this?

Terms such as “obstacle,” “necessary evil,” and “setup for failure” were commonly uttered in conversations about this engagement initiative. Many were asking, “Why would a patient log-in to our portal?” and “How am I expected to drive adoption?” Therein lies the rub. There is a direct correlation between practice engagement and patient engagement. If a practice is willing to make a few adjustments to their attitude and behaviors around this initiative, it can be beneficial for all involved.

Remove Meaningful Use from the equation
You must be thinking, “Huh?” Forget about it. Engagement isn’t about meeting a government requirement, it is about better serving your patients. Though your practice specializes in medicine, you are in the service industry. Take pride in that. Your goal should be to create the best possible patient experience and outcomes. This will create a loyal patient base that will allow the business to thrive in an ever changing market.

Create value for your patients
Remember to make this about them. They need to know why it’s worth their time to create another user name and password. This is about translating features into benefits.

Feature: Availability of on-line forms
Benefit: Eliminates the need to show up 30 minutes prior to the scheduled appointment. You’ll have more time to spend on things that you like to do.

Feature: Secure messaging
Benefit: Avoid sitting on hold, playing phone tag, having your message lost or having your message improperly relayed. Your message will end up in the hands of the person that can best serve you.

Feature: Availability of medical record
Benefit: You have detailed medical information available 24 hours a day. If you can’t remember the name of that really effective medication that you recently took, it is only a few mouse clicks away.

Feature: Online Bill Pay
Benefit: I can pay from anywhere, at any time without having to search for a check and stamp.

Feature: Education and Care Compliance
Benefit: With the movement towards paying physicians for their outcomes, it is increasingly important to engage patients in their health and make it easier for them to comply with the care plan the physician prescribed.

Practice what you preach
Verbalizing value is one thing, ensuring that it exists is another. Make it a point to reply to messages quickly and do not be shy about using the portal to initiate conversation. Be mindful of the data that you’re entering in your EHR. If you’re taking shortcuts, the patient will know. If the patient has made you aware of pertinent medical data, ensure that is represented properly in their medical record.

Think about the possibilities
Now take a moment to think about how nice it would be for you if…

  • You had less congestion in your waiting room because intake forms were on file in advance
  • You had fewer repetitive phone calls from patients wondering why you haven’t returned their call(s)
  • You had fewer requests for miscellaneous medical details
  • You had faster turnaround times on payments due to on-line bill pay
  • You were able to see more patients but still leave on time

I’m personally challenging you to become engaged with engagement. By emphasizing its value and taking practice-wide pride in making your patient portal a success, you too, will see just how powerful of a tool it can be.