We Must Enable Patients to Become Better Stewards of Their Own Care

Conventional wisdom says that people perform better if they have a vested interest in the outcome of a given situation. From experience, employers know this to be true: Employees who are given an ownership stake in their company historically perform better, and enjoy a higher degree of satisfaction from their respective jobs than do their non-stake-holding counterparts.

Recent research has shown that a similar premise holds true in healthcare as well. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), which has expanded its focus on patient engagement each year states, “Patients want to be engaged in their healthcare decision-making process, and those who are engaged as decision-makers in their care tend to be healthier and have better outcomes.” The most commonly cited technologies hospitals plan to add involve patient-generated health data solutions (2016 HIMSS Connected Health Survey). Generally speaking, the greater the engagement of the patient, the better the results, and information technology (IT) can support improved engagement platforms, such as patient portals, secure messaging, social media and other technologies.Graph

Data underscores importance of patient engagement
According to a 2016 New England Journal of Medicine survey of 340 U.S. healthcare executives, clinician leaders and clinicians at organizations directly involved in healthcare delivery:

  • 42% of respondents indicated that less than a quarter of their patients were highly engaged.
  • More than 70% reported having less than half of their patients highly engaged.
  • And to underscore the importance of this result, 47% of those surveyed revealed that low patient engagement was the biggest challenge they faced in improving patient health outcomes.

In addition, a 2017 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report recommends that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “should assess the effectiveness of its efforts to enhance patient access to and use of electronic health information.”

This is not only true for hospitals, but also for specialty care practices, such as orthopaedists, ophthalmologists, dermatologists, gastroenterologists and other high-performance specialists. In these environments, it is imperative that practices understand the very specific needs of their patients, and how to best conduct outreach that will increase patient portal access and engagement.

How has your practice encouraged more patient engagement?

7 Tips for Reducing Stress While On Call

  1. coc-blogMake sure you know your schedule- No one likes surprises. So make sure you know when you are on call.  If there are conflicts take care of them with enough time to get someone to cover for you.  Ideally you want the schedule made far in advance with easy access to view it on a shared calendar.  Many practices use google calendar or something similar.
  2. Don’t make big plans- Depending on your practice, being on call may be extremely busy or pretty slow. However, you need to be available for urgent and emergent patient issues that arise.  Trying to make it to a concert or take a family vacation while you are covering your practice after hours is a recipe for disaster.  You may be setting yourself up for medical liability and certainly making it difficult to enjoy your time off. Instead, swap calls with a partner or develop a relationship with a friendly competitor in your area to help cross-cover your practices.
  3. Ensure that patients can get through easily- At the beginning of call review the process that patients take to reach you. For some it may be checking that your phones are being forwarded properly and the call center knows your contact preferences. Ideally they should have your cell phone, home phone and email. Make sure they know how you want to be contacted.
  4. Try not to get angry or grumpy- It’s not always easy to sound enthusiastic when you get awoken in the middle of the night or disturbed during dinner to speak to a patient for an issue that doesn’t seem very important. Try to remember that the patient is not as knowledgeable as you are about health issues and wouldn’t be bothering you unless they were very concerned. Even if the call turns out to be non-urgent be sure to be polite and reassure the patient; you will both sleep better if the tone is pleasant.
  5. Educate your patients- Tell your patients to call if they are having difficulties or have questions about their care; try to be specific about the type of symptoms to look for.  This is especially important for patients who have had recent surgery or are taking new medications. By explaining what serious post-operative symptoms or potential medication side effects may be will reduce potential problems for you and the patient.
  6. Have a process to document calls- Your job is not done when you are finished speaking to the patient. Find an easy and reliable way to document the call and your recommendations. Some practices have a voicemail system that they call into to tell staff members about patients that called. You can also keep notes and fax back to the office.  We don’t suggest email or texting your office staff since this is likely to be in violation of HIPAA regulations. The easiest way to document is with an app based on-call service which allows for immediate documentation that is sent to the office staff as well as into your EHR.
  7. Designate staff to follow up after hour issues- No matter how you document the calls you need to designate someone in your office to handle the follow-up and charting of after hours calls. Ideally that person gets in early so they can call patients that need urgent appointments.  Make sure you have a way to track which calls were reviewed and charted by your staff.  Signature and time/date stamp is helpful.

We invite you to learn more about solving on call challenges as well as other pain points your medical practice may be facing and we look forward to speaking with you.

rheeDavid Rhee, M.D. – Retinal Specialist and Co-Founder of Connect On Call

David graduated from Harvard University with a BA in Biology, and obtained his MD from UC-San Diego. He then completed a residency in ophthalmology at Tufts University and a vitreoretinal Surgery Fellowship at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia. David has a keen interest in the Android platform and other open source platforms and designed the wireframe layout of the mobile web app for ConnectOnCall.

Will Robots Replace Healthcare Providers?

Khal Rai

Khal Rai

Senior Vice President, Development at SRS Health
Khal oversees the Software Engineering, Business Analysis, Quality Assurance, and Product Management teams at SRS. His 17+ years’ experience in software development and healthcare IT have resulted in a true passion for collaborating with customers, then translating their needs into innovative solutions and better service experiences. He believes that motivated employees and satisfied customers are keys to maintaining business success. He has a B.S. degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Cincinnati, and an M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University.
Khal Rai

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robot-blogLeveraging interpretive intelligence in clinical workflows

Automation has been making human workers superfluous for centuries, but until recently, workers whose jobs required high-level cognitive skills have been able to rest easy, confident no machine could possibly replace them when it came to making nuanced decisions based on the evaluation of complicated, sometimes contradictory data.

But that was before Artificial Intelligence (AI) came along, stepping out of the pages of science fiction and into our daily lives. It now seems possible — even probable — machines will replace many mid-level knowledge workers and the question arises whether someday robots will replace doctors and nurses.

It’s a provocative question, certainly, but not the most interesting one facing our industry. A more critical question is will the healthcare ecosystem — the vendors and the solution providers — be able to survive without AI? I ask this because I believe doctors and healthcare administrators will increasingly demand answers to questions, and solutions to the challenges, that are difficult, if not impossible, to solve without the aid of AI-driven solutions.

These questions will range from practical issues of practice management to vital questions of patients’ health. For example:

  • How much will it cost to treat this patient?
  • How much and how fast will I get paid?
  • Is medication or surgery the best treatment option for this particular patient?
  • Where and/or when should I schedule this surgery?
  • When will this patient be able to return to his/her normal routine?

Some of these, of course, are the perennial questions that have always faced healthcare practitioners, but the truth is recent changes in technology have made innovative solutions possible in a way never before imaginable. For example, all kinds of data are now readily available in consumable (discrete) forms — from PHI to financials to protocols — and storing and managing this data is getting cheaper every day.

Additionally, healthcare providers are beginning to understand the shift from service to value-based care and are seeing how it can work for them, both clinically and financially. Finally, the healthcare practitioners themselves are changing: computer- and technology-savvy clinicians who got their medical education and training in the 1990s and early 2000s (the so-called Generation X and Y) are now entering into leadership positions where they can affect change.

In other words, there is both a greater supply of data than ever before and a greater demand for it. However, this demand isn’t simply for large data-dumps of undigested information. What’s necessary is for healthcare providers and administrators to have the critical data they need, and only the data they need, when and where and in the form they need it. This is where AI can help make critical decisions about amalgamating and filtering data.

There’s enormous potential for AI (or “smart solutions”) to optimize clinical protocols by drawing on a huge pool of evidence-based results. As we move toward a value-based environment, AI will be increasingly necessary to proactively and dynamically manage patient outcomes. This, in turn, will optimize the treatment experience, leading to greater patient engagement — and this greater continuity of care will promote both healthier patients and healthier practices. Clinicians will also gain insights into how to manage risks, which leads to lower costs and better margins.

Will robots replace healthcare providers? It seems unlikely, but care teams will start to leverage interpretive intelligence in daily clinical workflow. Machine learning, along with AI, will become an integral part of the healthcare mix because the vast resources of critical data will only be truly available when clinicians have tools to track real-time data embedded in their daily workflows resulting in better patient care at a lower cost.

As seen in Health IT Outcomes.

The True Cost of Patient Registration Errors

The true cost of patient registration is hard to analyze because most providers and hospitals have convinced themselves they need to handle patient registration, instead of the patient handling it themselves. Therefore, the cost for patient registration can’t be improved and constantly increases based on new industry standards, such as meaningful use questions and ever-increasing staff costs. The result of this attitude and approach is that patient registration often takes more time than necessary. If the patient is unable to control his or her data during the registration process, lengthy wait times and increased dissatisfaction occur—costing providers both time and money.

Patients, on average, spend about 20 minutes in waiting rooms of healthcare organizations. When these organizations don’t focus on streamlining the patient check-in process, patient throughput suffers. Staffing expenses increase because staff must take time to clarify patient data or fill in missing pieces at the point of service. In addition, the potential for denied claims is higher due to a lack of data verification, raising overall collection costs.Impatiently-Waiting

Today, just 5 to 10 percent of healthcare organizations offer self-service solutions for patient registration and check-in. This is a missed opportunity to improve patient satisfaction, reduce costs and increase revenue. There are three benefits of self-service check-in technologies healthcare leaders should consider.

Speed. At Montgomery Cancer Center in Montgomery, Alabama, an electronic patient check-in solution decreased patient check-in time to just 41 seconds. Putting the registration process in the hands of patients not only provides them with the ability to manage their experience, but also limits check-in time simply by eliminating a visit to the front desk. This increases patient throughput and ensures that the time staff does spend with patients is of higher value.

Consider the airport registration process. When passengers fly, the last place they want to go to is a desk staffed by an airline employee. Instead, the first stop is to a kiosk or a mobile application with built-in technology that recognizes individuals with the touch of a few buttons, thanks to information they have been able to input in advance.

The experience in most hospitals and physician practices is often the opposite. Patient check-in is heavily dependent on staff—and breakdowns in processes occur when staff call in sick. They also occur when staff follow the same steps for each patient rather than customizing the registration process to the patient’s situation and needs. This increases the potential for error, which can lead to lost revenue.

Some hospitals and physician practices have tried to automate the registration process with the use of tablets rather than self-service platforms that verify data in real-time. However, this approach has critical flaws. For example, to receive a tablet, patients must go to the front desk, just as with traditional, manual processes, and any front-desk encounter adds time to the visit and costs hospitals and physician practices money. Every patient visit to the front-desk is an incremental cost for the hospital or physician.

Patient experience. Why is it that patients spend more time in the front office than with their physician or a nurse? It’s because front-office processes are broken. When patients spend more time than necessary dealing with a provider’s front-office processes and staff, satisfaction plummets—and there is a cost to lost patient loyalty.

One of the biggest misconceptions in healthcare is that front-office staff in physician practices and hospitals provide a personal touch to the patient encounter. But think about what this encounter typically looks like: “We have a few questions we need you to answer. Here is your paperwork [or tablet]. Please return this with your insurance card and driver’s license …” Is this really the personal touch we’re seeking to provide in healthcare?

Meanwhile, patients complain about the amount of paperwork they must complete before being seen by a physician. The personal touch they want is time spent with their physician. Anything that impedes their ability to see their physician impacts their experience.

Ideally, patients should spend two minutes or less on registration activities when they arrive for their appointment. While the amount of time spent at check in will vary by specialty, look for a self-service check-in solution that can ensure a two-minutes-or-less process.

Improved communication. So often in healthcare, it appears no one has time to truly talk with patients. Front-desk staff don’t always have the experience or time to have a meaningful conversation with patients. Nurses and technicians are under too much pressure to move patients through processes quickly. When the patient does see a physician, the backlog of patients—stemming in part from inefficient check-in processes—limits time for a meaningful encounter beyond the reason for the visit at hand.

Yet studies consistently show that the quality of patient communication has a direct impact on patient satisfaction. Effective communication is critical to the patient experience, which is now measured and tied to value-based payments. It’s also vital to understanding the patient’s total health needs and managing the patient’s health beyond a single episode of care.

A self-service check-in process opens the door to more meaningful communication with patients not just by freeing up staff time, but also by improving throughput. For example, nurses and physicians are better able to share information about additional services the patient may wish to consider. Staff can then augment these conversations by providing patients with brochures that offer greater detail about these services. Staff time also can be spent on patient follow up, making sure discharge instructions are clear and future appointments are scheduled.

Additionally, a self-service check-in solution offers real-time authentication of data and the opportunity to survey patients. Communicating financial information to patients can’t be done through the current paper process; however, when a patient uses a digital check-in solution, their data can be immediately authenticated, which allows for immediate communication of copays and remaining deductibles. Patients can also relate their experience with a staff member or physician in a post-office visit survey to actively share their suggestions for practice improvement. Not only do patients feel listened to, but their suggestions also help providers increase satisfaction and value.

Reengineering the patient registration experience is critical to eliminating front-office errors and delays that cost healthcare organizations money. It’s also essential to creating a more positive experience for patients as well as staff—a key step toward improving value.

 

gerard-white-clearwaveSRS Health guest blogger: Gerard White, President & CEO of Clearwave

With 20 years of technology leadership experience, Mr. White is responsible for successfully implementing the Clearwave Corporation vision and strategy. Mr. White co-founded the company in 2004 to carry out a vision of technology that spans the healthcare continuum through the creation of a healthcare network and a single patient identifier that allows accurate patient data to be shared regardless of what provider a patient visits.

Mr. White has extensive experience working with some of the most respected companies in the world including EDS, Security Mutual, Saturn, Lennox Industries, Continental Airlines, GTE, Alltel, Hitachi, Grant Thornton and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Both his knowledge and leadership experience provide a solid groundwork for Clearwave Corporation’s active role in revolutionizing the healthcare industry.

Prior to joining Clearwave, Mr. White was the CEO of 1stOrder, focusing on IT consulting services and wireless application development. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management and a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Information Systems.

Mark Your 2017 Calendars!

To help you keep track of your year, we’ve created this 2017 quick reference calendar that you can refer to for conference dates and important holidays. Looking forward to another exciting year!

Be sure to check our website for upcoming industry hot topic SRS Webinars.

2017-calendar-infographic-FINAL-v2

Anticipating Clients’ Needs

Lester Parada

Lester Parada

Director of Professional Services at SRS Health
Lester Parada is the Director of Professional Services overseeing the Implementation, Training & Consulting and Forms teams. He has a background in business development, product management, project management and client relations. His passion lies in maximizing client value by optimizing workflows and technology.Lester is a certified PMP, SCM and CSPO and has an MBA with a concentration in marketing.
Lester Parada

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client-needs-blogI was recently fortunate enough to visit two Ritz-Carlton Hotels in the span of a few weeks followed by another premium hotel which I will refer to as Hotel B.  If you have ever stayed at a Ritz, the following will come as no surprise, but they seem to read your mind at times.  Sure, you are always greeted with a smile at any hotel and offered help with luggage or directions.  What I’m referring to is how they anticipate your needs either through past experience or more importantly through listening to what you are not saying.

As an example, while departing Hotel B, my car was brought up, bags were put into the car and I was on my merry way.  Whereas  when leaving the Ritz, my car was brought up, bags were put into the car, but I was then asked where I was headed.  I explained I was headed to San Diego while absently loading an address in my cell phone’s GPS app.  Before I looked up, the valet had returned with water bottles stating that traffic could be rough this time of day and I might need them.  Additionally he saw the route in my GPS, along with my vacation appropriate attire, and made a recommendation for an alternate route if I didn’t mind a more scenic drive with less traffic.  It was this anticipation of needs that inspires guest loyalty, and commands a premium.

As I look around in the healthcare technology space, we must do a better job of anticipating our clients’ needs, rather than just reacting to what they are saying to us.  The industry is suffering from a lack of satisfaction and companies are having a hard time standing out from the herd.  Most are banking on their next big feature to be a differentiator that certainly has a powerful impact if it solves a particular problem. But without a firm understanding of their needs, it’s not going to resonate. Features will also come and go, requirements will morph, and regulations will change— and that’s due to the very nature of software and healthcare as a whole.  I would argue, let’s make service the one thing clients can’t live without.  Let’s stop simply listening to clients, and instead try to anticipate their needs and offer them solutions to problems they may not have verbalized yet.

After all, the features we offer are only as good as our fundamental understanding of their needs, spoken AND unspoken.