Clinical Collaboration Systems for Hospitals—Complete Guide

Collaboration SystemsClinical communication and collaboration are critical to a healthcare organization’s delivery of effective patient-centered care. But for healthcare leaders looking to make a tangible impact on key performance metrics, terms like “clinical collaboration” and “care team communication” can feel a bit abstract.

Some may question:

What’s the best way to improve care team communication? Is it as simple as HIPAA-compliant text messaging? Is there more to “clinical collaboration” than juggling workarounds and niche vendors?

Whether you’d like to understand the effect that communication can have on patient care and clinician satisfaction, you’re trying to choose the best clinical communication app, or you just need to know where to focus first, this guide can help.

Index

Impact of Communication in Healthcare | Improving Communication and Patient Safety | Top Digital Solutions | Choosing the Right Solutions | Infographic: 8-Step Overhaul Checklist | Future of Technology in Healthcare

What is the impact of communication in healthcare?

80% of all medical errors involve miscommunication.1

Healthcare communication, sometimes known as clinical communication and collaboration (CC&C), is one of the most essential—and deceptively complex—aspects of patient care. The quality and speed of patient care delivery rely on the care team’s ability to communicate critical information accurately and rapidly.

Yet 14% of messages go to the wrong clinician at the wrong time.2

Poor communication is a key contributor to:

  • Medical Errors
  • Care Delays
  • Declining Patient Satisfaction
  • Increasing Provider Burnout

Patient expectations, which are critical in shaping their experience with healthcare organizations, continue to evolve in the age of value-based care. Mistakes, care delays, confusion, and frustration among care teams impact patient outcomes and are now reflected in HCAHPS scores and CMS reimbursements.

Joining patient satisfaction is the priority of provider satisfaction and its impact on burnout and turnover. Recently, pandemic-related surges in patient demand and declining resource availability have made care coordination more exhausting, making smooth collaboration more essential in combatting burnout.

Improving Clinical Communication and Patient Safety

Hospitals and health systems looking to improve clinical communication and patient safety should start by taking an honest look at the workflows and potential gaps that exist within and across your organization’s various roles and departments.

Where are your opportunities for improvement? Think about answers to the following questions.

Accelerating Speed to Care

  • Does communication at your organization always reach the right provider in a timely manner?
  • Could your teams accelerate speed to care by reducing the number of steps in the existing communication workflows?

Eliminating extra steps reduced UT Medical Center’s time to initiate clinical communication by 76.3%.

Reducing Provider Interruptions

  • Do physicians get nonurgent interruptions during patient encounters, surgery, or other critical moments while administering care?
  • Do your providers have the ability to “unplug” and recharge during their time off to help prevent burnout, or do they get interrupted with misdirected communication?

Burned out physicians are 2x as likely to be involved in patient safety accidents.

Enhancing Patient and Family Communication

  • Do you provide appointment reminders or virtual check-in to support patient safety and satisfaction?
  • Can nurses easily and securely communicate with patients and update their family members?

Texting patients helped Park Nicollet reduce patient readmissions by 32% and cut nurse phone calls by 25%.

If you answered “No” to any of the questions above, you have identified an opportunity for improvement. Fortunately, healthcare technology has come a long way in a short period of time, and it is easier than ever to replace siloed tools and systems with integrated clinical collaboration solutions.

What are the top digital solutions for clinical communication?

The simplest answer is: It depends. There are various clinical collaboration tools that exist to serve specific purposes. Since each health system, hospital, and even department has unique needs, the best choice is to work with a solution that offers broad integration capabilities. Select a vendor that operates as a care delivery partner and has the agility to evolve with your organization’s needs over time.

Identifying the right clinical collaboration system for your organization will require collaboration among your internal leadership if you hope to minimize your vendor footprint, avoid creating more silos, and maximize ROI.

How to Choose the Right Clinical Communication Software

Sometimes for hospitals and health systems, the hardest part about improving clinical communication and patient safety is figuring out where to start. To help, we created a checklist infographic summarizing the eight steps to a strategic clinical communication upgrade outlined by Julie Mills, DNP, MBA, RNC-OB, C-EFM, Sr. Director of Clinical Solutions at PerfectServe.3

8 Steps to a Clinical Communication Upgrade

  1. Create a multidisciplinary decision-making team.
  2. Calculate the financial impact.
  3. Start your list of requirements with HIPAA compliance.
  4. Recodify time-tested policies.
  5. Pilot while priming physician buy-in.
  6. Work through communication workflows.
  7. Choose your hardware.
  8. Create a closed loop for continual improvement.

Want more detailed information about completing each step to shape your clinical communication strategy? Download our clinical communication checklist.

What is the future of technology in healthcare?

Technology will continue to provide new and better ways to support healthcare processes, streamline clinical communication, and enhance patient safety. That’s why it is important to be selective when considering new vendors and systems. The right choices can unify and simplify care team collaboration, but the wrong choices could add silos, waste resources, and impede patient-centered care.

Prioritize integration and look for solutions that unify as many workflows as possible—clinical communication, provider scheduling, patient communication, patient family updates—into one user-friendly platform accessible from anywhere on any device.

Sources

  1. Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare Releases Targeted Solutions Tool for Hand-Off Communication, Aug. 2012: jointcommission.org
  2. Paging Dr. Right, ACP Hospitalist, Stacey Butterfield, May 2012: acphospitalist.org/archives/2012/05/success.htm
  3. Checklist for a successful clinical communication overhaul, Nursing Management, Mills, Julie MBA, RNC-OB, C-EFM, Vol. 52, Issue 1, p. 10-13, Jan. 2021: journals.lww.com/nursingmanagement/Fulltext/2021/01000/Checklist_for_a_successful_clinical_communication.4.aspx#

Partnering With Our Customers to Accelerate Speed to Care

Covid Year in Review

The past 12 months have been difficult in more ways than we can count. But, while we lament the struggles and mourn the hundreds of thousands of lives lost in the United States, we can also take stock of the victories, accomplishments, innovations, and breakthroughs achieved in the age of COVID-19. We can even appreciate some of the ways healthcare has changed for the better.

To quote our Chief Clinical Officer Kelly Conklin, who spent 20 years as a trauma and ER nurse, “These ‘unprecedented times,’ challenging and sad though they’ve been, are the impetus for a lot of promising change in the world of healthcare, and I’m optimistic that the ‘new normal’ is going to be a friendlier, more convenient, and more modern experience.”

COVID-19 Demanded a Flexible Response

At PerfectServe, our COVID experience has been focused on supporting the hundreds of healthcare organizations that use our technology every day. Infectious disease doesn’t ask permission to spread, so deploying PerfectServe’s technology quickly and effectively has been key to our efforts. We started with an offer of free software and services for customers. As time went on, use cases became more varied.

Initial Wave in March 2020

  • Supported curbside testing coordination.
  • Built a new platform to enable hospitals on lockdown to communicate with patients’ family members from the core PerfectServe system.
  • Facilitated news, announcements, and other mass communication for employee and clinician alignment on treatments, procedures, and protocols. (Core communication traffic increased by 400%.)

Mid-Pandemic

  • Reduced infection risk for clinicians by allowing them to use their mobile devices to round on less acute COVID patients.
  • Enabled quick and app-less telehealth visits as clinics remained closed.
  • Offered a Rapid Surge Scheduling solution to help organizations easily build and update provider schedules as available staff, patient load, and even hospital facilities changed rapidly.

Reopening

  • Enabled a virtual waiting room capability to help clinics adhere to safety protocols as certain facilities reopened

Vaccine Rollout

  • Facilitated the communication of vaccine procedures and distribution of information within clinical care teams.
  • Currently leveraging Lightning Bolt’s Access Optimization capability to build optimized provider schedules based on time taken to vaccinate patients—using average vaccination throughput as a driver for provider schedule creation.

The growing list of new use cases reflects how PerfectServe has embraced the agility required to be an effective technology partner for healthcare organizations. To echo Sachin Jain’s recent column for Forbes, Change does not have to be slow, plodding, and hyper-rational. At the height of the COVID-19 crisis, healthcare organizations showed remarkable agility because the situation demanded it.”

We know how important communication and coordination are for care delivery, and we’ve delivered solutions that meet the needs of a once-in-a-century moment.

  • Pull together a team to launch a new patient communication platform in a few weeks?
    We can do that.
  • Rethink our implementation protocols to execute a virtual multi-site go-live for a large health system?
    We can do that too.
  • Launch an easy-to-use, fast-to-deploy video visit platform that enables providers to reach more of their patient population while in-person visits are discouraged?
    We’re on it—and we’ll do it quickly.

A couple of customers shared some thoughts about the support PerfectServe provided as their organizations ramped up COVID-19 response efforts:

“When COVID hit, we had to look for alternative virtual solutions in an attempt to connect with all of our patients. PerfectServe was able to quickly help us stand up their video platform to assist in certain situations. They were able to understand and meet our patients’ needs.”

– Andrew Bradford, Director of Virtual Health, St. Elizabeth Physicians

“As far as COVID support from PerfectServe, implementing the Lightning Bolt Rapid Surge Scheduling solution was a very simple process. I was able to add and change assignments as needed, which I have always been able to do, but the most helpful was when we had to add more support personnel on the fly. Having that flexible scheduling capability was critical during such an uncertain time, and the whole PerfectServe team was a huge help.”

– Sandee Leslie, Practice Program Coordinator, St. Luke’s Health System (Nampa and Meridian Medical Centers)

Amplifying Diverse Voices

2020 challenged companies to think differently in many ways. We’ve been reminded time and time again that recognizing and amplifying diverse voices makes a business stronger, wiser, and more inclusive. PerfectServe’s Diversity & Inclusion (DE&I) Advisory Council led the charge to adopt a revamped diversity charter for the company, and a simple but powerful new motto permeates all DE&I efforts:

“Different is Perfect.”

PerfectServe works with hospitals and practices in every corner of the country, and we want our team members to reflect the diversity of thought, background, and experience that we see in our customers—and our customers’ patients—every single day. This work never ends, and our CEO, Guillaume Castel, constantly emphasizes the egalitarian nature of healthcare:

“No matter who you are, where you come from, what you believe, or what you look like, we all need care at some point in our lives.”

– Guillaume Castel, Chief Executive Officer, PerfectServe

Healthcare affects everyone, and that means everyone should have a seat at the table.

To recap, a lot has been learned in the last year:

  • We listened closely to customers so we could address their most pressing needs with our solutions—and we created new solutions along the way.
  • We tweaked, reworked, and updated processes to get work done more efficiently than ever in a virtual environment.
  • We found new ways to reinforce a company culture that starts with inclusivity and committed to growing on that momentum.
  • We saw real life in stark relief as Zoom calls were graced with—not interrupted by—pets, family members, friends, and everything in between.

More than 100 million COVID vaccine doses have now been administered in the United States, and as a glimmer of normalcy looms on the horizon, rest assured that PerfectServe will emerge from the pandemic with clarity of purpose and a steadfast commitment to customers: With our technology and the talented employees who make our company tick, we will continue to accelerate speed to care by making collaboration more intuitive, scheduling more optimized, and communication more effective.

Would you like to learn more about how we can help your organization thrive with better communication, scheduling, and/or collaboration?

Radiology Productivity: Beyond the RVU

Radiology Productivity

The workload of US radiologists has increased over the past two decades.1 Unfortunately, the number of new radiologists entering the field hasn’t grown to match demand. The shortage of radiologists and increasing demand for imaging services make measuring radiologist productivity more important than ever. Explore why current productivity standards for radiology departments and groups might be missing the mark and how a digital scheduling solution can double as a radiology productivity software.

Radiology Productivity Metrics: Is the RVU enough?

Many radiology practices and departments measure productivity using Relative Value Units (RVUs), but the RVU system has known limitations.2 Compared to other services, interventional procedures are somewhat undervalued while MRI services are given a higher value.

In addition to the issues inherent in the RVU scale, other factors including scheduling can impact a group’s ability to accurately measure productivity. For example, a physician working during a weekend shift may generate fewer RVUs than generated on a regular day shift. Unless your team equally distributes holidays, weekends, and other shifts, RVUs can’t reliably measure radiologist productivity.

RVUs also fail to provide insight into all the work providers are doing. Time spent on continuing education, professional development, teaching, and research are all valuable to your organization, but are not reflected in RVUs. Radiologists are increasingly required to spend more time on administrative tasks—which means they read fewer films and spend less time on patient care. Long story short: RVU metrics can not tell us how much work physicians are doing.

A Better Way to Track Radiology Productivity Benchmarks

If your organization is manually scheduling providers, you know that human error can impede your ability to see the number and types of shifts your providers are working. With a digital scheduling platform, your organization can automate the scheduling process and gain an accurate picture of your providers’ workloads. Digital scheduling gives you access to a lot of data that can streamline operational efficiency to effectively serve as radiology productivity software for your group.

Auto-Generate Radiology Schedules That Ensure Even Shift Distribution

Creating shift schedules that ensure full sub-specialty coverage, meet patient demand for different diagnostic imaging types, and distribute shifts evenly among providers is complex if tackled manually. But it is the first step to gaining better insight into the productivity of your providers. Without even shift distribution, you can’t be certain the data accurately reflects productivity.

“We can really coordinate what’s happening within our facilities, where our resources are going.”

– Jim Clabo, Director Systems and Scheduling Administration, Northwest Permanente

An advanced rules-based scheduling solution can automatically distribute your shifts evenly. You simply create highly customizable rules designed to schedule providers across subspecialties and locations in a way that is fair and equitable, and then, auto-generate the schedule.

Tag Shifts by Type of Work or Diagnostic Imaging Type

Once you’ve created the schedule, you can tag various shift assignments by type of work. For example, tag shifts for specialty imaging like neurology, breast imaging, pediatrics, and ultrasound. Plus, tag shifts for non-clinical time, including administrative work, continuing education, teaching, and research.

Tagged shifts reflect the type of work providers are doing, so you can generate granular reports about their type of work, when they are scheduled, and where each shift takes place.

Streamline Value Management and Resource Utilization

Your organization can take value management a step further to gain insight into resource utilization. Many clients use our scheduling solution to track exam room and OR utilization. The same can be done for imaging equipment. Assign radiologists and radiology technologists to specific equipment to identify inefficiencies and opportunities to increase revenue.

By scheduling providers with certain equipment and rooms, you can see which equipment may be underutilized and when. Capitalize on those opportunities by scheduling additional providers at specific times. Alternatively, you can see when equipment is in high demand and schedule faster readers during peak times to increase capacity.

Increase Radiology Productivity With a Radiology Scheduling Software

An advanced scheduling solution can help your organization streamline processes and gain better insights into your operations. Save time by streamlining complicated scheduling processes and access advanced workforce analytics that reveal actual value versus perceived value. Maximize productivity and value management with a clear picture of when your resources are and are not being utilized.

Hear from our customers at Northwest Permanente, who currently use Optimized Provider Scheduling powered by Lightning Bolt to streamline value management across the organization. The Permanente Medicine team uses our solution to schedule providers directly into exam rooms and operating rooms.

See How It Works

 

Resources:
1. Radiologists’ Variation of Time to Read Across Different Procedure Types, Society of Imaging Informatics in Medicine, Daniel Forsberg, Beverly Rospiko, and Jeffrey L. Sunshine, Journal of Digital Imaging– Vol. 30 (1), 86-94, 2017: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10278-016-9911-z
2. Leveraging the electronic health record to evaluate the validity of the current RVU system for radiologists, Elsevier Inc., Ronnie Sebro, Clinical Imaging, 2021: doi.org/10.1016/j.clinimag.2021.02.007

Coordinating COVID-19 Vaccination:
3 Essential Elements

Covid Vaccination Coordination

COVID-19 has transformed healthcare indefinitely and forced agility from care teams at every turn. Vaccination efforts are no exception. Healthcare organizations across America are in the midst of a massive, frazzled effort to coordinate hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccinations.

As demand peaks for information around vaccine eligibility, availability, and distribution, healthcare organizations should be proactively educating patients and providers to help combat misinformation and build confidence in the vaccination process. Effective communication is critical between healthcare organizations, staff, and patients to support compliance with public health guidance.

Unfortunately, some organizations simply haven’t had the resources to plan ahead for the number of logistical variables impacting vaccine communication and coordination. We want to help by summarizing the challenges and solutions of three essential elements of vaccination coordination:

  1. Patient Communication
  2. Provider Communication
  3. Resource Allocation

1. Patient Communication

Challenges: Trust, Compliance, and Safety; Combatting Misinformation

To build trust and increase compliance among patients, organizations must communicate and provide real educational material to counteract misinformation such as social media myths.1 Managing expectations and helping patients assess their relative risks in context are challenges that only get harder as myths and disinformation spread online.

Solution: Rapidly Educate, Remind, Triage, and Follow Up

A 2020 population survey of US adults found that individuals were more likely to accept a COVID-19 vaccine if they thought their healthcare provider would recommend vaccination.2

Build trust and patient satisfaction by distributing educational material to patients on their most preferred communication device—their cell phone. The right patient engagement solution will offer HIPAA-compliant video, voice, and text messaging that empowers you to:

  • Reach out to patients about vaccine availability and location.
  • Send timely appointment updates and confirmation.
  • Provide guidance on preparation, wayfinding, and check in.
  • Track confirmations, cancellations, and who is running late.
  • Instantly broadcast changes in supply, location, or procedure to the patient population.
  • Create a triage pathway for patients who have questions, complications, or adverse effects from the vaccination.
  • Provide automated reminders to support second dosage compliance. For example:
  • Clients are using PerfectServe’s Patient and Family Communication solution to send patients reminders of their second dose date with simple scheduling instructions.

2. Provider Communication

Challenges: New and Evolving Processes; Accommodating Patient Demand and Follow-Up Needs

Surging patient demand and shifting vaccine supply make it difficult to coordinate staff and ensure the right providers can be reached at the right time. Organizations must keep providers educated, up to date, and prepared to answer patient questions. It is also up to organizations to facilitate rapid follow-up to patient questions and concerns post-vaccination.

Solution: Dynamic Communication, Smart Routing, and Instant Updates in One App

Communication should make it easy for providers to understand the process of the vaccine rollout and answer specific technical questions.3

The same communication solution that addresses your patient needs should also support seamless coordination between clinical and operational staff in an environment of surging demand and dynamic vaccine availability. Look for a solution that lets you:

  • Share educational material with staff via news bulletins.
  • Update care teams about locations, procedures, and supplies.
  • Instantly communicate changes to staffing and site plans across your organization.
  • Facilitate real-time responses from providers to address patient issues associated with vaccine complications. For example:
  • One hospital has implemented an “Adverse Vaccine Reaction Hotline” that care team members can access via PerfectServe web or phone number. Three different providers rotate through the hotline service so the case load is spread evenly.

3. Resource Allocation

Challenges: Balancing Staff Distribution With Changes in Vaccine Demand and Supply

One of the most difficult and important resources to coordinate is your staff. Balancing staff vaccination with provider shift schedules to adequately support patient vaccination will be increasingly challenging. Adjusting provider schedules manually during chaotic surges in supply and demand across locations could become a nightmare.

Solution: Optimized Provider Scheduling With Real-Time Update Distribution

“A world safe from vaccine preventable diseases requires well-functioning human resources within a supportive environment.” – World Health Organization4

Automate the schedule-building process with a solution that can adapt to shifting variables—such as temporary vaccination sites and changes in vaccine supply—and update your staff in real time. An ideal scheduling solution will:

  • Integrate with your communication solution.
  • Provide easy access via smartphone app.
  • Serve as a provider scheduling source of truth that stays up to date in real time.
  • Simplify shift swaps and time-off requests for providers to help reduce burnout
  • Accommodate unique needs with customization for your organization. For example:
  • Optimized Provider Scheduling powered by Lightning Bolt is helping organizations meet fluctuating staff needs during COVID-19 surges by automatically generating balanced schedules to include new and redeployed staff across existing and temporary locations.

Streamlining Vaccination Coordination

COVID-19 vaccination presents healthcare organizations with several challenges exacerbated by many shifting variables. Don’t leave your teams fumbling to keep up. Leading organizations are overcoming vaccine-related communication and resource challenges with comprehensive collaboration solutions that solve as many challenges as possible with one streamlined, user-friendly interface.

See how integrated solutions can support your COVID-19 vaccination coordination.

Demo PerfectServe

Resources:
1. Effects of fact-checking social media vaccine misinformation on attitudes toward vaccines, J. Zhang et al., ScienceDirect, Preventive Medicine – Volume 145, Apr. 2021: sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0091743520304394?dgcid=author
2. Acceptability of a COVID-19 vaccine among adults in the United States: How many people would get vaccinated? P. Reiter et al., Vaccine – Volume 38, Issue 42, Sep. 29, 2020: sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264410X20310847
3. Communicating about the COVID-19 Vaccines: Guidance and Sample Messages for Public Health Practitioners, Public Health Institute, Dec. 10, 2020: phi.org/thought-leadership/communicating-about-the-covid-19-vaccines-guidance-and-sample-messages-for-public-health-practitioners
4. Immunizations, Vaccines and Biologicals – Workforce, World Health Organization: who.int/immunization/programmes_systems/workforce/en

How Virtual Waiting Rooms Help Patient Satisfaction & Safety

Virtual Waiting Rooms

Traditional waiting rooms complicate patient visits in two important ways:

  1. They increase patient discomfort, emphasizing the waiting process.
  2. They are a melting pot for germs and bacteria, increasing risk of exposure to infection.

A virtual waiting room, on the other hand, minimizes discomfort while protecting patients and staff by reducing their risk of exposure to illness, benefits brought to the forefront during COVID-19. Possible side effects of a virtual waiting room include more pleasant patient encounters, increased provider and patient satisfaction, and improved health outcomes.

May 2020, 90% of patients globally reported that care quality during surges in virtual care was as good or better than care quality prior to COVID-19.

What is a virtual waiting room?

If you’ve been out to eat at a restaurant in the past few years, even pre-pandemic, you may have noticed a change in the experience of waiting for a table. Rather than asking you to stay within earshot while you wait, today’s hostess will likely request your cell phone number and offer to text you when your table is ready.

The text-to-table process makes the entire experience feel more personal, comfortable, and customer-centric. That’s because waiting is less unpleasant when you are free to do what you want—where you want—until the moment your turn arrives. Now, the same experience has become essential in healthcare to minimize patient discomfort and protect public safety with social distancing.

A virtual waiting room (aka mobile waiting room, zero-contact waiting room, or curbside check-in) is a service that allows patients to check in using their mobile phone and notifies them through a direct text message when it is their turn to be seen by the doctor.

The Purpose of a Virtual Waiting Room in Healthcare

An ideal virtual waiting room can serve two purposes:

  1. Giving in-person patients the freedom to wait for their turn privately in their car—or wherever they choose—rather than confining them to a stuffy, crowded waiting room alongside new germs and potential infections.
  2. Facilitating a smooth check-in process for telehealth visits.

Both purposes improve the patient experience and encourage healthy practices.

Risks of Traditional Waiting Rooms

31% of patients say they are uncomfortable visiting a doctor’s office and 42% are uncomfortable visiting a hospital.

Traditional waiting rooms that require patients to touch shared surfaces and breathe shared air are beyond uncomfortable—they can be unsafe. Virtual waiting rooms enable social distancing to support a better patient experience and better outcomes.

Another risk tied to traditional waiting rooms involves staff and patient satisfaction. What if your patients and staff begin to correlate your organization with frustrating environmental factors beyond your control? A virtual waiting room helps you prevent your healthcare organization from being associated with pesky sounds, smells, people, and boredom that can easily be avoided.

As demand rises for a safer, more comfortable healthcare experience, virtual waiting rooms are the key to getting patients in the door while increasing their odds of leaving satisfied.

How can virtual waiting rooms apply to video visits?

Video visits are another great way to prevent unnecessary exposure to illness. Organizations looking to implement both video visits and a virtual waiting room should talk to their vendors about integration. Ideally, the same virtual solution used to help manage in-person patient visits can be adapted to also queue up video appointments, allowing providers and patients to indicate when they are ready.

What’s the best way to launch a virtual waiting room?

In short, work with what you’ve got. If you have a patient engagement solution that can also facilitate a virtual waiting room and video visits, talk to your vendor about the next steps for launching your virtual waiting room.

If you do not have a solution for two-way texting or video visits with patients, or if you are looking for a replacement/upgrade to your current system, focus on finding a solution that can do the following:

  • Automated Appointment Reminders to Patients
  • Pre-Appointment and Pre-Arrival Instructions to Patients
  • Patient Arrival Notification via Simple Text
  • Entry Notification and Office Navigation Guidance
  • HIPAA-Compliant Video Connection
  • Scheduled and On-the-Fly Video Visits
  • Connect Without Requiring App Downloads or Passwords
  • Caller ID Protection for Providers
  • 24/7 Connection

Here’s a streamlined patient experience with an organization using all of the above capabilities:

Virtual Waiting Room Patient Journey

Key Benefits of a Virtual Waiting Room

Virtual waiting rooms are extremely beneficial to patients, staff, and organizations that implement them, especially when they are integrated with other patient engagement solutions, such as video visits and HIPAA-compliant messaging.

Some of the top benefits include:

  • Increased Patient Satisfaction
  • Patient Safety and Protection
  • Reduced Frustration for Patients and Staff
  • Efficient Patient Intake
  • Reduced No-Shows

Improve Patient Outcomes With Better Engagement

Explore new ways to communicate most effectively with your patients with our white paper, Engaging Patients and Their Family Members – Texting to Support Value-Based Care and Better Outcomes.

Sources:

  1. Virtual care here to stay, PharmaTimes, Brad Michel, Jul. 21, 2020: pharmatimes.com/web_exclusives/Virtual_care_here_to_stay_1345204
  1. Breakdown of Changes in Consumers’ Health Care Behavior During COVID-19—INFOGRAPHIC, Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP), May 21, 2020: achp.org/research-breakdown-of-changes-in-consumers-health-care-behavior-during-covid-19

The Importance of Patient Education

Patient education is more important than ever in today’s value-based care system, which focuses on patient outcomes beyond the four walls of your healthcare organization. For a growing number of hospitals and practices, the key to educating patients and ensuring they have a good understanding of their care recommendations is simple—effective patient and family communication.

Why prioritize patient education?

The best way for healthcare organizations across the nation to understand the importance of patient education is by exploring five key reasons why patient education should be a strategic priority:

  1. Hospital Reimbursements
  2. Chronic Illness Prevention
  3. Healthcare Cost Reduction
  4. Clinician Time Savings
  5. Patient Experience Improvements

 

1. Hospital Reimbursements

The COVID-19 pandemic led healthcare organizations to rely heavily upon value-based care reimbursements, accelerating the shift toward patient-centered care.1 Now, providers are increasing patient education efforts to ensure they continue to meet the standards of value-based care.

CMS Value-Based Programs for Provider Payment

The Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP), Quality Payment Programs (QPPs), and Value Modifier (VM) Program are a few examples of value-based reimbursement programs. These are designed to:

  • Tie payments to quality and cost-efficient care.
  • Increase the use of healthcare information.
  • Drive improvement in health outcomes.

Fortunately, technology makes it is easier than ever to go beyond patient handouts to provide quality education to patients in a cost-efficient and time-efficient way. Rather than sinking staff time into manual patient outreach, providers can educate patients through automated text messages. Targeted messages can link to educational blog posts, videos, and other online resources, delivered directly to patients’ cell phones to encourage better outcomes.

2. Chronic Illness Prevention

Another takeaway from COVID-19 was the increased health risk associated with patients with chronic conditions. A study from 12 states reported that 73% of people hospitalized for COVID-19 had at least one underlying chronic condition, and rates of hospitalization increased as the number of conditions increased.2

Even before the pandemic, 90% of the nation’s healthcare expenditures were for people with chronic and mental health conditions, and chronic conditions accounted for 7 of the 10 leading causes of death in the US.2 One of the most successful ways to combat chronic illnesses is through self-management supported by patient education.

Many prevalent chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis share common challenges associated with self-management, which include:

  • Dealing with symptoms and disability.
  • Monitoring physical indicators.
  • Managing complex medication regimens.
  • Maintaining proper nutrition and exercise.
  • Adjusting to psychological and social demands.
  • Difficult lifestyle adjustments.
  • Engaging in effective interactions with health care providers.

Relationships between patients and their healthcare providers, friends, family, and community are fundamental to the self-management of chronic illness. Self-management programs and education tailored to specific groups with various delivery strategies have proven successful at improving health outcomes in targeted populations.3

3. Healthcare Cost Reduction

Unnecessary patient readmissions cost the US government roughly $17 billion each year.4 To combat the alarming rate of readmissions, CMS created the Hospital Readmission Reduction Programs in 2012, which penalizes hospitals when too many patients return within one month of treatment.

Nearly a decade later, federal records show that CMS will penalize 2,545 hospitals in 2021 for having too many Medicare patients readmitted within 30 days.5 That’s nearly half of the nation’s hospitals! But how can organizations cut down on readmissions and avoid penalties without incurring additional expenses on follow-up resources?

Patient education can help providers inform and remind patients of the proper ways to self-manage care and avoid nonessential readmissions. Better education can also help patients understand the care setting most appropriate for their condition and avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital.

For example, an uninformed patient might seek treatment in the Emergency Department (ED) for a minor issue, when an Urgent Care Center would be much more appropriate. The ED is one of the most expensive healthcare settings, and should be reserved only for critical events—not for nonurgent care.

Educating patients on how to follow self-care recommendations and when and where to seek treatment helps support faster recovery, reducing readmissions and expenses.

4. Clinician Time Savings

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has reported that the US will face a shortage of more than 100,000 physicians by 2030.6 As the shortage grows, our physicians grow increasingly short on time. As it is, the average doctor sees 20 patients per day.7

This means patient visits must be short, which can be problematic for several reasons. To start, shorter consultation times have been linked to poorer health for patients and increased burnout for doctors.

Patient Health

Short appointments make it difficult for patients to communicate with their doctors and for doctors to ensure patients fully understand the next steps they should be taking in their care plan. But how can healthcare organizations bridge the gap when time is finite and physician resources are dwindling?

Following up post-visit to provide patient education and reminders is an effective way to help patients self-manage their health. For example, HIPAA-compliant text messages can reach patients directly and can be automated to make outreach easy for care teams.

Physician Burnout

42% of all physicians report experiencing burnout, which can lead to reduced energy, depersonalization, depression, and physician turnover, as well as patient safety accidents. For sources and more information on clinician burnout, read our Clinician Burnout Report.

To help doctors free up their time to reduce stress and avoid burnout, healthcare providers should focus on increased patient education. Informed patients ask fewer and more pointed questions during appointement and can take steps to avoid uneccessary readmissions.

 

5. Patient Experience Improvements

Ongoing patient education improves self-efficacy and delivers better patient results by helping them adhere to medication and treatment regimens, identify abnormal symptoms, and decide what steps to take when issues arise. Each outcome enhanced by patient education also improves the patient experience (and HCAHPS scores) .

Pre-appointment education can help patients know what to expect and where to go, reducing uncertainty and anxiety. Post-appointment education can help patients recover properly with fewer complications. Across all stages of the patient journey, keeping patients informed and educated improves outcomes—from patient satisfaction to quality of life—the true purpose of value-based care.

Check out our blog on how to improve the patient experience to learn more.

Patient Education and Engagement Support Value-Based Care

Value-based care has required healthcare providers throughout the nation to prioritize patient education and patient engagement as strategic imperatives. To learn more about how a thoughtful, patient-centered communication strategy can provide ongoing patient education while enhancing the patient experience, download our white paper, Engaging Patients to Support Value-Based Care Initiatives.

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Sources:

  1. The move to value accelerates in 2021, spurred by lack of fee-for-service payments during pandemic, Morse, S., Healthcare Finance, Dec. 23, 2020: healthcarefinancenews.com/news/move-value-accelerates-2021-spurred-lack-fee-service-payments-during-pandemic
  2. An Ounce of Prevention Is Still Worth a Pound of Cure, Especially in the Time of COVID-19, Hacker, K., et al., Preventing Chronic Disease, Vol. 18, E03, CDC, Jan. 2021: cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2021/pdf/20_0627.pdf
  3. Self-Management: A Comprehensive Approach to Management of Chronic Conditions, Anekwe, T., et al., American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), Dec. 7, 2018: ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/10.2105/AJPH.2014.302041r
  4. Preventable Readmissions Cost CMS $17 Billion, Reardon, S., RevCycleIntelligence, Jan. 13, 2015: revcycleintelligence.com/news/preventable-readmissions-cost-cms-17-billion
  5. Medicare Fines Half of Hospitals for Readmitting Too Many Patients, Rau, J., Kaiser Health News (KHN), Nov. 2, 2020: khn.org/news/medicare-fines-half-of-hospitals-for-readmitting-too-many-patients/
  6. Research Shows Shortage of More than 100,000 Doctors by 2030, Mann, S., Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), Mar. 14, 2017: aamc.org/news-insights/research-shows-shortage-more-100000-doctors-2030

The Important Role Nurses Play in Care Transition and Reducing Readmissions

In its simplest form, “care transition” is defined as a hospital discharge or movement from one care setting to another. The risk that readmissions pose to patient safety requires that transitional care processes are under constant evaluation.

Nurses are the linchpin in clinical communication and coordination of patient care and thus are best equipped to coordinate a successful transition. The bedside nurse, for example, may understand a great deal more about the patient’s needs as they travel through the care continuum than other care team members. And when those needs are communicated effectively, the nurse is given the opportunity to extend to the patient high-value care beyond organizational boundaries through clinical communication.

Nurses create transitional care plans by compiling all the pertinent patient information and creating instructions to be followed. Then they share the plan in detail with all members of the new care team so that the handoff is seamless for both the patient and the new unit or facility.

The most important factor in transition of care is communication during the handoff process.

What to communicate and when

The goal of the handoff is to safely transfer the patient from one care setting to another (or to discharge the patient from the hospital completely) by exchanging the necessary information with, and by effectively transferring the responsibility of care to, either a new care team or the patient’s family.

It’s a lot to put on any nurse’s plate, but by standardizing and implementing an effective and comprehensive transition communication process, nurses can elevate patient safety, avoid adverse events that lead to costly readmissions and decrease patient anxiety during the transfer process.

It’s important to remember that the transfer process doesn’t apply only to moving a patient from an acute setting to the home or a post-acute environment. There are many different handoff scenarios within the same organization, unit and floor that need your close attention.

For example, nurses should be prepared to provide handoff communication:

  • At shift change
  • During a break
  • When patients are transferred within the hospital (e.g., from the ER to ICU, from radiology to the OR, etc.)

It’s extremely important for the purposes of continuity of care that the communication between the nurse and either the new team of clinicians or the family prepares them in such a way that they’re able to anticipate the patient’s needs and make timely decisions.

At a high level, to adequately prepare the new care team, the following should be included in the handoff communication:

  • Patient care instructions
  • Treatment description
  • Medication history
  • Services received
  • Any recent or anticipated changes

More specifically, and especially in the case of transfers to a new care team or facility, an effective care transition communication plan will include:

  • Patient’s name and age
  • Reason for admission
  • Pertinent co-morbidities
  • Code status
  • Current isolation or precautions
  • Elopement risk
  • Lab results—including any pending and/or abnormal findings
  • Relevant diagnostic studies
  • Fall risk assessment
  • Any assessment findings that are appropriate to the patient’s current health

Many times, nurses on the receiving team care for patients for whom they lack pertinent health data. For example, EKG results are often left out of the transition communication between hospitals and subacute rehabilitation facilities. In this case, if a patient has an episode of chest pain, the receiving team could conduct an EKG on their own, but without prior results to compare with, they can’t successfully rule out something dangerous, such as angina. So, they may err on the side of patient safety and send the patient back to the hospital, resulting in a readmission. However, if an EKG result is included in the transition communication, the receiving team can conduct an EKG on their own, compare the results with the EKG performed at the hospital, and determine whether there is an emergent need for a readmission or the issue is something they can safely handle in their own setting.

Pay extra close attention to medication communications

While including all pertinent test results in the handoff communication is extremely important, there’s another area that needs special attention, because it causes more admissions than any other factor: medication.

It’s estimated that 30% of hospitalized patients have at least one discrepancy on discharge medication reconciliation. Communicating medication details is an area that poses the greatest risk for error as well as the greatest opportunity to effect a positive outcome. In fact, over 66% of emergency readmissions for patients over 65 years old are due to adverse medication events.

Breaches in handoff, such as failure to include specific details of the patient’s medication history and future dosage needs, have dire consequences.

However, defective handoffs are also known to cause problems beyond adverse events. Issues such as delays in care, inappropriate treatment, and increased length of stay arise when transition communication is not strategically planned and delivered.

There are many root causes of a defective handoff, but since nurses play the most important role in the transition communication process, you must strategically develop and communicate the transitional care plan—not only by considering what information you believe should be communicated, but by extending a dialogue to the receiving team and understanding what information they feel is necessary to provide the best follow-up care possible.

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