The Net Impact of Poor Patient-to-Provider Communication

Patient provider communication

Poor communication between patients and providers is, unfortunately, all too common.

Poor patient-to-provider communication leads to suboptimal outcomes, including poor health results for patients and wasted resources for providers.

Studies show that patients misremember or completely forget roughly 80 percent of the medical information they receive.

Here’s how poor communication affects both patients and providers and how a text-first strategy can improve overall outcomes.

Why patients miss appointments

The rate of appointment no-shows varies widely, from five to 55%, according to some estimates. But why do patients cancel as many as 55% of appointments?

Sometimes there are actual logistical reasons for a patient to miss an appointment. If a patient can’t get off work or is too sick to travel, for example, it’s not unusual that he/she would miss an appointment.

But, as one study highlighted, some patients miss or cancel their appointments because they’re afraid of the potential diagnosis, they feel that the provider has disrespected them and they are confused because of miscommunication regarding their provider’s scheduling system.1

Poor communication between patients and their providers can cause more frequent patient delays as well as appointment cancellations.

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Avoidable delays and cancellations

Interestingly, many of the patient-related delay and appointment issues—ranging from perceived disrespect to lingering fears or worries—could be easily addressed by increased communication efforts on the part of a healthcare provider.

For instance, a mix of tailored education, instructions and alerts can be sent to patients before their appointment, and since more than three-quarters of American adults text regularly, text messaging can be an ideal resource for providers who are looking to improve communication with their patients.

Treatment plans and medication adherence

Keeping open lines of clinical communication — like provider-to-patient texting — can help patients avoid bungled treatment plans and poor medication adherence.

One healthcare study estimated that roughly 25% of Americans don’t follow the treatment plans outlined by their providers.2 Their reasons varied, but 39% of patients didn’t agree with their clinicians about the diagnosis, 27% had concerns about the cost of treatment, 20% felt that the treatment went against their beliefs and 25% thought the treatment plan was just too complicated to follow.

Better communication between providers and patients can help this 25% of patients understand and follow their treatment plans better.

Miscommunication also leads to poor medication adherence: one study noted that 50 percent of chronically ill patients don’t take their medication properly.3 When patients fail to follow their treatment plans, they usually hinder their chances for a successful recovery.

Providers have to try to explain their treatment plans clearly and succinctly—failure to do so can lead to suboptimal outcomes. Mobile technology – more specifically text messaging – can play an important role in improving medication adherence by supporting those initial conversations. A “text-first” mobile patient engagement platform can be used to support much more than reminders and actually help provide a touch point that improves their overall health.

Poor health outcomes

Patient delay, missed appointments, and poor medication adherence — these issues are all directly related to poor patient-to-provider communication.
When providers fail to check in with patients or when they fail to fully explain a treatment plan to a patient, this typically leads to suboptimal outcomes.

When patients don’t follow through with their treatments, they usually fail to recover successfully, which oftentimes leads to avoidable readmissions.

Hospital readmission is a critical issue in the United States: one in five Medicare patients in the U.S. each year is readmitted within 30 days of leaving a hospital.4 However, a recent Harvard Business Review article pointed out that a “hospital would, on average, reduce its readmission rate by 5 percent if it were to prioritize communication with the patients in addition to complying with evidence-based standards of care.”5

Suboptimal outcomes lead to poor health results for patients, and repeated hospital readmissions eat up costly and critical provider resources. In order to improve outcomes and avoid patient-to-provider miscommunication, providers must focus on improving their overall communication efforts with patients.

A cost efficient and effective way to reach patients is through text messaging. The right platform not only support automated and on-demand messaging, but it also provides tools for provider staff that help them manage this critical communication channel.

Text messaging holds great promise for improving provider-to-patient communication and, most importantly, outcomes for all.

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1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1466756/
2http://healthcarecomm.org/about-us/impact-of-communication-in-healthcare/
3http://www.bemedicinesmart.org/A3_Report.pdf
4http://www.nacds.org/pdfs/pr/2012/nehi-readmissions.pdf
5https://hbr.org/2015/09/what-has-the-biggest-impact-on-hospital-readmission-rates

What physicians need to do to change patient behavior

patient and family communication featured image

Changing patient behavior is easier than you think

Engaged patients have better outcomes, but healthcare providers often struggle to find effective — and scalable — ways to empower their patients to play a role in their care.

As the number of patients grows, physicians, nurses and other care team members are more stretched for time than ever and have less time to spend on face-to-face patient care.

Patient and family communication tools give providers more opportunities to answer patient questions, send educational material and keep them engaged with their wellness plans between appointments.

Here’s what physicians and other care team members need to know about how a patient and family engagement tool can change patient behavior.

Driving healthier communities

Healthier communities help drive down the cost and waste in healthcare.

When communities are healthy, they clear out emergency departments, make it easier for individuals to access care and help hospitals avoid costly readmissions. Simple automated text messages with appointment reminders can make a huge improvement in patient show rates, regardless of the patient’s age and socioeconomic status.

For Ridgeview Rehab Specialties, automated text messages with appointment reminders, including scheduling and location details, helped the department reduce its no-show rate by 12.6% over two years, a cost savings of more than $138,000.

Inspiring patients to manage their healthcare

Consumerism in healthcare is driving some patients to be active participants, and patient engagement programs can empower even more patients to become more involved in their care. This kind of patient engagement is especially important for those who live with chronic health conditions.

Patient engagement technology can keep patients focused on their wellness between appointments. Automated provider-to-patient communications — like programmed text messages — can include questionnaires that monitor key health indicators and reminders to refill medications.

Retaining information from appointments

Exam rooms are stressful places for patients, and stress tends to make people forgetful. That’s why repetition is the key to getting patients to remember the details of a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Unsurprisingly, many hospitals and practices turn to provider-to-patient text messages to deliver highly relevant educational information.

Sending text messages with links to pages on your site, PDFs, YouTube videos and your other pieces of digital content makes it easy for patients to find and refer back to them later.

How to move forward with a patient and family communication approach

  1. Understand all existing patient engagement activities currently in place and assess each one’s utilization rates.
  2. Research the data on your existing patient engagement activities. Then, understand how to consolidate them into a single patient path.
  3. Gather the number of mobile phone numbers available to push information out to your existing patient population.
  4. Develop a rollout plan for hospitals and affiliated groups / clinics, and determine what marketing efforts you’ll need to create awareness and incentivize patient engagement.

Want more information about patient engagement tools?

Our Patient and Family Communications technology is a text-first comprehensive, flexible and secure. Our solution is proven and is live in more than 10,000 care locations, facilitating more than 42,000 patient interactions every day.

Presenting the new PerfectServe family

The last three weeks have been some of the most eventful in PerfectServe’s 20-year history. Let’s do a quick recap:

  • On January 16, we announced the acquisition of Telmediq, which was recently named the 2019 KLAS Category Leader for Secure Communications Platforms for the second consecutive year.
  • One week later, we announced that 2018 was the best year in PerfectServe history, with new records being set for sales bookings and year-over-year sales growth. As a bonus, 2018 also saw the completion of the largest individual agreement in company history.
  • This morning, the PerfectServe portfolio grew yet again as we announced the acquisitions of Lightning Bolt, a cutting-edge physician scheduling platform, and CareWire, a text-first mobile patient engagement platform.

So, what does all of this activity mean? To start, PerfectServe – driven by Dynamic Intelligent Routing® – is the solution of choice for healthcare providers looking to solve their most complex clinical workflows. This powerful capability is the foundation of our platform.

But now, there’s more to the story – a lot more. Each brand joining the PerfectServe family is a standout healthcare technology solution in its own right, and we’re bringing them all together under one roof.

The possibilities are endless.

As PerfectServe CEO Terry Edwards noted in his Q&A with Telmediq CEO Ben Moore (now PerfectServe’s Chief Product Officer), combining these best-of-breed platforms is part of a larger goal to ramp up innovation as we bring to market the care team collaboration platform of the future.

To illustrate why these additions are so significant, here’s a quick introduction to each of PerfectServe’s new family members, including some of their distinct capabilities:

  • Telmediq, as previously noted, is the top KLAS-rated vendor for secure communications platforms in 2019. With its call center solution, nurse mobility strategy, advanced alert and alarm management capabilities, mass notification functionality and strong customer relationships, this platform brings unmistakable value to the PerfectServe portfolio. Together, PerfectServe and Telmediq offer the most comprehensive set of clinical communication and collaboration (CC&C) capabilities on the market, with the two platforms counting more than 500,000 clinical users across 250 hospital sites and 27,000 physician practices and post-acute care organizations.
  • Lightning Bolt optimizes physician scheduling workflow with automation technology that brings balance to complex scheduling variables. The company has developed deep domain expertise in the areas of physician workflow, hospital operations, artificial intelligence and professional balance. Lightning Bolt automatically generates more than three million physician hours each month and is the trusted solution for hospitals and health systems working to align the interests of their physicians and facilities to promote work-life balance, productivity and patient access.
  • CareWire uses SMS texting – the most widespread communication method – to drive patient engagement. By using text messages, the solution reaches patients and family caregivers of all ages and socioeconomic statuses without requiring an app download or a password. With its encounter navigation assistance and tailored messages that use social determinants of health data, CareWire drives reduced cost and readmissions, improved chronic care management and better clinical outcomes. This accessible approach to care coordination also boosts patient satisfaction. CareWire is currently deployed in 10,000 care locations, where it optimizes the care experience across 42,000 patient interactions per day.

With Telmediq, Lightning Bolt and CareWire, PerfectServe has assembled vital pieces of a puzzle that will take shape over the coming months . The end game is actually pretty simple: Provide healthcare organizations with a patient-centric care team collaboration platform that streamlines and automates workflows to expedite care delivery among all care team members and across all care settings.

In short, by remedying the care coordination challenges that have long existed in the healthcare industry, we want to free clinicians up to do what they do best – treat their patients.

Stay tuned for more news about our journey to build the care team collaboration platform of the future. If you’re coming to HIMSS in Orlando from February 11-15, make sure to visit PerfectServe (booth #1113), Telmediq (booth #6643) and Lightning Bolt (booth #2393).

Explore the many ways our unified PerfectServe family can support your organization with a clinical communication specialist.

How to capture positive online reviews for your practice

Whether they’re about restaurants, hotels, service providers or everyday products, online reviews are ubiquitous.

Consumers place a great deal of trust in online reviews because they’re more likely to believe the candid words of a fellow consumer than the curated sales pitch of a business. In fact, what customers write about companies online can have a bigger impact on buying decisions than traditional marketing methods.

But reviews aren’t limited to restaurants and hotels – consumers also use Healthgrades, Google and Yelp to research healthcare providers before scheduling appointments.

Why online reviews have to be a priority

The number of internet-savvy consumers looking to online reviews for healthcare providers might surprise you.

According to a Pew survey, one in five internet users have consulted online healthcare reviews before deciding where to go for healthcare services.

A separate study from the Brookings Institution shows that patients take online reviews very seriously. In fact, patients believe online reviews are just as credible as ratings provided by the government.

With the prevalence of online provider reviews and their role as a key resource for patients who are seeking care, providers should think not only about treating patients for their medical ailments, but also providing excellent customer service.

How to manage your practice’s reputation

It’s never easy to receive negative feedback, but in today’s digital world, it’s inevitable.

A proactive strategy begins with rigorous  monitoring of your practice’s online reputation to understand how your patients perceive your care experience; this understanding can help you formulate an improvement plan.

Bad experiences tend to prompt more online reviews than positive ones, but with the right plan in place, you can encourage your patients to write about their positive experiences as well.

Here are a few simple ways to encourage patients to post about their experiences with your practice:

  • Ask. This one’s often overlooked, but simply ask your patients to rate their experience on Healthgrades, Google or Yelp.
  • Email. If you have current email addresses for your patients, send a brief email with a clear request and easy-to-follow instructions about how to post an online review.
  • Survey. After appointments, send follow-up surveys to gauge how your patients felt about your practice, and include a link to prompt them to share their feedback on Healthgrades, Google or Yelp.

Learn How

How PerfectServe makes gathering online reviews easy

If you’re having trouble gathering online reviews, consider using PerfectServe’s patient and family communication functionality.

Our solution automatically triggers a post-visit survey based on activity in the patient’s EMR record. Once the survey is completed, follow-up occurs based on your patient’s feedback.

Here’s how it works:

  • If a patient responds with a negative satisfaction score, PerfectServe can send a text message asking him or her to connect with the office for further discussion or escalate an alert to the appropriate care team member to address the patient’s need.
  • If a patient responds with a positive satisfaction score, PerfectServe sends a message asking him or her to share their experience online, complete with a link to your preferred online review platform.

Our clients have found that 40-50% of patients respond to our online survey when they receive it the day after an appointment, and 15-20% of patients who respond to the survey post a review on Healthgrades, Google or Yelp when asked to do so.

If you’d like more information about how PerfectServe can help you survey your patients more effectively and generate more reviews for your practice, contact us.

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Building healthcare’s most advanced care team collaboration platform: An interview with the CEOs of PerfectServe and Telmediq

Since its founding nearly 20 years ago, PerfectServe’s mission has remained the same: to help clinicians provide better care. To service that goal more effectively, both the platform and its range of capabilities have evolved significantly over the last two decades, and the company now stands as a leading provider of cloud-based clinical communication and collaboration (CC&C) solutions.

With that focus on creating better patient outcomes in mind, PerfectServe announced today that it has acquired Telmediq, the top-rated KLAS vendor for secure communication platforms in 2018.

Amidst all of the excitement, we sat down with Terry Edwards, President and CEO of PerfectServe, and Ben Moore, CEO of Telmediq, to get their thoughts on the announcement and why it represents such an important step in the march toward true care team collaboration.

Terry, this is obviously a landmark announcement. What’s PerfectServe’s vision moving forward?

Terry Edwards: It all goes back to the concept of “care team collaboration,” a term you’ll hear from us a lot in the coming years. What it means is that we’re trying to eliminate the waste inherent in care delivery workflows and make it easier for clinicians to overcome the care coordination challenges that have existed in the healthcare industry for years.

CC&C—the space that PerfectServe and Telmediq occupy—is a foundational component of this care team collaboration platform strategy. Our vision is to leverage the strengths of these two CC&C solutions to begin building the care team collaboration platform of the future – one that serves all care team members, including the patient.

Ben, it was also announced today that you’ll be joining the PerfectServe leadership team as Chief Product Officer. What excites you about bringing these companies together?

Ben Moore: I’m excited that I won’t have to compete with PerfectServe anymore!

To be serious, though, pursuing the vision Terry outlined will allow our combined companies to have a tremendous impact on the way clinicians care for their patients. Helping to shape the future of products that make such a positive difference is an extremely rewarding opportunity.

From a product standpoint, we’re bringing together two established leaders in the CC&C space, so we have a lot of capability under one roof. Because PerfectServe and Telmediq have different strengths, our strategy is to support both platforms and integrate them such that the strengths of one can be transferred to the other.

Why is now the right time to acquire Telmediq?

TE: Telmediq is widely recognized as a top CC&C vendor, and as Ben points out, its platform has strengths that nicely complement the strengths inherent in the PerfectServe platform. It will bring great value to the PerfectServe portfolio, and as we visualized the pieces of the larger care team collaboration puzzle, Telmediq was really a natural fit.

We also announced today that K1 Investment Management, a private equity firm based on the West Coast, recently became a PerfectServe investor. Their strategic and financial support, coupled with the excellence of the Telmediq platform and the team that built it, make us confident that now is the right time to start executing on our vision of care team collaboration in a deliberate way.

How will this integration of products impact PerfectServe and Telmediq customers?

BM: Integration will take time, and we’re going to be very thoughtful about the process, but the key is that PerfectServe and Telmediq are both cloud-based solutions built on a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA).

In layman’s terms, this is a huge win for our clients, because they’ll be able to maintain the functionality of their current solutions with the option to add new capabilities over time.

TE: This is a theme we’ll be repeating time and time again – no disruptions for clients. We’re incredibly excited about what the future holds, but we’ve also gone to great lengths to ensure that our existing clients experience no lapses in the performance of the product they’ve invested in or the level of service they receive. Clients will always be priority number one.

You’re both very passionate about the role communication plays in providing quality patient care. Does this come from personal experience?

TE: That’s something I really love about how these companies started – Ben and I were both motivated by the experiences of our loved ones.

PerfectServe was actually born from the struggles of my wife, who’s a registered nurse, when she was on call for a private physician’s practice. The process of getting paged and retrieving messages from the answering service, contacting the doctor when required and then relaying necessary information to patients was frustrating and ate up hours of time.

I saw the potential for improvement, and I tapped into my background in the interactive voice messaging industry to build a better answering service solution. We’ve come a long way since the first prototype was finished in 1999!

BM: In my case, an extended hospital stay for my wife and newborn daughter served as the catalyst.

Doctors and nurses do amazing work, but throughout this experience, I was really struck by the cumbersome communication methods being used. The picture didn’t quite add up – physicians using pagers and playing phone tag while their patients used state-of-the-art tech like iPads.

To compensate for these communication shortcomings, I became the de facto care coordinator for my wife and daughter. It was a role I didn’t expect to play, and once we left the hospital, I knew I could come up with a better system. Telmediq launched just a few years later.

In that context, your role as PerfectServe’s Chief Product Officer feels like the next chapter of the mission. Where do we go from here?

BM: As Terry and I have both reinforced, the PerfectServe and Telmediq solutions are already robust in their current forms. But if we’re going to build a comprehensive care team collaboration platform, there’s more work to do.

Today, clinical communication has to overcome both technology silos and people silos. Nurses, hospitalists, primary care physicians and care coordinators may all be using different communication devices and systems in the course of treating one patient. It’s not ideal.

The work ahead of us will reduce breakdowns in communication and ensure that clinicians can collaborate from any location by connecting the siloed people, systems and locations that exist today.

Terry, for those on a time crunch, close by telling us why this announcement is important.

TE: The combination of PerfectServe and Telmediq brings together two best-of-breed platforms in service of a larger goal to bring to market the care team collaboration platform of the future. We intend to be on the front line of innovation as we build a better product for our clients.

Explore the many ways our unified PerfectServe family can support your organization with a clinical communication specialist.

Meeting the communication needs of today’s care teams: An interview with CEO Terry Edwards

Terry Edwards, as founder, president and CEO of PerfectServe, has played an instrumental role in evolving the company’s solution from 1999’s version one prototype to today’s product, which has become the most comprehensive and secure care team collaboration platform in the healthcare industry.

Recently, we sat down with Terry to talk about how healthcare communication is changing and how PerfectServe continues to reinvent itself to meet the needs of today’s care teams.

What is PerfectServe?

PerfectServe is a secure cloud‑based communication platform for clinicians. Its focus is to connect doctors and nurses so they can more easily coordinate care.

The thing that makes us unique is a capability that we call Dynamic Intelligent Routing.

This functionality allows us to build algorithms into the platform that automate the communications workflow. This has to do with the “if this, then that” kinds of decisions that are part of a communication process between clinicians to connect the initiator to the right person who can take action at a given moment in time.

We’re like an easy button for clinicians to connect to with each other. By speeding and easing the communications workflow process, we’re able to help them coordinate care more easily.

Communication is such a big part of care. How does PerfectServe define patient care?

The care of a patient is the work of the providers – the doctors, the nurses, the therapists and other ancillary providers. They’re the ones who are interpreting the test results. They’re the ones who are observing and talking to the patients. They’re the hands‑on care providers. Especially in a hospital setting, there’s no one provider – it’s a care team.

Even with certain types of patients, as they transition from the hospital to their home environment, there’s a care team. It may be that the spouse is part of that care team and/or a home care worker as well.

There’s a certain amount of collaboration that needs to occur amongst all of those care team members in order to provide the best care. The ability for them to communicate and connect with the right people for a given situation or a given time of day, that’s the challenge. That’s the piece that we make easy.

What’s on the horizon for healthcare communication? What’s next?

Gartner [a leading research and advisory company], several years ago, coined a term that they call the “real‑time healthcare system.” The real‑time healthcare system is really all about leveraging the increasing amount of digital information inside of a system that’s being created by all these different electronic systems.

If you think back 10, 15 years ago, there was still so much on paper. Now, it’s all electronic. There’s an enormous amount of data that’s being created, but it’s not necessarily being leveraged.

The concept of the real‑time healthcare system is to be able to extract and collect data from these various systems, and then interpret it in ways that can be presented to clinicians, in ways that are relevant to them, so they can take action.

The communications platform serves the unique role of being the engine to receive information from other systems and automatically route a given transaction appropriately based upon the “if/then” variables unique to the situation and recipient. Now, I’m moving beyond person‑to‑person communication.

I’m talking about system‑to‑person communication, where we’re receiving data and then saying, “Oh, this is a critical result and Dr. Smith is the one who needs to get this right now,” and Dr. Smith is the one who can take action. Dr. Smith doesn’t necessarily need to know a whole bunch of other stuff. He just needs to know that.

That’s our role.

As an organization deploys and gets this foundation in place, they have, then, a platform upon which they can begin to automate more and more of these communication workflows to help them provide better care, more efficient care, better quality of care.

As a company, how is PerfectServe evolving to be a platform that can deliver that kind of advanced system-to-person communication?

We’re constantly innovating. When I started PerfectServe over 20 years ago, we were in the physician‑practice office. We started by bringing a technology‑based solution to a human‑centered call answering process, which was just managing phone calls after hours. It was there that we learned about all the complexity in these communication workflows around the doctors.

As time went on and technology evolved, we went from where we were then, which actually was a technology‑enabled services company, to a pure software company. As the Internet expanded, as secure messaging became prominent, texting became prominent, mobile devices became prominent, the Web, etc., we have transformed this company multiple times over the years to take it to where it’s at today.

I expect that we’ll continue transforming into the future.

Could you ever have imagined that it would go from where it was to where it is now?

I knew that it could be a lot bigger when I started it. I had come out of a company called Voice‑Tel in the 1990s. Voice‑Tel was one of the early pioneers in interactive voice messaging. We were a fairly young company. That’s what brought me to Knoxville – starting up the Knoxville operations for Voice‑Tel.

Voice‑Tel was in probably 120 different markets around the United States, as well as into Canada, and down into Australia. We were, at that time, doing over the phone with voice messages what we do with texting and email today. It was a great time. Those were early days of pre‑Internet or when the Internet was just within government and education.

I saw how big Voice‑Tel was, and I knew that PerfectServe could be that big. I didn’t know that it would evolve or turn into what it is today, which is phenomenal.

What separates PerfectServe from other competitors in the marketplace?

I would take it back to that Dynamic Intelligent Routing capability. In most every successful business, there’s something the people in that business know, or there’s an idea they have, that nobody else knows or even thinks exists.

The thing we know is that there is inherent complexity in these communication workflows. And I’m surprised nobody else has figured this out yet, I really am. This is because physicians, departments in a hospital or care teams have ways in which they need to receive information.

It’s not just freeform, everybody’s texting each other, because we’re dealing with what can be life‑threatening information. You don’t just fling a text out to somebody. You need communication processes that are reliable, that are accurate, where you know you can get a message or a call to the right person who is going to take action.

You’ve got to understand and appreciate the workflows of these various groups, then you need software to automate it. If you don’t have that, then you don’t solve the problem. That’s one of the issues with the secure chat capabilities that the EMR companies are trying to bring to the market or some of the other secure texting mobile applications that are just too simple.

They work well for small groups of people who know each other, but they don’t work well across a large enterprise or across organizations. That’s where the process falls down and we have the messy, unsafe communication processes that we have today.

How is Dynamic Intelligent Routing different from some of our competitors’ role-based routing capabilities?

With Dynamic Intelligent Routing, we’re building algorithms that can look at multiple variables that need to be considered in a specific communication process. That differs, for example, from role‑based routing, where someone just is in a role at a given time, because the role could change based on other conditions.

For example, some of the variables that might play into a Dynamic Intelligent Routing calculation include the originating location. Where is this call or text message originating from? What organization or facility? Who is the originator? Maybe, what was that originator’s role? What is the time? What is the day? What is the department as well if it’s an acute care environment? What’s the clinical situation? Then, based on some of those things, what call schedule should we be considering? Is there more than one call schedule that needs to be considered at a given moment in time?

All of that is just to tell us ‘who’ we need to contact. Once we have determined that and we know who it needs to receive it, then the question is how do we communicate with them? Are we delivering a secure message or are we having to send a page because secure messaging isn’t going to work in this particular environment?

If a message is taken or left and it’s not read within a certain amount of time, what do we do to escalate it? That’s what Dynamic Intelligent Routing is. It’s about being able to think through and design those processes, and then being able to process those interactions in real time, automatically to get the right communication to the right person in a way that he or she should be reached.

Imagine I work at a medical group that’s considering using PerfectServe. Why should I sign up?

We’re going to facilitate or enable your communication processes and optimize those for the way in which you work. What that means to you is you’re going to get only the information you should receive, when you should receive it and upon which you should take action.

You’re not bombarded with things that don’t matter, that are irrelevant. You’re not going to be contacted when you shouldn’t be and interrupted, for example. You’re not going to have messages languish that could create a liability for you if you don’t respond, because we’ll build resilience and fail‑safe into those processes.

We’ll probably be able to save you some money, too.

Interested in discussing how PerfectServe’s solutions can help your team improve patient care?

 

“Where’s my nurse?”: How to empower nurses to spend more time with patients

As a new parent, there’s nothing scarier than being in your daughter’s hospital room when an alarm goes off and you can’t find her nurse.

But that’s exactly what happened to me.

My daughter — only a few days old — was fighting for her life in a neonatal intensive care unit, and I was in the hall, trying to find her nurse.

Of course, it wasn’t the nurse’s fault, and she was always apologetic. The reality is, she had other responsibilities, other commitments that kept her away.

At the time, I was working in a hospital, so I understood her situation. I got it. But many families don’t realize that nurses are often overwhelmed and can’t always be there for their patients.

Unfortunately, these heart-wrenching situations leave patients and their families with a lasting impression of their care team and the hospital.

What keeps nurses from the bedside

Every single day, nurses are saddled with administrative tasks — looking for equipment and supplies, tracking down medications, checking for critical lab results, collaborating with the care team and documentation, just to name a few — and inefficient workflows that take them away from their patients.

In fact, a recent study found that nurses may spend less than two hours of a 12-hour shift in direct patient care. A portion of this unproductive time is spent using old, inefficient tools for communicating and coordinating with multiple points of care, both inside and outside the four walls of the hospital.

Even today, at some of the country’s top hospitals, nurses wait hours for a simple call back from a sent page.

Worse yet, nurses are continuously flipping through multiple versions of paper on-call schedules, simply trying to figure out which specialist or attending physician is on service. Often, mistakes are made in the interpretation of these paper documents, igniting a series of follow-up efforts to relay important information to the right provider.

Meanwhile, my newborn daughter’s alarm is going off, and I’m anxiously walking the halls, looking for her nurse.

What it means to empower nurses

All across the country, hospital systems are recognizing that they have to increase the amount of time that nurses can spend on the most important task: caring for patients and comforting families.

Hospitals are researching clinical communication and collaboration vendors and investing in near-real time tools for nurses so that they can get the help they need more quickly and communicate with the people they need more easily.

Empowering nurses with a mobile, secure care team communication tool means that they receive a response back from providers an average of 30 minutes faster. It also means that nurses can respond to changing patient conditions and alarms 30 minutes faster, which has a huge impact on patient and family satisfaction.

Nurses also experience an 81% decrease in the number of repeat calls to providers, as the technology has properly identified the correct on-call provider and eliminated errors.

Today, solving this problem is possible. We can remove communication barriers. We can fix broken workflows. And we can take the administrative burden off nurses and let them get back to enhancing the care quality and the patient experience.

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Why secure messaging isn’t enough

In today’s health systems, secure messaging is a must-have, but it’s only one piece of a much larger clinical communication strategy.

For hospitals around the country, secure text messaging has represented a major step forward for simple care team communication. Compared to overhead paging systems and outdated medical pagers, HIPAA-compliant texting apps are much more convenient for clinician communication.

For health systems, though, secure messaging apps have always been a half measure. They make clinical communication easier and greatly reduce the risk of accidentally exposing PHI, but they aren’t robust enough to coordinate care teams and manage hospital resources.

Secure messaging is a must-have tool, but it’s only one piece of a much larger clinical communication strategy that must also interoperate with the hospital’s ecosystem, including the EHR, alerts, notifications and nurse call systems.

How secure messaging apps are like pagers

The appeal of secure texting apps is simple enough: they’re convenient, they keep all clinical conversations on a single secure platform and they have intuitive user interfaces that feel familiar for end users.

Unfortunately, secure texting platforms also carry on one of the major problems of yesteryear’s direct-to-provider pagers: lack of situational awareness. Like physician pagers, secure texting applications can’t prioritize notifications and route messages to the right person at exactly the right time.

For practicing physicians, this lack of situational awareness has real consequences. Routine text notifications become a distraction at the patient’s bedside and an annoyance at home when the physician is off-call.

Secure texting applications provide nurses with another way to get messages to physicians, but they don’t help to simplify a nurse’s complicated and fractured workflows. The nurse is still responsible for figuring out who’s on-call and how to contact that person.

In a workplace full of alerts, alarms and notifications, unprioritized secure messages simply add to the noise.

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Making secure messaging meaningful

High-quality patient care depends on two things: the accuracy and timeliness of communication. In other words, every member of the patient’s care team must be able to communicate quickly and efficiently.

Secure messaging apps foster highly fragmented communications that move across complicated workflows.

Alone, secure messaging can’t account for situational variables that make it difficult to know who’s available and ready to take action to advance patient care.

Clinicians must first figure out which group is on-call, which provider within that group is managing patient issues “right now” and then relay the issue using the secure messaging app. And if that provider happens to have been called into emergency surgery, they must figure out whom to message next.

Making secure messages meaningful takes an intelligent notification routing system that organizes, prioritizes and directs messages to the right care team member at the right time. Combining secure texting with intelligent automation is the only way to reduce the noise and make notifications more useful – and reduce care delays.

Secure texting is a step in the right direction, but improving the patient’s experience and the clinician’s satisfaction requires building an intelligent communication framework  that connects clinicians to clinicians, as well as clinicians to the organization’s technological ecosystem.

Evaluating your processes and redesigning your communication strategy around a full-service clinical communication and collaboration app will give secure messages meaning and eliminate the friction that slows down your care team and gets in the way of your organization’s strategic goals.

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How to identify and address physician burnout

physician burnout

Across virtually every sector, professional burnout is quickly becoming an urgent issue for employers. Burnout is particularly common in fields like social work, teaching and medicine.
Physicians report higher burnout rates than almost any other profession, and studies show it’s getting worse.

According to a report in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 54.4 percent of physicians indicated that they experienced at least one symptom of burnout in 2014. That’s up nearly 9 percent since 2011.

The study also shows that physician burnout isn’t directly related to any particular region of the country — it’s an industry-wide problem and requires an industry-wide solution.

physician burnout stat

Symptoms

Burnout can cause depression, alcohol abuse and even suicide, and with physicians’ suicide rates among the highest of any profession in the country, it’s essential that everyone inside your organization be on the lookout for signs that a colleague is experiencing burnout.

Causes

There are many causes of professional burnout, such as having a poor work-life balance, but physicians tend to have a few distinctive contributing factors — including administrative tasks like recording notes in the EMR and trying to coordinate care outside of their organization — which make them uniquely susceptible to burnout.

Spending too much time in the EHR

Electronic health records (EHR) have completely changed physician workflows, but physicians often report — and studies show — that they spend too much time in the EHR and not enough time with patients.

In fact, a 2016 time motion study shows that for every hour a physician spends with a patient, he/she spends nearly two hours in the EHR. The study also reports that physicians spend only 27% of their time in direct patient interaction.

Coordinating care across providers

Physicians understand that patient care extends far beyond the four walls of their organization, and they often take responsibility for helping coordinate care across the patient’s care continuum.

Unfortunately, the EHR can’t always connect physicians to members of the patient’s care team outside the organization or on-call physicians, so coordinating care adds another layer of frustration as physicians engage in an extended game of phone tag. In relying on EHRs for clinical communication, healthcare organizations have built communication islands that limit care collaboration and waste physicians’ time.

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Prevention

Preventing burnout takes a combined effort between the physician and the organization, but the first step to preventing physician burnout is simply acknowledging the problem.

Burnout is a taboo topic across industries, and to truly address it, we have to make cultural changes that make it easier for physicians to admit they’re experiencing symptoms of burnout and seek help when they’re feeling overwhelmed.

Giving the proper care to patients requires that physicians take care of themselves as well. When physicians are starting to feel mentally and physically tired, it’s necessary to take some time off to reconnect with friends and family and reevaluate their diet and exercise regimen.

physician burnout quote

For healthcare organizations, finding ways to free up physicians from administrative tasks can help stabilize their work-life balance. Scribes, for example, can help physicians focus on their face-to-face interactions with patients and spend less time documenting in the EHR.

Additionally, a clinical communication and collaboration platform can make it easier and quicker for physicians to coordinate care inside and outside the organization, giving physicians more time to focus on the patient.

When a physician is burned out, it has ripple effects throughout the hospital or practice. Left unchecked, physician burnout can have an extremely detrimental effect on the organization’s ability to deliver quality care to patients. Understanding what causes burnout and how we can address it is essential to the health of our physicians, patients and healthcare organizations.

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Is your answering service disaster-proof?

answering service disaster

Is your answering service disaster-proof?

It’s tempting to think natural and manmade disasters can’t happen here.

Until they happen here.

By the time a wildfire, flood, earthquake, snowstorm or explosion happens, it’s too late to make a plan. Disasters put your community under tremendous stress, especially its healthcare infrastructure.

Fortunately, healthcare doesn’t stop for disasters.

While hospital emergency departments become the frontlines during a disaster, physician practices play an important role, too.

Timely communication between providers and patients plays an essential role in preventing exacerbation of illness during these times of emotional stress and resource challenges.

Physicians and practice managers have to identify communications risks and create policies to minimize those risks.

Open lines of communication

When an emergency happens, your first line of defense is your answering service.

Even if your office doors are closed, your answering service can still take your patient’s messages, route emergency calls and help you stay in contact with your most vulnerable patients.

Unfortunately, not every answering service is capable of helping you virtually operate your office during a disaster.

Pitfalls of human-centric answering services

Human-centric medical answering services and call centers aren’t immune to disasters, especially if they’re provided locally.

If you’re having trouble opening your practice, it’s a safe bet that operators from your local answering service are having trouble, too.

The answering service’s call center could be damaged during the wildfire, snowstorm or flood. And if the roads are out, the operators might not be able to get to their office to field your calls.Alternatively, your human-centric answering service might be located in another city and state entirely. It could experience an unforeseen disaster that makes it impossible for them to operate.

Suddenly, your answering service isn’t taking your overflow and overnight calls. Your in-office receptionist is overwhelmed and can’t keep up with your call volume.

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Considerations for a 21st-century answering service

When you’re identifying your communications risks and evaluating your current answering service’s performance, consider the following:

Power outages

Power outages are common. That’s why many companies use backup generators to offset temporary outages. Unfortunately, in the case of a natural disaster, the power could be out for days or even weeks.

Does your human-centric answering service have a protocol for an extended power outage? Are there back-up protocols in place to prevent failure?

If the answer to either of those questions is “no,” your patients won’t have any way of reaching the right on-call provider during a disaster.

Call and message routing

Even if your answering service doesn’t lose power during a disaster, what happens if your on-call provider can’t answer his or her phone?

Make sure your answering service has a plan for routing emergency messages when the on-call provider doesn’t answer. There should always be a protocol in place for automatic message escalation.

Infrastructure

Damage to communication infrastructure is common during disasters. Power outages, for example, can affect landline phone service, especially if you depend on broadband connections, like Voice over Internet Protocol.

If a wildfire, hurricane or some other kind of disaster compromises your landline phone and internet connection, how would your answering service contact your physicians?

Staying connected

No matter who you are or where you live, the chances are, a disaster will happen eventually. Make sure your practice is ready for the inevitable.

We’ve created a disaster and emergency communications checklist to help you identify risk so that you can start building a contingency plan to help you continue to provide support to your patients in critical moments.

Download our disaster and emergency communications checklist here.

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