Ideas for Increasing Mammogram Appointments

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Ideas for Increasing Mammogram Appointments

Posted on Monday, October 1, 2018

Take proactive steps toward increasing mammogram appointments!

Take proactive steps toward increasing mammogram appointments!

October is the perfect time to focus on increasing mammogram appointments.  During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, prioritize preventive care using the suggestions below.


Consider these ideas for increasing mammogram appointments at your facility:


Educate your patients on breast cancer prevention.  Patients may be unclear on the correct or most-up-to-date recommendations for mammography screening or may have heard conflicting instructions from different organizations.  Make sure your clinicians clarify.

“Current guidelines from the American College of Radiology and the Society for Breast Imaging recommend that women receive annual mammograms starting at age 40 — even if they have no symptoms or family history of breast cancer.”

Ensure patients are aware that most health plans are required to cover the cost of a breast cancer mammography screening for women over 40 every 1 to 2 years (when performed by an in-network provider).  Highlight the fact that most plans also cannot charge a copayment or coinsurance for this service even if the patient has not met her yearly deductible yet.  Some states even require insurers to cover 3D mammograms.  Instruct patients to check with their insurance company.  Additionally, help patients find out if they qualify for financial assistance and facilitate the application process for them.

Send mammogram reminders through texts, emails, letters, postcards, and/or phone calls. A study conducted by Kaiser Permanente found mammogram reminders to be very effective in increasing mammogram appointments, especially when sent to patients whose mammogram appointments were coming due.

When patients check in, instruct registrars to ask them if they’ve scheduled their annual mammogram exam yet; and if not, have registrars try to schedule one with them.  Additionally, registrars should confirm they have the correct mailing address and phone number for the patient in the system used to send mammogram reminders.

Use their time in the waiting room as an opportunity to reach your patients.  For example, print mammogram reminders on the back of wayfinding maps.  If you use a lobby display screen or patient notification board, include mammogram reminders and breast cancer prevention facts that appear periodically throughout your rotation of announcements.  Or, use a mammogram reminder as the full-time backdrop of your screen.

(Read here how one acute care facility used ActiveTRACK to promote customizable messages, including encouragement of mammogram appointments during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, to patients in their waiting area.)

Improve patient engagement with preventive health by utilizing social media in healthcare.  Share mammogram reminders, educational materials, and powerful statistics demonstrating the importance of early detection.  For instance, according to the American College of Radiology, “mammography has helped reduce breast cancer mortality in the U.S. by nearly 40% since 1990” and “skipping a mammogram every other year would miss up to 30% of cancers.”

Accommodate your patients. Allow for evening and weekend mammogram appointments.  Besides providing interpreters and educational materials in various languages, train staff to understand how culture affects health and healthcare decisions in order to reach patients of all backgrounds.  Don’t let inconvenience or cultural barriers stand in the way of accessing preventive care.

Emphasize your goal of increasing mammogram appointments to your staff. Stratis Health suggests providing your clinicians and registrars with “missed opportunity” reports, which would demonstrate the number of patients who visited throughout the month who were due/overdue for their mammogram appointments but did not get scheduled.


October is the opportune time to launch a breast cancer awareness campaign!  Of course, the suggestions above are best used throughout the entire year to help you in your goal of increasing mammogram appointments and improving your rates of early detection to save lives.


By Stephanie Salmich

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How to Prevent and Address Nurse Burnout

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How to Prevent and Address Nurse Burnout

Posted on Friday, September 14, 2018

Address nurse burnout to improve clinician well-being and reduce nurse turnover.

Address nurse burnout to improve clinician well-being and reduce nurse turnover.

 

When hospitals address nurse burnout, they not only improve clinician well-being but also the well-being of their patients and revenue cycle.

 

As we discussed in our last post, the effects of nurse burnout have a critical impact on clinician well-being, patient satisfaction, patient safety, and the national nursing shortage.  Therefore, hospitals must address nurse burnout.

 

 

Here are a few ways health systems can prevent and address nurse burnout:

 

Maintain Adequate Staffing Levels – Understaffing contributes to nurse burnout because nurses become overworked in the form of longer shifts, more overtime, and heavier workloads.

 

Reduce Nurse Turnover Rates – High nurse turnover also places a heavier workload on your remaining nurses.  To reduce nurse turnover, many healthcare facilities are offering various incentives in exchange for a required minimum length of work from their nurses.

Millennial healthcare employees are especially drawn to organizations that invest in their education.  Offering educational or financial incentives like sign-on bonuses, scholarships, tuition reimbursement, and profit sharing is effective in retaining Millennial healthcare employees.

Another strategy is peer interviewing.  Allowing your nursing staff, who have firsthand knowledge of what it takes to succeed as a nurse at your facility, to interview applicants and contribute to hiring decisions can increase the likelihood the candidates you hire will be a good fit for your facility.  And, your staff may have an increased interest in helping those candidates adjust to their new positions if they helped choose them as new hires.

 

Create a Mentorship Program The nurse turnover rate for first-year nurses at Franciscan St. Francis Hospital and Health Centers in Indianapolis went from 31% to 10.3% thanks to its mentorship program.  A mentor can support his/her nurse mentee by acting as a role model and passing on skills, knowledge, and experience.  A mentor should also be a good listener, supportive and encouraging, and help build a mentee’s confidence.

 

Provide Emotional Support Research published in the journal Medical Care studied “compassion practices,” which “recognize and reward compassion in the workplace as well as provide compassionate support to health care employees.”  The study found that compassion practices positively affected nurse well-being and resulted in less emotional exhaustion and more psychological vitality.

Offering spiritual/emotional support services on your campus is one way you might support clinician well-being.

 

Alleviate Administrative Burdens In a national study conducted by RNnetwork, one of the top three reasons nurses gave for wanting to leave the profession was “spending too much time on paperwork.”  Having the right technology in place can help ensure your nurses get to spend more time with patients and less time doing clerical work.

 

Get Feedback Communicate with your nurses.  Find out which of these strategies are working and how you can improve upon them.

 

Hospitals that work to prevent and address nurse burnout using the strategies above can protect their clinicians, patients, and revenue cycle from the dire effects of nurse burnout.

Health systems interested in how to address nurse burnout may also wish to visit our other blogs on these topics related to clinician well-being:  reducing physician burnout, physician empathy, time-savers for physicians, support your physicians.


By Stephanie Salmich

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The Effects of Nurse Burnout

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The Effects of Nurse Burnout

Posted on Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The effects of nurse burnout reach your nurses, patients, and bottom line.

The effects of nurse burnout reach your nurses, patients, and bottom line.

The effects of nurse burnout are far-reaching.  Everyone, from your patients and their families to your nurses and the entire facility, can be affected by nurse burnout.


The Effects of Nurse Burnout Reach Your Nurses, Patients, and Bottom Line…


Here are some of the effects of nurse burnout:

Nurse Well-Being – Nurse burnout can lead to feelings of dread about work, mental and physical exhaustion, sleep issues, and depression for your nurses.  The effects of nurse burnout also include compassion fatigue, causing your nurses to disengage from your patients.

Patient & Family Satisfaction – Interactions between your nurses and patients and their family members are crucial to the patient experience and patient satisfaction scores.

A study published in the journal Medical Care found the following relationship between nurse work environment, nurse burnout, and patient satisfaction with nursing care:

“Patients cared for on units that nurses characterized as having adequate staff, good administrative support for nursing care, and good relations between doctors and nurses were more than twice likely as other patients to report high satisfaction with their care, and their nurses reported significantly lower burnout. The overall level of nurse burnout on hospital units also affected patient satisfaction.”

Patient Safety – Clinicians suffering from burnout may be less motivated and/or may experience lower cognitive functioning due to emotional exhaustion, putting patient safety at risk.

An article published in the American Journal of Infection Control found a significant association between nurse burnout and UTIs and surgical site infection.  According to the researchers, “hospitals in which burnout was reduced by 30% had a total of 6,239 fewer infections, for an annual cost saving of up to $68 million.”

Reducing nurse burnout can decrease the likelihood of medical errors and improve patient safety at your facility.

Turnover & Nursing Shortage – According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, factors contributing to the national nursing shortage include insufficient nursing school enrollment and faculty, high retirement numbers, the aging population’s need for more healthcare workers, and high turnover/number of nurses leaving the profession altogether.

Almost 1 in 5 new nurses leaves his/her first job within the first year, and about 1 in 3 leaves within the second year.  In a national study conducted by RNnetwork, “half of the nurses surveyed have considered leaving nursing.”  According to the survey, “the number one reason for wanting to leave is feeling overworked (27 percent), followed by not enjoying their job anymore (16 percent) and spending too much time on paperwork (15 percent).”

Unfortunately, there is a cyclical relationship at work here: the national nursing shortage increases nurse burnout for those who are working in the profession as their workloads consequently grow.


As you can see, the effects of nurse burnout have a critical impact on nurse well-being, patient satisfaction, patient safety, and the national nursing shortage.  Please read our next post on how to prevent and address nurse burnout to ensure your health system can avoid the dire effects of nurse burnout mentioned above.


By Stephanie Salmich

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The Social Determinants of Health & Their Effect on Health Outcomes

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The Social Determinants of Health & Their Effect on Health Outcomes

Posted on Friday, August 17, 2018

The social determinants of health are increasingly on the radar of health professionals and health systems.  The National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) even recommends this information be included in patients’ medical records.

Hospitals can utilize screening tools to collect patient data concerning the social determinants of health.  While a provider may not be able to resolve all social issues faced by a patient, identifying them can help inform healthcare decisions.  (Providers should also have a list of resources that attend to social needs available to provide the patient when asked.)

When health systems consider the social determinants of health when caring for their patients, all parties benefit.  Patients have better health outcomes, communities improve, and health systems become advocates for their patients (improving patient satisfaction) while saving money.  The social determinants of health not only impact the health of patients, but also the health of a hospital’s revenue cycle.

 

Social factors that influence patients’ health & healthcare decisions include:

Employment – A good job can provide a patient and his/her whole family with health benefits and insurance.  Unemployment negatively affects physical and mental health.

Income – A steady paycheck allows a patient to pay for many of the other factors in this list, such as adequate housing, nutrition, and transportation, as well as healthcare costs.  (Financial assistance screening tools can help patients find out if they qualify for charitable programs to help offset the cost of care, and enable hospitals to facilitate the application process for their patients.)

Housing – Poor living conditions increase the risk of infectious disease, injury, chronic illness, pest and mold problems, and indoor air pollution.  And each year, 1.48 million Americans have no home at all.  (Here are some examples of how hospitals can help meet patient housing needs.)

Violence – The area in which patients live also can affect their exposure to violence or abuse.  Victims or witnesses to acts of violence may experience mental, physical, and/or economic consequences that affect their overall health.

Nutrition – A lack of consistent access to healthy food can negatively impact health outcomes and increase the risk of many adverse health conditions.  Over 12.7 percent of U.S. households were affected by food insecurity in 2015.  (Read our previous blog for more information on how to reduce patient malnutrition.)

Transportation – Access to reliable transportation can govern a patient’s access to medical care.  Approximately 3.6 million Americans miss or postpone medical care due to transportation issues.  (Check out these ideas for addressing patient transportation needs.)

Social Support – As reported by NPR, in a recent nationwide survey conducted by Cigna “nearly 50 percent of respondents” said “that they feel alone or left out always or sometimes.”  Two in five respondents “felt like ‘they lack companionship,’ that their ‘relationships aren’t meaningful’ and that they ‘are isolated from others.’”  Patients who feel unsupported are more vulnerable to poor health outcomes.  (Read how physician empathy can generate better health outcomes.)

Language/Culture – Culture influences our beliefs about health and healthcare.  A patient’s ability to communicate with health professionals may be impeded by language barriers.

Education – According to the CDC, people with higher levels of education are more likely to choose healthy behaviors and refrain from unhealthy ones.  People with lower levels of education are more likely to be obese and more likely to smoke.

Health Literacy – People with lower education levels are also more likely to have inadequate health literacy skills.  People who are limited in health literacy have higher rates of hospitalization and emergency room use and they use preventive care less.  (Read our blogs on reducing patient uncertainty and addressing health insurance confusion for ways to help improve your patients’ health literacy.)

Patient Engagement – A patient must have health literacy skills in order to be actively engaged in his/her healthcare.  Better engaged patients tend to see better health outcomes.  (Promoting health observances, using social media in healthcare, and educating patients about preparing for a doctor’s appointment are a few methods for improving patient engagement.)

Sex/Gender – Many health conditions affect men and women differently and certain treatments may be more or less effective depending on the sex of the patient.  Plus, men are less likely than women to see a doctor for a specific health concern, preventive healthcare, or a standard annual exam.  (Consider these tips for improving male patient engagement.)

 

The social determinants of health are key to improving health outcomes and the revenue cycle.

The social determinants of health are key to improving health outcomes and the revenue cycle.

 

It’s not difficult to imagine how the above factors might influence one another.  The social determinants of health are interconnected and work together to impact a person’s health and healthcare decisions.

Patients whose social needs are unfulfilled are more likely to utilize healthcare resources at a higher cost (including the Emergency Department), be readmitted, miss appointments, and have poor health outcomes.

Hospitals that address the social determinants of health can create better health outcomes, reduce hospital readmission rates, and improve patient engagement while lowering no-show rates and enhancing revenue cycle management.


By Stephanie Salmich

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How Can Hospitals Address Patient Housing Needs?

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How Can Hospitals Address Patient Housing Needs?

Posted on Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Hospitals can significantly improve the health of patients suffering from housing instability by actively addressing patient housing needs.  A patient’s living situation, conditions, and location affect many aspects of health.  Poor housing quality increases the risk of infectious disease, injury, chronic illness, pest and mold problems, and indoor air pollution.  Neighborhood conditions are related to rates of violence, crime, noise, and opportunities for physical activity.

Improving patient housing situations can result in better health outcomes and quality of life for patients and their families.  Plus, there are financial incentives for addressing patient housing needs.  According to the American Hospital Association’s Social Determinants of Health Series:

“The economic benefits for hospitals can be significant, since homeless or unstably housed individuals are more likely to be uninsured, be hospitalized more frequently, have longer lengths of stay in the hospital, be readmitted within 30 days and use more high-cost services. Reducing homelessness and other forms of housing instability—through case management, supportive housing (supportive services combined with housing), housing subsidies or neighborhood revitalization—improves health outcomes, connects individuals with primary care and reduces these high levels of utilization. When hospitals and health systems focus their resources on housing supports and case management, the cost savings can offset the expenditures by between $9,000 and $30,000 per person per year.” (p. 8)

Hospitals can significantly improve the health of patients suffering from housing instability by addressing patient housing needs.

Hospitals can significantly improve the health of patients suffering from housing instability by addressing patient housing needs.

 

Here are a few ways hospitals can address patient housing needs:

 

Contribute to neighborhood improvement projects.  Collaborate with your local government and other organizations that hold a shared interest in the state of your community.  Get involved or make monetary donations to make a difference.

Provide home assessments and patient education for vulnerable populations.  For example, the Seattle-King County Healthy Homes Project targeted low-income households with asthmatic children.  The initiative sent a nurse and community health workers to patients’ homes to educate the families about asthma and self-management and to identify and address environmental triggers (with resources like bedding covers, vacuums, and cleaning supplies).  The goal was to improve health outcomes for patients with asthma and to reduce the use of healthcare services such as urgent care.

Set up a home repair referral program.  Don’t stop at simply assessing patients’ homes for health and safety risks; refer them to a local business that can take care of necessary home renovations for them.  Establish partnerships with businesses who will offer their services at a reduced rate to your referrals or find charitable organizations like veterans’ clubs and churches that may have volunteers who could do the work for free.  The One Touch e-referral program has seen success in linking government and nonprofit groups like Habitat for Humanity to create healthier homes.

Bring care to homeless patients via a mobile health center.  Visit shelters, churches, and community centers and offer primary and preventive health services to at-risk patients.  (Take a virtual tour of the Calvert Health System Mobile Health Center.)

Create a transitional arrangement for homeless patients whose conditions require they be discharged from the hospital, but who are not yet well enough to go back to a shelter or live on the street.  St. Joseph Health created a Medical Respite Program consisting of 15 beds set at three different locations to meet this need.  As its website explains, these beds are for homeless patients “who are being discharged from the hospital, and who need the opportunity to rest in a safe, healing environment while accessing medical care and other supportive services post-hospitalization.”

Invest in your own affordable patient housing.  According to its website, Bon Secours Baltimore “has developed and now owns and operates more than 720 apartment units for low- and moderate-income seniors, families and people with disabilities.”  The heath system has committed to “revitalize West Baltimore.”

Compile a list of affordable patient housing options near your facility.  UW Medicine created a list of both short-term and long-term housing options to help patients, as well as their family members and caregivers, find lodging.  Some of their local hotels even offer a discount to patients’ families and a shuttle service to and from the hospital.

 

Many of the above ideas for addressing patient housing needs are suggested by and discussed in further detail in the AHA’s guide, “Housing and the Role of Hospitals.”  This guide also outlines steps hospitals should take when determining which method(s) would best address the patient housing needs in their own communities (p. 10-11).

Ensuring patients go home to safe, clean environments is critical in helping to reduce hospital readmission rates, which is crucial to reimbursement.

Patient housing instability is one of multiple interconnected social factors that affect health outcomes and healthcare costs.  Along with patient housing needs, health systems should attend to other social determinants of health by, for example, addressing patient transportation needs and working to reduce patient malnutrition.


By Stephanie Salmich

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Preparing for a Doctor’s Appointment: 6 Tips for Your Patients

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Preparing for a Doctor’s Appointment: 6 Tips for Your Patients

Posted on Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Educating your patients and their caregivers about preparing for a doctor’s appointment can benefit all parties involved.  Patient preparation for doctor’s appointments improves patient engagement, produces better health outcomes, saves doctors time, keeps appointments on schedule, and improves the revenue cycle.

These tips for preparing for a doctor’s appointment will benefit both patients and providers.

These tips for preparing for a doctor’s appointment will benefit both patients and providers.

 

Provide your patients with these tips for preparing for a doctor’s appointment:

 

1.      Complete all forms before you arrive. – Call ahead and find out if there are any forms you need to fill out before your appointment.  Instead of completing documentation in the waiting room, fill it out at home.  This ensures you have plenty of time to finish without delaying your appointment.  Plus, at home you will have access to any documents and information the forms ask for, which can be hard to remember on the spot.  Also, don’t forget to bring your photo ID and insurance card (especially if you have a new Medicare card).

2.      Bring a list of everything you are taking. – This includes any prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, supplements, herbal remedies, and vitamins.  You may want to bring in the actual bottles or containers as well so that your doctor can quickly find the information he/she needs.

3.      Anticipate questions the doctor is likely to ask. – If you prepare answers ahead of time, you can conduct a more efficient appointment and avoid wasting precious minutes trying to recall when your symptoms started, for example.  You can find a list of common questions here.

4.      Write down your questions in order of priority. – It can be easy to forget questions if you haven’t created a list.  Start by asking the most important questions first, to make sure you get to them.  Bring a pen and paper to write down the doctor’s answers.

5.      Practice what you want to say. – Taking the time before your doctor’s appointment to state your concerns out loud can help you remember them and stick to the point.  It can also make you more comfortable discussing personal and potentially embarrassing matters with the doctor so that you can resist any temptation to stretch or withhold the truth, which will impede your care.

6.      Bring someone with you to the appointment. – This is especially useful if you are preparing for a doctor’s appointment that involves a serious, emotionally difficult issue.  A friend or relative can remind you of the concerns you want to address, bring up appropriate follow-up questions, and remember the doctor’s answers and instructions, freeing you from these burdens during what can be an emotional time.


Patient preparation for doctor’s appointments is mutually beneficial for both providers and patients.  These tips for preparing for a doctor’s appointment can help your patients maximize their limited time with the doctor and ensure they cover everything they wanted to discuss.  Preparing for a doctor’s appointment also keeps patients on schedule, allowing providers to serve more patients and improve the revenue cycle.


By Stephanie Salmich

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Male Patient Engagement: Improving Men’s Health Outcomes

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Male Patient Engagement: Improving Men’s Health Outcomes

Posted on Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Improving male patient engagement is a struggle for many providers who find that men are much less likely than women to seek care, whether it be for a specific health concern, preventive healthcare, or standard annual exam.

Consider the following alarming statistics concerning men’s health outcomes:

Men’s Health Network provides these explanations for “The Silent Health Crisis” men are experiencing:

  • “A higher percentage of men have no healthcare coverage.
  • Men make ½ as many physician visits for prevention.
  • Men are employed in the most dangerous occupations, such as mining, fire fighting, construction, and fishing.
  • Society discourages healthy behaviors in men and boys.
  • Research on male-specific diseases is under funded.
  • Men may have less healthy lifestyles including risk-taking at younger ages.”
Improving male patient engagement is critical to improving men’s health outcomes.

Improving male patient engagement is critical to improving men’s health outcomes.
Start your commitment today.

June is Men’s Health Month.  Men’s Health Month presents an opportunity for healthcare facilities to address the epidemic of poor male patient engagement.  Men’s Health Network offers many ideas for promoting Men’s Health Month and improving male patient engagement and men’s health outcomes, including:

In addition, hospitals should educate male patients about their payment options.  Costs may deter male patients from seeing a doctor, and they may not realize that they could be eligible for free or low-cost screenings through their insurance carrier, Medicare, or financial assistance programs.

Healthcare facilities should also make the issues of improving male patient engagement and men’s health outcomes top priorities all year long.  A great example for providers is the work of Dr. Paul Turek (an international leader in men’s health who boasts a 90+% patient engagement rate).  Dr. Turek’s blog lists his suggestions and rules for improving male patient engagement.

Men’s health outcomes affect not only the men and boys in all our lives, but also their families and the women who love them.  Through improving male patient engagement providers can benefit families and their community by improving men’s health outcomes, all while boosting revenue (in the form of more appointments kept by, and more preventive screening tests administered to, male patients).

You can also find ideas for promoting other health observances throughout the year here, and a detailed calendar of this year’s health observances and recognition days here.


By Stephanie Salmich

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Lower Hospital Costs with the Benefits of Electronic Healthcare Forms

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Lower Hospital Costs with the Benefits of Electronic Healthcare Forms

Posted on Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The benefits of electronic healthcare forms include reducing paper usage and improving workflow automation; both can significantly lower hospital costs.

The benefits of electronic healthcare forms include reducing paper usage and improving workflow automation; both can significantly lower hospital costs.

There are numerous benefits of electronic healthcare forms that can help lower hospital costs related to the production and inefficiencies of paper forms.  Two of these, reducing paper usage and improving workflow automation, are outlined below:

 

Lower Hospital Costs with the Benefits of Reducing Paper Usage

Electronic healthcare forms greatly reduce the number of pages that need to be printed, which means providers can lower hospital costs related to all aspects of printing:

– Besides the cost of the paper itself, facilities can save money on toner, ink, and printer maintenance and service fees.  A hospital may not even need as many printers, thanks to the benefits of electronic healthcare forms.

– Electronic healthcare forms can easily be printed on-demand if a physical copy is necessary, so there is no need to stockpile pre-printed forms that may go unused.

– Storage space and costs are no longer necessary since pre-printing is avoided.

– Changes and updates to forms can be made electronically and in real-time, saving providers from the cost and waste of destroying old pre-printed versions that can no longer be used due to new revisions. (Read here how BJC Healthcare, which uses over 3,000 forms, utilized the benefits of electronic healthcare forms to solve this problem.)

– The cost of blue cards and labels is also eliminated thanks to barcode automation.

– Electronic healthcare forms enable healthcare facilities to use electronic signature instead of paper consent forms, significantly reducing paper usage.  Patients will also be impressed by, and enjoy the convenience of, an electronic signature option.

 

Lower Hospital Costs with the Benefits of Workflow Automation

Electronic healthcare forms allow providers to replace time-consuming and costly manual processes with workflow automation:

– One of the benefits of electronic healthcare forms is that hospitals can automate the selection, generation, and routing of forms.  This ensures the correct, visit-specific documentation is produced every time (saving on costs associated with rework and denials due to missing paperwork/consents) and relieves the registrar from the burden of remembering selection criteria for every form used (saving on training costs and time spent searching for and gathering documents).

– Standard patient demographic data and barcode identifiers on electronic healthcare forms prevent forms from being confused between different charts and save staff time from needing to label or handwrite the same patient data on every form.

– Electronic healthcare forms that are barcoded, clean originals streamline the scan/capture process used by electronic document management systems (EDMS).  Separating multi-part forms or dealing with fourth generation copies that are barely legible can become issues of the past.

– Improving workflow automation increases productivity and saves employees time, creating opportunities to repurpose and/or reduce FTEs(Read here how Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital grew its surgery department by 20% without an increase in FTEs, thanks to workflow automation and the benefits of electronic healthcare forms.)


The benefits of electronic healthcare forms are many; reducing paper usage and improving workflow automation will not only help providers to lower hospital costs, but also help hospitals to reduce/repurpose FTEs, increase efficiency, increase employee satisfaction and retention, reduce hospital waste, appeal to the healthcare consumer’s attraction to corporate social responsibility, improve accuracy and patient safety, and increase patient satisfaction.


By Stephanie Salmich

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Reducing Patient Uncertainty: 6 Areas to Address

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Reducing Patient Uncertainty: 6 Areas to Address

Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Reducing patient uncertainty should be a high priority item for healthcare providers.  Feelings of uncertainty can affect the patient experience and lower patient satisfaction.

Most of us are uncomfortable with uncertainty and many visits to healthcare facilities are made with the purpose of diminishing it.  Patients seek out your facility hoping to find answers to health questions; the last thing they are looking for is even more confusion.

Reducing patient uncertainty can vastly improve the patient experience.

Reducing patient uncertainty can vastly improve the patient experience.

 

Below are 6 areas that can either increase or decrease patient uncertainty.  By reducing patient uncertainty through addressing these areas, providers can greatly improve the patient experience:

 

1. – Online Presence:

A strong online presence and positive online reviews can aid in reducing patient uncertainty by helping patients become more familiar with your facility and organization before they even visit.  Utilize your website and social media accounts to their full advantage.

For example, a study published in the journal Health Communication found that video biographies for primary care physicians were more effective in reducing patient uncertainty than the standard text biographies that most providers post on their websites.

 

2. – Wayfinding:

Navigating their way around an unfamiliar building can increase patients’ anxiety over their hospital visit.  Wayfinding solutions (such as digital signage, mobile apps that guide patients around your campus, and touchscreen kiosks that print wayfinding maps) can ensure that patients and their visitors don’t get lost, all while reducing patient uncertainty about finding their destination.

 

3. – The Waiting Room:

The waiting room offers numerous opportunities for reducing patient uncertainty surrounding many topics.  In the waiting room, uncertainty about wait times can be just as frustrating as the actual waiting.  Patients’ family members face uncertainty as well, about how long they’ll be waiting, about the details of a procedure, and about the outcome for their family member.

A patient tracking board and real-time text updates can be instrumental in reducing patient uncertainty and lowering waiting room anxiety for patients’ family members.  Patients can better gauge how long they’ll be waiting, and patients’ family members know their loved one’s status at each stage (e.g. “in prep,” “in surgery,” “in recovery”) of the encounter.

 

4. – Interoperability:

Patients should not have to face uncertainty regarding whether their doctor has all the information he/she needs to properly care for them.  Yet, only 46% of hospitals had required patient information from outside providers or sources available electronically at the point of care according to research posted by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

With odds like these, patient uncertainty about transfer of medical records or if a physician’s order/referral will be received in time is warranted.  Reducing patient uncertainty can be accomplished by ensuring your facility can electronically send, receive, find, and integrate/use all necessary health information.

 

5. – The Discharge Process:

Researchers have created a new tool called the Uncertainty Scale to measure patient uncertainty and predict hospital readmissions.  Some of the major themes they’ve found in their work include patients’:

  • “Lack of clarity regarding self-management, such that patients are unsure how to deal with symptoms at home”

  • “Lack of self-efficacy, manifesting as patients not knowing where to go for help for certain symptoms”

  • “Lack of clarity about the decision to seek care, meaning that patients do not know which symptoms are serious enough to warrant seeing a health professional”

Improving patient education during the discharge process can help in reducing patient uncertainty about self-care, where to seek help, and when it is necessary to seek help, as well as lower readmission rates.

 

6. – Payments:

Patients want price transparency and as wise healthcare consumers, they have the right to be informed about the use of their healthcare dollars.  Confusion about health insurance and how much money they owe for health services, even after they’ve received a bill, is a source of patient uncertainty.  Patients may have great clinical outcomes, yet, if they are surprised when the bill is larger than expected, their satisfaction surveys will reflect low scores.

Providing estimates for out-of-pocket costs upfront, helping patients with insurance issues, preventing insurance-related errors, and helping patients identify and apply for financial assistance opportunities can all help in reducing patient uncertainty about cost.


By reducing patient uncertainty in these areas, your facility can greatly improve the patient experience.  Uncertainty is unfortunately a common experience in healthcare for those with undiagnosed conditions and symptoms for which an explanation is unclear.  The 6 areas outlined here are within your control; addressing them can make the patient experience much easier by reducing patient uncertainty in the areas in which it can be reduced.


By Stephanie Salmich

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8 Ways to Reduce Hospital Readmission Rates

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8 Ways to Reduce Hospital Readmission Rates

Posted on Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Directing assistance toward at-risk patients can reduce hospital readmission rates.

Directing assistance toward at-risk patients can reduce hospital readmission rates.

There are many ways facilities can reduce hospital readmission rates while producing better health outcomes for patients and avoiding CMS reimbursement reductions.  As the study “Reducing Hospital Readmission: Current Strategies and Future Directions,” published in the Annual Review of Medicine, aptly recommends, these strategies to reduce hospital readmission rates are best used in conjunction:

“The effect of interventions on readmission rates is related to the number of components implemented, whereas single-component interventions are unlikely to reduce readmissions significantly.”

 

Here are 8 ways to reduce hospital readmission rates at your facility:

1. – Focus on delivering quality care.  Ensure that avoidable readmissions are not due to preventable errors on the part of your facility.

2. – Determine the cause of readmission.  As RevCycleIntelligence states, “Understanding why a patient returns to the hospital after discharge is key to preventing readmissions and solving challenges of follow-up care.”  Is the reason for readmission condition-related or are other factors at play (see #3)?  Was the hospital readmission unnecessary and/or preventable?

3. – Screen for at-risk patients.  Certain conditions, such as heart failure and pneumonia, have higher hospital readmission ratesSocial factors that can affect hospital readmission include housing instability, tobacco use, alcohol/drug abuse, malnutrition and access to nutritious food, access to reliable transportation, health literacy, social support, language barriers, and psychiatric disease.  Assistance may be best directed toward patients most vulnerable to readmission.

4. – Address no-show appointment issues to encourage at-risk patients to keep the follow-up appointments that may lower their chances of hospital readmission.

5. – Improve the discharge process.  Patients and their caregivers face much uncertainty upon leaving the safety net of the hospital environment.  Take the time to thoroughly explain instructions for at-home care before they are discharged; follow-up with phone calls or home visits to again confirm their understanding and give them an opportunity to ask questions.

6. – Take advantage of telehealth opportunities.  Telehealth devices enable clinicians to monitor discharged patients’ health at home and can help reduce patients’ uncertainty about whether or not they need to revisit the hospital.

7. – Improve the transition process between facilities.  Just as when a patient is moved from the hospital to home, moving from one facility to another can result in poor health outcomes and/or readmission if the transition does not go well.  Follow one of the transitions of care models, many of which employ a care team to coordinate effective transitions and have been proven to reduce hospital readmission rates.

8. – Establish true interoperability.  Better communication (in the form of successfully and consistently electronically sending, receiving, finding, and integrating/using data) is needed between facilities for proper care transition (and even across departments within the same facility).  Without it we risk patient safety and increase the likelihood for medical errors that affect readmission rates, such as adverse drug events due to inaccurate medication reconciliation.

 

Again, the most successful efforts to reduce hospital readmission rates and create better health outcomes will utilize numerous strategies.  As the study “Reducing Hospital Readmission” in the Annual Review of Medicine concluded:

“Effective interventions share certain features: having multiple components that span both inpatient and outpatient settings and delivery by dedicated transitional care personnel. New evidence suggests that the number of components in a care transitions intervention is significantly related to its effectiveness . . . which strengthens the argument for more robust interventions.”


By Stephanie Salmich

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