A father and daughter look over a field and the blog title appears – ActiveASSIST: Financial Assistance Screening for Rural Patients

ActiveASSIST: Financial Assistance Screening for Rural Patients

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HealthWare Systems Blog

ActiveASSIST: Financial Assistance Screening for Rural Patients

Posted on Monday, May 17, 2021

Patients are now responsible for a larger portion of healthcare costs than ever before. Even those who have health coverage may be considered “underinsured” due to high cost-sharing plans that leave them with significant out-of-pocket expenses they often cannot afford to pay.

According to the Commonwealth Fund’s Biennial Health Insurance Survey, as of June 2020:

    • 12.5% of U.S. adults ages 19 to 64 were uninsured.
    • 43.4% of U.S. adults ages 19 to 64 were inadequately insured
      (uninsured, underinsured based on out-of-pocket medical costs compared to income, or experienced a gap in coverage).

Rural patients are more likely to be uninsured than are non-rural patients.

The financial viability of rural healthcare facilities will depend on their ability to find alternative funding sources for the medical bills that their patients may not be able to pay.

ActiveASSIST: Financial Assistance Screening for Rural Patients


ActiveASSIST is HealthWare Systems’ financial assistance screening tool and workflow management solution. ActiveASSIST identifies potential funding sources for patient accounts prior to their date of service and ensures the provider is payer of last resort by exhausting all other options first.

ActiveASSIST streamlines and automates the financial assistance process by:
  • Utilizing business rules to determine which patients are most likely to qualify for charitable assistance.
  • Simultaneously pursuing multiple assistance programs for these patients.
  • Pre-populating patients’ application forms with their data.
  • Providing real-time updates, while monitoring progress and documentation requirements.
  • Tracking follow-up tasks and escalating accounts that are not advancing at an acceptable pace.

Implementing ActiveASSIST at your facility does not require you to hire additional employees – our solution is designed to enable your internal staff, on-site vendors, and/or off-site and field associates to manage your self-pay and underinsured patient population.

Patient-First Technology


A father and daughter look over a field and the blog title appears – ActiveASSIST: Financial Assistance Screening for Rural Patients

Improving healthcare access with financial assistance screening for rural patients.

ActiveASSIST promotes a culture of patient advocacy by not only lowering or eliminating patients’ medical fees, but also through empowering patients with financial counseling and education. Patients who understand their own financial responsibility are much more likely to make their payments (if they can).

ActiveASSIST aids staff with follow-up and counseling discussions, helping them provide compassionate, supportive guidance and providing payment collection options based on each patient’s situation.

Improving Healthcare Access for Rural Patients


Many rural patients face unique barriers to healthcare access, which may include living long distances from healthcare facilities and specialists, poverty, provider shortages, and rural hospital closures or service cutbacks – and each of these has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As mentioned, rural patients are also more likely to be uninsured than are non-rural patients. Unfortunately, insufficient health coverage is a major barrier to healthcare access and can cause patients to delay or avoid medical care altogether.

ActiveASSIST can help you remove some of these obstacles and improve your patients’ access to the care they need.

With ActiveASSIST, you can both alleviate your patients’ financial burden and enhance the financial outlook of your own organization to ensure you remain open and can continue serving your patients and community.


Contact us to learn more about ActiveASSIST and financial assistance screening for rural patients; plus, view our other solutions for rural healthcare facilities.


By Stephanie Salmich

A doctor wearing safety goggles and a face mask appears with the blog title: Patient Safety Challenges & Solutions

Patient Safety Challenges & Solutions

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Patient Safety Challenges & Solutions

Posted on Monday, March 15, 2021

Here are some of the patient safety challenges healthcare facilities are facing today, along with solutions for addressing these issues:

Patient Safety Challenge: Patients Delaying or Avoiding Medical Care


A doctor wearing safety goggles and a face mask appears with the blog title: Patient Safety Challenges & Solutions

What are your patient safety challenges? Chances are, one or more of our ActiveWARE products can help.

Patients missed health visits at alarming rates last year.

Research reviewed by the CDC found that by “June 30, 2020, because of concerns about COVID-19, an estimated 41% of U.S. adults had delayed or avoided medical care including urgent or emergency care (12%) and routine care (32%).” Consequently, the Becker’s Clinical Leadership & Infection Control editorial team included “missed and delayed diagnoses” and “low vaccination coverage and disease resurgence” on its top ten list of patient safety issues for 2021.

Besides worry about the pandemic keeping patients away, other barriers to healthcare access include a lack of (or inadequate) health coverage.

Solutions: A patient outreach campaign can bring patients back for preventive health services and encourage them not to forgo urgent care when they need it. Patients may be confused about the guidelines for seeking medical care during a pandemic. Receiving clarification directly from your organization will reassure them of the importance of obtaining routine and emergency care for their own health and safety. You can find patient outreach messaging ideas here.

HealthWare SystemsActiveXCHANGE solution can be bundled with our messaging platform to add automated voice message (TTS), text, email, pagers, fax, and traditional mail to create a physician and patient outreach engine for alerts, reminders, requests for information, and post-acute care follow-up.

When it comes to your uninsured and underinsured patient population, you can improve their access to healthcare by finding alternative funding sources for their medical bills. ActiveASSIST is our financial assistance screening solution that identifies which charitable programs patients may qualify for and manages the application process for them. This patient advocacy tool helps remove financial obstacles to healthcare access.

Patient Safety Challenge: Potential Exposure to COVID-19


While it may not be in a patient’s best interest to evade medical care altogether due to COVID-19 fears, there is still a risk of exposure to the virus when visiting a health facility.

Solution: Most health systems are now enforcing visitor restrictions to limit the number of people on site at their facilities. But have you considered reducing the number of employees on site as well?

Healthcare organizations have historically been hesitant to offer remote work opportunities due to concerns over uncontrolled access to PHI. However, you can enable healthcare staff to work from home in a HIPAA-compliant, secure remote work environment. Our off-site print management workflow solutions provide:

  • Controlled access to PHI.
  • Complete audit trails.
  • Elimination of intermediate hard copies/storage of paper forms.
  • Encryption of all information at all times.
  • Full transparency and productivity monitoring for management.

With fewer people on site, the risk of exposure to COVID-19 will be lower for both patients and healthcare employees. Patients will also be more willing to come in for medical care if they know every possible measure has been taken to limit their risk.

Patient Safety Challenge: Data Integrity & Interoperability Issues


Healthcare organizations continue to experience problems electronically exchanging information both externally (between different health systems) and internally (between different units/departments). Individual patient safety, as well as public health, depends on a provider’s access to accurate and complete data for each patient.

Unfortunately, “patient matching in the EHR” and “fragmentation across care settings” were included on the ECRI Institute’s top ten list of patient safety concerns in 2020.

Solutions: Our integration capabilities can introduce universal master patient indexes across disparate systems. This makes it possible to link episodes of care and supporting documentation across fragmented systems. Our electronic forms solution, ActiveFORMS, protects patient safety by enhancing patient data accuracy. ActiveFORMS uses barcode automation to correctly match patients’ medical forms to their accounts and auto-populates patient data on forms to prevent human error from manual entry or illegibility issues from handwritten forms. It also improves clarity by converting raw data into easy-to-read reports and transforming legacy reports into user-friendly documents.

With ActiveFORMS, healthcare facilities can easily pass Joint Commission audits.

In addition, our ActiveXCHANGE platform helps achieve healthcare interoperability in many ways, including by:

  • Providing a bi-directional gateway for consolidating information from any source (e.g. multiple scheduling systems, custom interfaces, HL7, FHIR, XML, web-based requisition systems, EHRs/EMRs, faxes, direct messaging, e-mail, hard copies, scanned documents/images, and verbal appointments).
  • Routing information through business rules and account matching to the appropriate destination (e.g. EMR, physician portals, document management systems, other third-party applications) in virtually any format.

HealthWare Systems specializes in integrating proprietary and third-party patient access technologies and connecting disparate health IT systems and EMRs/EHRs.

Patient Safety Challenge: Clinician Burnout


Physician burnout is tied to more medical errors, lower quality of care, and reduced patient compliance. Not only does it affect patient safety, but provider safety and health as well. This problem was on the rise before the pandemic and has understandably increased since it began.

Clinician burnout also appears on the Becker’s patient safety issues list for 2021.

Solutions: Major causes of clinician burnout include too much paperwork, administrative burdens, spending excessive time on EHR tasks, and working long hours.

Many EMR frustrations and administrative burdens can be traced back to interoperability issues (e.g. sifting through an overwhelming abundance of low-quality data to find relevant information, spending more time with the computer than with the patient).

ActiveXCHANGE increases physician satisfaction by:

  • Improving interoperability.
  • Intelligently managing information objects by using business rules to find and create actionable data, determining what to do with that information, and flagging errors and exceptions (e.g. detecting missing signatures or required forms/documentation) for resolution.
  • Handling incoming physician orders/third party documentation to greatly reduce physician complaints related to lost or incomplete orders.

ActiveXCHANGE also does not require referring physicians to change their behavior or learn new software.

You can further reduce providers’ workloads by outsourcing credentialing, which is another time-consuming and exhausting clerical responsibility for clinicians.


Solve Your Patient Safety Challenges with ActiveWARE by HealthWare Systems

Which patient safety challenges are you facing? Chances are, one or more of our ActiveWARE products can help. Contact us today to learn more, request a live demo, or schedule a free consultation – together, we can improve patient safety and enhance the patient experience at your healthcare facility.


By Stephanie Salmich

A patient advocate provides financial counseling, which can increase patient collections.

Increase Patient Collections Through Patient Financial Education

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Increase Patient Collections Through Patient Financial Education

Posted on Monday, February 3, 2020

Addressing patient financial education needs can help you increase patient collections. When patients understand their medical bills, health insurance, and patient responsibility, they are much more likely to make their payments.

When patients are confused about what they owe and why, they often delay payments or don’t make them at all. Too many patients experience health insurance confusion and anger and uncertainty concerning medical bills and healthcare costs.

The following solutions by HealthWare Systems can help you improve patients’ understanding of their financial responsibility and increase patient collections:


ActiveASSIST

ActiveASSIST is our financial assistance and self-pay management solution. ActiveASSIST is a patient advocacy tool that aids staff in providing compassionate and supportive financial counseling to patients.

A patient advocate provides financial counseling, which can increase patient collections.

Increase patient collections by providing patient financial education.

ActiveASSIST identifies alternative funding sources (e.g. government programs, charitable initiatives) for patients. Many patients are unaware of the various financial assistance options available, or that they may qualify. Our patient-first technology finds potential matches for them, manages the application process, and monitors documentation requirements, deadlines, and follow-up tasks.

By educating patients about their financial assistance eligibility and helping them secure funding, ActiveASSIST can leave patients with a smaller, more manageable portion of their bill to pay (or their costs may be completely covered by financial assistance).


Facilitator

As our all-in-one revenue cycle platform, Facilitator can streamline your financial assistance workflow as well.

Additionally, Facilitator generates patient estimates and determines patients’ potential out-of-pocket costs. Patients want price transparency. If patients know what costs to expect up front, they will feel better informed. They are less inclined to be upset when they receive their bill and more apt to pay it.

With Facilitator, you can also review prior balances across multiple sites, collect payments, or set up payment plans to help patients understand and resolve their financial responsibility.


February is National Wise Health Care Consumer Month. This month we are reminded of the importance of empowering and educating patients so that they can make wise health care decisions, including wise financial decisions related to their health.

This is an opportune time to implement revenue cycle solutions that will improve patient financial education and, as a result, increase patient collections.


By Stephanie Salmich

What are YOUR New Year’s resolutions for your revenue cycle?

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Revenue Cycle

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HealthWare Systems Blog

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Revenue Cycle

Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Have you set any New Year’s resolutions for your revenue cycle?

The new year is upon us! The following are a few resolutions you’ll want to consider for improving your revenue cycle, along with the ActiveWARE products that can help you reach these goals.

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Revenue Cycle


Resolution – Financially Clear Patients Prior to Date of Service

Facilitator is a pre-arrival workflow solution that can streamline prior authorizations. And not only does Facilitator automate financial clearance steps, but it also verifies insurance and medical necessity in real time and searches for unreported coverage.

Resolution – Reduce Technical Denials

ActiveDEFENDER monitors the entire patient encounter to prevent errors that lead to reimbursement denials, delays, and underpayments. (Read here how ActiveDEFENDER reduced bad debt by 50% at Bon Secours Charity Health System.)


Resolution – Improve Collections

Facilitator can simplify collections with one-click access to a consolidated view of patient responsibility that includes prior balances (across multiple sites), out-of-pocket costs for the current visit, and qualifying discounts.

ActiveASSIST can help you better manage your self-pay population and ensure that you as the provider are “payer of last resort” by exhausting all other funding options for patients first (e.g. government-funded programs and charitable sources).

Resolution – Increase Patient Satisfaction

All ActiveWARE products create improvements that increase patient satisfaction. But one factor that especially affects patient satisfaction is patient wait times. ActiveTRACK is proven to increase patient satisfaction by reducing both registration and clinical patient wait times. In fact, ActiveTRACK reduced patient wait times by 75% at an acute care facility in the Chicago Suburbs.

Resolution – Reduce Paper Use and Costs

Our digital transformation solutions greatly reduce paper use and costs. For example, ActiveXCHANGE, our digital order management solution, eliminated 1.3 million pages per year at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.

There are many cost benefits of electronic healthcare forms as well. With ActiveFORMS, there is no need to pre-print and store forms or waste money destroying old pre-printed versions that can no longer be used due to new updates. Instead, forms are instantly and electronically delivered wherever a patient presents and can be printed on-demand if a physical copy is necessary. And if not, you can go paperless with electronic signature.

Resolution – Perform a Health Plan Audit

An annual health plan audit can help you maintain compliance with payor contracts and ensure your front desk staff are prepared to collect the appropriate co-pay or deductible from each patient. If you’re not already, resolve to conduct a health plan audit at least every year.

What are YOUR New Year’s resolutions for your revenue cycle?

Have you set New Year’s resolutions for your revenue cycle?

 

What are your New Year’s resolutions for your revenue cycle? Chances are, one or more of our ActiveWARE products can help. Contact us today to learn more… and have a Happy New Year!


By Stephanie Salmich

Creating a culture of patient advocacy: A healthcare employee holds a patient’s hand.

4 Ways to Build a Culture of Patient Advocacy at Your Facility

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HealthWare Systems Blog

4 Ways to Build a Culture of Patient Advocacy at Your Facility

Posted on Wednesday, February 6, 2019

How can a healthcare facility practice patient advocacy?  Of course, patient advocates offer wonderful support to patients. But providers can create a larger culture of patient advocacy at their facility as well by tackling a few key areas.

Here are 4 ways hospitals can support their patients and build a culture of patient advocacy:


1.) Address The Social Determinants of Health

Creating a culture of patient advocacy: A healthcare employee holds a patient’s hand.

Create a culture of patient advocacy with Patient-First Technology like ActiveASSIST.

The American College of Physicians states that addressing the social determinants of health “is a critical step forward in solidifying physicians’ roles as advocates for patients.”  You can supply your physicians with screening tools and training to help them identify patients’ social needs and how these may be affecting their health.

Additionally, your organization can do its part in addressing the social determinants of health in your community.  For example, you may be able to reduce patient malnutrition, ease patient transportation needs, or assist with patient housing needs.

Supporting your patients’ social needs is an incredible form of patient advocacy.  It can also lead to better health outcomes and lower healthcare costs for your facility.

2.) Offer Financial Assistance Screening

A lot of patients don’t realize that financial assistance may be available to them. Many hospitals have changed their financial assistance policies to include not only the uninsured, but the underinsured as well.

Notifying patients of which programs they could qualify for demonstrates a great deal of patient advocacy.  What really goes above and beyond, though, is facilitating the entire financial assistance process on behalf of your patients!

Technology like HealthWare SystemsActiveASSIST and Facilitator can both identify programs applicable to specific patients AND manage the financial assistance workflow.

By exhausting all other payment options first, you also ensure the provider is payer of last resort.

3.)  Alleviate Stressors Surrounding Costs and Payment

Larger-than-expected or difficult-to-decipher medical bills, as well as health insurance confusion, are major sources of frustration for patients.  They can also result in unpaid medical bills and medical debt, or cause patients to forgo some health services altogether.

Reducing patient uncertainty concerning the financial aspects of their care would help you foster a culture of patient advocacy.  Ensuring patients are financially cleared before arrival, generating estimates and identifying potential out-of-pocket costs, and setting up payment plans are all ways you can assist patients in this area.

4.) Provide Patient Education

February is National Wise Health Care Consumer Month!

What a perfect time to share educational materials and classes related to health insurance and financial assistance with your patients.  Perhaps the best way to advocate for your patients is to help them develop the skills they need to advocate for themselves!


Each of these areas provides you with excellent opportunities for patient advocacy.  Plus, there is a bonus: supporting any of these endeavors can ultimately improve your bottom line as well.

Practicing patient advocacy will help you support your patients, improve the patient experience, and offers financial benefits for all parties involved.  Developing a culture of patient advocacy can truly pay dividends.


By Stephanie Salmich

This doctor talking to his patient is taking proactive steps toward increasing preventive screenings for men!

Increasing Preventive Screenings for Men at Your Facility

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Increasing Preventive Screenings for Men at Your Facility

Posted on Thursday, November 1, 2018

Increasing preventive screenings for men at your facility can save patients’ lives.  “Movember” is the perfect time to start working toward this goal.


Consider these ideas for increasing preventive screenings for men at your facility:


Educate your patients.  Patients may be unclear on the correct or most-up-to-date recommendations for preventive screenings and may not realize when it is time for them to start discussing these topics with their doctor.  Make sure your clinicians initiate the conversation when patients reach the proper age to begin making decisions about testing in case patients forget.

Improve patient engagement with preventive health by utilizing social media in healthcare.  Share preventive health tips, educational materials, and powerful statistics demonstrating the importance of early detection of male health issues.

(Check out our previous blog for more information on male patient engagement.)

Ensure patients are aware that most health plans are required to cover the cost of many preventive screenings (when performed by an in-network provider).  Highlight the fact that most plans cannot charge a copayment or coinsurance for these services even if the patient has not met his yearly deductible yet.  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.

Use their time in the waiting room as an opportunity to reach your patients.  For example, print educational materials on the back of wayfinding maps.  If you use a lobby display screen or patient notification board, feature male preventive health facts periodically throughout your rotation of announcements.  Or, incorporate moustaches into the backdrop of your screen to draw more attention to Movember and male health issues.

(Read here how one acute care facility used ActiveTRACK to promote customizable messages to patients in their waiting area.)

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

Talk to female patients about preventive screenings for men.  Women make approximately 80% of household healthcare decisions.  Since women can have such a large impact on male health, clinicians may want to bring up the topic when meeting with female patients.  This could trigger a reminder for female patients to schedule appointments for their loved ones, or simply provide them with pertinent preventive health information to pass on to the men in their lives.

Start the Movember Healthcare Challenge at your facility.  Compete against others in your industry to raise money to improve male health through the Movember Foundation.  Raise awareness by growing a (or wearing a fake) moustache!  Use the hashtag #Movember when you share the pictures on social media.

(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.)

Most of the above ideas can be implemented all year long!  Increasing preventive screenings for men is an important goal to strive toward and November is a great time to start.

This doctor talking to his patient is taking proactive steps toward increasing preventive screenings for men!

Take proactive steps toward increasing preventive screenings for men!


By Stephanie Salmich

Increasing mammogram appointments… a woman holds a sign reading “Have YOU scheduled your annual MAMMOGRAM?”

Ideas for Increasing Mammogram Appointments

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Ideas for Increasing Mammogram Appointments

Posted on Monday, October 1, 2018

Increasing mammogram appointments… a woman holds a sign reading “Have YOU scheduled your annual MAMMOGRAM?”

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

The social determinants of health are listed.

The Social Determinants of Health & Their Effect on Health Outcomes

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HealthWare Systems Blog

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 listed.

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

Reducing patient uncertainty: Healthcare providers connect puzzle pieces.

Reducing Patient Uncertainty: 6 Areas to Address

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HealthWare Systems Blog

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: Healthcare providers connect puzzle pieces.

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.


Uncertainty is unfortunately a common experience in healthcare for those with undiagnosed conditions and symptoms for which an explanation is unclear.  The six areas outlined here are within your control; by reducing patient uncertainty in these areas, your facility can greatly improve the patient experience.


By Stephanie Salmich

A scattered pile of papers that contribute to health insurance confusion.

Addressing Health Insurance Confusion to Improve the Patient Experience

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Addressing Health Insurance Confusion to Improve the Patient Experience

Posted on Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A scattered pile of papers that contribute to health insurance confusion.

Patients can become overwhelmed by health insurance.

Health insurance confusion is a major barrier to a good patient experience.

Hospitals are no strangers to the headaches that come with insurance reimbursement issues. Dealing with health insurance is hard enough for staff trained in the subject.  Imagine the confusion your patients must face when they receive a medical bill or attempt to estimate what a medical service will cost them.

Unfortunately, health insurance illiteracy is becoming an increasing problem in our country; a 2013 American Institute of CPAs survey estimates that over half (51%) of U.S. adults cannot correctly identify at least one of three basic insurance terms (“premium,” “deductible,” and “copay”) and the U.S. Department of Education finds only 12% of adults proficiently health literate.

Addressing Health Insurance Confusion

Acknowledging health insurance confusion and making this aspect of a patient’s visit easier can improve the patient experience and has many advantages for your facility, too.

In fact, a recent study by Lavidge had consumers rank healthcare marketing phrases by preference, with the phrase “We will handle all insurance matters for you” coming in second place. If you can make and fulfill this claim, you’ll attract and keep more patients and increase patient satisfaction.

But don’t stop there; consider going a step further by helping your patients apply for financial assistance as well. Many patients are unaware of the programs available to them, or that they may qualify for assistance. Think of how much more you can improve the patient experience if you simplify insurance AND the financial assistance application process for your patients. (HealthWare’s ActiveASSIST is a great tool for managing and tracking the entire financial assistance process.)

Patient satisfaction is not all that’s at stake, however; health insurance confusion can also cause patients to avoid medical care in the first place or lead them into medical debt. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a major reason that 42.9 million Americans have unpaid medical bills is that they are confused about what they owe and why.

Alleviating patients’ health insurance confusion will vastly improve the patient experience at your facility, encourage patients to seek the care they need, and ultimately help you get paid.


By Stephanie Salmich