Address Patient Transportation Needs to Create Better Health Outcomes

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Address Patient Transportation Needs to Create Better Health Outcomes

Posted on Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Patient transportation needs can critically affect access to care and health outcomes; approximately 3.6 million Americans miss or postpone medical care due to transportation issues.

Improved access to transportation benefits patients, health facilities, and communities.  Health systems that address patient transportation needs are advocates for their patients, produce better health outcomes, lower readmission rates, reduce no-show appointments, and improve the general health of the community.

Efforts should begin with screening patients to determine their need/eligibility for transportation or other financial assistance.

Here are some specific ways your facility can then help those patients and create better health outcomes:


Educate Patients About Transportation Options

Compile a resource list of patient transportation options available in your area.  For example, many senior centers and churches provide free or low-cost transportation and Pace offers a “Call-n-Ride” service in the Chicago suburbs for as little as $2.00.  What affordable local transportation options could you suggest to your patients?

Promote patient transportation options through flyers, posters, or digital signage at your facility.  If you use a lobby display screen or patient notification board, include notices for patient transportation options that appear throughout your rotation of announcements.

Assign staff members to address patients’ needs, one-on-one.  These employees can help patients determine which transportation assistance programs they may be eligible for (e.g. Medicaid non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT), the American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery program), help them apply or sign up for assistance, and help them understand their existing benefits or coverage (e.g. how ambulance transportation may or may not be covered under Medicare).

Promote patient transportation options through your hospital’s social media accounts.

Create New Patient Transportation Options

Institute a driver volunteer program to provide rides to eligible patients, as Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital and Green Mountain RSVP have done.

Start a hospital van service, like the one Taylor Regional Hospital created to deliver prescriptions and bring patients to and from the hospital.

Partner with an on-demand transportation service, like Maryland Health System has with Uber and Denver Health has with Lyft, to offer free or discounted transportation to qualifying patients.

Provide shuttle, bus, or taxi travel vouchers.  Create an incentive program for eligible patients who keep their appointments.

Participate in local government and community planning projects.  The American Hospital Association suggests hospital representatives “participate in local or regional transportation planning initiatives and educate decision-makers about how health can be affected by transportation” to encourage the development of new patient transportation options (such as more walkable routes, bike lanes, bike-sharing programs, bus or shuttle services, etc.).

Alleviate Patient Transportation Needs by Bringing Care to the Patients

Invest in a mobile health center, as Calvert Health System has; the Calvert Health System Mobile Health Center brings primary and preventive health services to patients by visiting churches and community centers.

Create a prescription delivery or mail service, or provide pharmacy services on site to cut travel for patients, as the American Hospital Association advises here (p. 12).

Provide more telehealth opportunities and encourage use of the patient portal for minor questions.

Make a commitment to address patient transportation needs using the suggestions above, and your patients, community, and facility will all enjoy the benefits of better health outcomes.

You can read in further detail how the health systems mentioned above (Grace Cottage, Taylor Regional, Denver Health, and Calvert Health) address patient transportation needs in the case studies provided by the American Hospital Association.

By Stephanie Salmich

A healthcare employee helps a patient during National Wise Health Care Consumer Month.

February is National Wise Health Care Consumer Month

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HealthWare Systems Blog

February is National Wise Health Care Consumer Month

Posted on Friday, February 16, 2018

The American Institute for Preventive Medicine designated February as National Wise Health Care Consumer Month with the goals of empowering patients to understand their health care options and make wise health care decisions, promoting consumer wellness, and reducing health care costs.

Wise Health Care Consumers

According to their Wise Health Care Consumer Toolkit:

“Wise health care consumers:

  • Know how to choose a health care plan
  • Choose their care providers carefully and thoughtfully
  • Communicate with their health care providers
  • Are comfortable asking questions, sharing concerns and negotiating costs
  • Analyze and evaluate sources of health information
  • Practice preventive care
  • Know when to treat themselves at home
  • Understand their prescriptions and take them as directed”

National Wise Health Care Consumer Month

This month presents an opportunity to promote the ideals of a wise health care consumer to each patient and employee at your facility.

The American Institute for Preventive Medicine’s toolkit, which contains resources to help employers promote wise health consumerism, can be downloaded here.  They also provide a free Well-Being Activity Planner to help you plan wellness events.

Additionally, some of the ways you can appeal to the patient as health care consumer and help empower your patients to make wise health care decisions include:

A healthcare employee helps a patient during National Wise Health Care Consumer Month.

Empower your patients and employees to practice preventive medicine and make wise health care decisions.

This February, celebrate National Wise Health Care Consumer Month by empowering your patients and employees using the suggestions above and the resources provided by the American Institute for Preventive Medicine.

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

Touchscreen kiosks are a great wayfinding solution.

Improve Hospital Navigation and the Patient Experience with a Wayfinding Solution

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Improve Hospital Navigation and the Patient Experience with a Wayfinding Solution

Posted on Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Navigating their way through a large hospital building full of many different hallways and departments can add an extra layer of anxiety to an already stressful experience for patients, their families and friends.  Adding a wayfinding solution dramatically improves hospital navigation and the patient experience.

Here are three different technological wayfinding solutions hospitals are adding to their facilities:

1. Mobile Apps

Hospitals have been developing their own apps to help patients navigate through their facility. By adding this type of technology-driven wayfinding solution, visitors are easily guided to their destination and this adds to a more enjoyable hospital visit. After all, cell phones and mobile technology are constantly around us (most of the time in our hands); why not use a smartphone app to help patients direct their way through the facility? Some mobile apps even include interior maps with turn-by-turn directions to any destination on campus!

Touchscreen kiosks are a great wayfinding solution.

Wayfinding solution: ActiveTRACK Touchscreen Kiosk

2. Touchscreen Kiosks

Some hospitals have created a wayfinding solution through touchscreen kiosks installed in their lobbies for patients to check-in. These “greeter stations” provide the ability to not only check-in without the assistance of a greeter, but the patient can also scan any needed documentation (e.g. driver’s license, insurance card). Any captured documents are delivered to the registrar electronically.

Touchscreen kiosks can print physical wayfinding maps as well as registration packets for the visitor to review while he/she waits. This helps expedite the final registration step and provides patients with something to do while they are waiting, enhancing the patient experience.

3. Digital Signage

A patient notification board is a great wayfinding solution.

Wayfinding solution: ActiveTRACK Patient Notification Board


Having digital signs throughout a hospital is very helpful for wandering visitors. With maps and announcements being displayed, guests won’t get lost while visiting loved ones and hospital staff won’t miss important messages.

One specific type of digital signage used in some hospitals is a patient notification board. A patient notification board informs patients when to proceed to a registration booth. It provides an audible tone and/or message when a registrar is available and ready to serve them. Between these notifications, the patient notification board can be set up to display marketing and informational messages to patients while they are waiting (e.g. wellness programs, hospital services).


True, these current wayfinding solutions for hospital navigation cater to a younger, more tech-savvy hospital visitor, but keeping up with the current trends and technology takes a facility to the next level.  Implementing a wayfinding solution from the list above can leave an extremely impressive and lasting impression on the patient experience.

By Samantha Willis

A sign at a hospital’s entrance reads “ActiveTRACK VALET FEATURE” … ensuring patients’ cars are waiting for them as soon as they are ready to leave goes a long way toward improving the discharge process.

A Patient’s Last Impression: Improving the Discharge Process

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HealthWare Systems Blog

A Patient’s Last Impression:

Improving the Discharge Process

Posted on Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Improving the discharge process is vital to making a strong last impression on your patients, their family members, and caregivers. This final aspect of their visit greatly informs their opinion of their entire patient experience.

Consider improving the discharge process in the following areas, in order to increase patient satisfaction and improve the patient experience.

The Discharge Meeting

Don’t negate the positive first impressions you’ve made by overlooking an equally critical part of the patient experience: the discharge meeting. Patients may have received quality care and attention throughout the rest of their stay, but if they feel rushed and made to be less of a priority during their discharge, that’s what they’ll remember about their visit.

Train clinicians to be cognizant of the emotions their patients may be feeling as they prepare to leave the security of the hospital (e.g. nervousness, fear, anxiety, confusion, exhaustion). It’s imperative that clinicians devote enough time to thoroughly explaining instructions and addressing patients’ and caregivers’ concerns during this final meeting, so that patients don’t feel lost or abandoned by the hospital when they leave.

A sign at a hospital’s entrance reads “ActiveTRACK VALET FEATURE” … ensuring patients’ cars are waiting for them as soon as they are ready to leave goes a long way toward improving the discharge process.

Link your facility’s valet service to the discharge process with ActiveTRACK.

Hospital Valet Service

As their hospital stay comes to an end, patients may be anxious to get back home.  Help them to get there sooner by providing a hospital valet service.

But be careful; a substandard hospital valet service that keeps patients waiting is likely to be counterproductive and will leave patients thinking they’d have been better off finding their own car.

So, choose a solution with a hospital valet service component that ensures patients’ cars are waiting for them as soon as they are ready to leave.  Patients will be impressed and reminded of the great care and attention they received throughout their patient experience.


Follow-Up Phone Calls

It is extremely important to make follow-up phone calls to patients and/or their family members and caregivers within a few days after they’ve been discharged.  When patients are discharged, they and their caregivers may be overwhelmed by the information and instructions the doctor provides.  A follow-up call gives them the chance to ask the questions they forgot to ask or that didn’t come to mind at the time.  Plus, these phone calls give your staff the opportunity to confirm that patients understand their instructions and lower the chances of readmission.

Improving the discharge process can go a long way in helping you to increase patient satisfaction scores.  When they receive their patient satisfaction surveys, make certain that patients’ most recent memories of their patient experience, their final moments in the hospital and latest contact with your facility, are positive ones.  These extra steps you can take toward improving the discharge process are sure to leave a lasting impression on patients and their family members.

By Stephanie Salmich

A woman and her daughter forming their first impressions in healthcare at the reception desk.

First Impressions in Healthcare: 3 Critical Moments to Consider

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HealthWare Systems Blog

First Impressions in Healthcare: 3 Critical Moments to Consider

Posted on Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Forming positive first impressions in healthcare starts before your patient’s appointment even begins.

Here are three critical moments to consider:

Choosing the Facility – Online Presence

Before a patient decides to utilize your services, he/she may seek information about your organization online.  Patients visit your website, check out your Facebook page or other social media accounts, and read online reviews about your facility and clinicians.  Is your website easy to use and up to date?  How does it compare to your competition’s?  Are you leveraging the power of social media in healthcare and monitoring online reviews related to your facility?

Creating positive first impressions in healthcare begins with managing your online reputation.

Setting the Appointment – Over the Phone or Online

How complicated is it for a patient to set an appointment with your facility?  When patients call, how long is it before they talk to a real, live human being (and is that person pleasant to speak with)?  Negative first impressions in healthcare can easily form when patients become frustrated by rudeness, long holds, and uncertainty about how long they’ll be waiting on hold or for a call to be returned.  Train your staff to practice strategic telephone etiquette that will boost efficiency and increase patient satisfaction.

You can further improve the patient experience by providing the option to set appointments online, through a patient portal or mobile app, for example.  These resources (which are available 24/7, outside of normal calling hours) can make setting an appointment more convenient for some patients, plus they won’t have to worry about being placed on hold during busy calling times.

Arriving at the Facility – Be a Hospitable Hospital

When patients arrive at your facility for the first time, they should feel welcome.  Create an inviting atmosphere that begins with the lobby, waiting room, and greeting.

The lobby and waiting area must look neat and professional.  Guests feel welcomed when they can see that their hosts have taken great care to prepare for their visit by cleaning, organizing, and providing provisions just for them.  Consider offering refreshments, like coffee and water, and stocking the waiting area with items to occupy your guests’ time (e.g. CURRENT issues of magazines, games, puzzles, free Wi-Fi).  Make their wait as comfortable as possible, which will greatly improve the patient experience.

Just as important to creating positive first impressions in healthcare is the greeting your guests receive as they enter your facility.  Staff should exhibit a friendly, positive, calm attitude that sets the tone for the rest of the patient experience.  A rude or visibly agitated greeter can completely negate your other efforts to create positive first impressions in healthcare.

A woman and her daughter forming their first impressions in healthcare at the reception desk.

First impressions in healthcare start before the patient’s appointment even begins.

First impressions in healthcare affect patients’ perceptions of the rest of their experience with your facility.  When you improve the patient experience throughout these three critical moments that shape first impressions in healthcare, you will greatly increase patient satisfaction overall.

By Stephanie Salmich

Statistics reveal the need for better interoperability in healthcare.

5 Revealing Statistics Concerning the Need for Better Interoperability in Healthcare

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HealthWare Systems Blog

5 Revealing Statistics Concerning the Need for Better Interoperability in Healthcare

Posted on Wednesday, September 27, 2017

In today’s world, interoperability is more important than ever as patients may see multiple providers or receive care from multiple health systems in order to address a single health issue.  In the interest of increasing patient safety and improving the patient experience, health systems must be able to communicate with one another regarding important patient health information.  Information that one provider sends to another could save a life or, at the very least, take the burden of tracking and providing information off the patient.

Even though the technology exists to meet this need, many hospitals are still struggling with interoperability in healthcare as the following revealing statistics demonstrate.

According to research posted by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology concerning non-federal acute care hospitals in the U.S.:

1.  Only 46% of hospitals had required patient information from outside providers or sources available electronically at the point of care.

2. Only 18% of hospitals reported that their providers “often” used electronically received patient health information from outside sources when treating their patients; 35% said they “sometimes” did, 20% said “rarely,” 16% said “never,” and 11% did not know.

The top reasons for rarely or never using electronically received patient health information from outside sources were:  the information is not available in the EHR as part of the clinician’s workflow (53%), it’s difficult to integrate healthcare data in the EHR (45%), the information isn’t always available when needed (40%), and the information is not accessible in a useful format (29%).

3. 55% of hospitals named their exchange partners’ EHR systems’ lack of ability to receive data as a barrier to interoperability.

4. Only 38% of hospitals had the ability to use or integrate healthcare data from outside sources into their own EHRs without manual entry.

5. Only 26% of hospitals conducted all 4 core domains (electronically sending, receiving, finding, and integrating/using key clinical information) of interoperability in healthcare.

The number of hospitals that have achieved interoperability in healthcare is simply too low to guarantee patient safety and the continuity of care that patients deserve.  Improving the patient experience will depend on hospitals’ ability to integrate healthcare data and IT systems with the use of solutions that create complete (sending, receiving, finding, AND integrating/using data), rather than partial, interoperability in healthcare.

Statistics reveal the need for better interoperability in healthcare.

Statistics reveal the need for better interoperability in healthcare.

By Stephanie Salmich

Improving Patient Engagement Beyond the Healthcare Facility: A patient holds a smartphone.

Improving Patient Engagement Beyond the Healthcare Facility

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Improving Patient Engagement Beyond the Healthcare Facility

Posted on Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Improving patient engagement leads to better health outcomes.  Better health outcomes are generally seen in engaged patients who participate in their own health and healthcare decisions.

Truly successful patient engagement involves more than getting patients to participate during their visits, however.  It requires patients to take an active role in their health in their every day life, after they’ve left the hospital or doctor’s office.

Invest in patient engagement and you will see better health outcomes for your patients and lower costs for your facility.  Improving patient engagement increases healthcare value as well.

To improve patient engagement beyond your healthcare facility, make the following available to your patients (or encourage their use!):

Health Apps

Improving Patient Engagement Beyond the Healthcare Facility: A patient holds a smartphone.

Improving patient engagement with health apps, social media, and learning resources can produce better health outcomes.

There are numerous smart phone health apps out there that can help patients with a variety of health goals, from developing healthy habits to monitoring diabetes.  These health apps can improve patient engagement by checking in with patients throughout the day and reminding them to follow their healthcare plan.  To help patients sift through the overwhelming number of choices and avoid flawed or potentially harmful health apps, provide them with recommendations for doctor-approved app options.

Social Media

Among the many benefits of using social media in healthcare is its capacity to improve patient engagement.  Using social media in healthcare is a great way to connect patients to their health no matter where they are outside your facility!  Use sites like Facebook and Twitter to share preventive health tips and promote interactive health campaigns.

Learning Resources

Patients may be overwhelmed by the idea of learning how to use new technology such as health apps, social media, patient portals, digital medicine devices, and telemedicine.  To ensure this does not discourage them from trying any of the above, consider the solution that Ochsner Health System implemented.  This facility created the “O Bar,” a resource desk staffed by a technology expert who answers patients’ questions, demonstrates health apps, and troubleshoots issues with digital devices.  Patients can “test drive” health technology and confirm they know how to use it before they go home.

Remember that improving patient engagement requires the commitment and collaboration of many parties:  administrators, clinicians, staff, vendors, and the patients themselves.  Of course patients must be willing to participate in their healthcare, but you can help motivate them by making these tools available, raising their awareness about the tools available, and teaching them how to use them.

Improving patient engagement beyond the healthcare facility using health apps, social media in healthcare, and learning resources can help you and your patients see better health outcomes and increase healthcare value.

By Stephanie Salmich

Social media in healthcare: A person holds a smartphone showing a hospital’s Facebook page.

Social Media in Healthcare: WHY Your Facility Needs It

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Social Media in Healthcare:

WHY Your Facility Needs It

Posted on Wednesday, September 06, 2017

If your organization is not already on board with using social media in healthcare, you can’t afford to wait any longer.  Here are three reasons your healthcare facility needs a social media presence:

1. Patients are Online

Your patients are using the Internet and social media to find and share health information. This includes patients of all ages, from Millennials to Baby Boomers.  Social media impacts Millennials’ healthcare decisions, including their choice of provider.  And when it comes to adults above the age of 50, 82% research health and wellness information online.

According to the Pew Research Center, 86% of Americans utilize the Internet, and 79% of those online users and 68% of all adult Americans use Facebook (with 76% of those who do checking in on a daily basis). Improve patient engagement by connecting with your patients using a medium they’re comfortable with and that many use throughout the day.

Social media in healthcare: A person holds a smartphone showing a hospital’s Facebook page.

Use social media to promote your facility.

2. Promote Your Facility

Using social media can be a cost-free way to promote a brand to a large audience; yet, healthcare marketers use social media to distribute content less than other marketers do, and use costly print media more often than other marketers, according to the Content Marketing Institute.

It’s important to be proactive about your organization’s online image because if you don’t control it, others will. Patients are now posting online reviews of providers and healthcare facilities on Yelp and health-specific review sites like Healthgrades and Vitals.  In a 2017 study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, 39% of patients reported visiting a website like these at least once.

Many also share their health experiences with their entire online networks in the form of Facebook posts and tweets.

3. Serve the Community

While the Internet provides quick access to health information to more people than ever before, one drawback is that information posted online is not always correct. Your facility can combat all the poor-quality information out there that your patients may be reading by offering them accurate health information they know they can trust.

Social media can be a very effective tool for reaching your patients with important preventive healthcare and healthy living tips, and can assist you in raising their awareness about other relevant health issues or concerns.  HIMSS advocates for the use of social media in healthcare as a way to improve patient engagement, which the organization believes can improve health literacy.

Both the CDC and WHO encourage the use of social media in healthcare as well. As WHO put it (in its Bulletin of the World Health Organization): “one fact sheet or an emergency message about an outbreak can be spread through Twitter faster than any influenza virus.”

Check out this infographic for more statistics on patients’ use of social media for healthcare information, and stay tuned for next week’s blog containing specific tips on HOW to use social media in healthcare.

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