You can improve patient engagement in older patients, like this doctor talking with his patient about her health.

Improve Patient Engagement in Older Patients

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Improve Patient Engagement in Older Patients

Posted on Wednesday, August 28, 2019

You can improve patient engagement in older patients, like this doctor talking with his patient about her health.

Improve patient engagement in older patients by helping them view aging in a positive way.

You can improve patient engagement in older patients by helping them view aging in a positive way.  This coming month, “September is Healthy Aging® Month,” offers a special opportunity to do just that!

Here are a few ways you can improve patient engagement in older patients:

Celebrate aging –September is Healthy Aging® Month” is meant to draw attention to the positive aspects of aging and to assure people that it’s never too late to make healthy lifestyle changes.  Older patients should be encouraged to take control of their health at any age.

You may also wish to celebrate grandparents this next month, as Grandparents Day falls in September as well.  Remind older patients of the need to maintain their health so that they can continue to benefit their grandchildren’s lives for many years to come!  And make sure they know that this special relationship can benefit their own health, too. (Check out our previous blog on additional monthly health observances.)

Emphasize prevention, rather than reaction – Some of the most prevalent health issues affecting older patients, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, heart disease, malnutrition, and injuries from falls, are potentially preventable.  Yet, per the CDC, only 7% of older adults obtain all their recommended preventive health services.

Our blogs on increasing preventive screenings for men, improving male patient engagement, and increasing mammogram appointments can provide you with some excellent ideas for promoting preventive health services at your facility.

Improve family engagement – Family engagement can be especially important for older patients who may have family caregivers.  Family caregivers play a significant role in older patients’ safety and comfort.  Plus, patient and family satisfaction are related.

Address the social determinants of health – Some of the social determinants of health may affect older patients in different ways than younger patients.  For example, patient transportation needspatient housing needs, and dietary needs often change as patients age.

Provide technology information – A 2018 AARP survey found that 76% of U.S. adults age 50-plus want to stay in their own homes as they age.  Many older patients also want and believe they need access to health technology in order to manage their own healthcare.  Educate patients and their families about technology that can help them achieve these goals and keep them safe.

Implement the 4M Framework – The Age-Friendly Health Systems initiative encourages healthcare facilities to embrace the 4M’s when caring for older patients:

  • What Matters – Aligning care with the patient and family’s health goals.
  • Medication – Choosing age-friendly medications that don’t hinder the other three “M’s” of the framework.
  • Mentation – Addressing dementia, depression, and delirium.
  • Mobility – Ensuring patients move safely every day.

According to the Population Reference Bureau, there were 46 million Americans (15% of the population) aged 65 and older in 2016 and that number is expected to more than double by 2060, to over 98 million (24% of the population).

As the American Hospital Association pointed out in its publication “Creating Age-Friendly Health Systems,” improving care for older patients now can put your hospital “ahead of the curve” as the healthcare market shifts to accommodate our aging population.

September is the perfect time for exploring new policies that will improve patient engagement in older patients and ensure they have the best possible care at your facility all year round.


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

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 doctor and patients smile behind the blog’s title: ADDRESS PATIENT TRANSPORTATION NEEDS TO CREATE BETTER HEALTH OUTCOMES.

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:


A doctor and patients smile behind the blog’s title: ADDRESS PATIENT TRANSPORTATION NEEDS TO 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 doctor holds a tablet showing healthy food images representing the blog topic – reduce patient malnutrition.

Taking Steps to Reduce Patient Malnutrition is Critical to Health Outcomes

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Taking Steps to Reduce Patient Malnutrition is Critical to Health Outcomes

Posted on Wednesday, March 7, 2018

When we look at the statistics, the importance of taking steps to reduce patient malnutrition becomes clear.  A study of 818 inpatients published in Clinical Nutrition found that up to one third were malnourished, resulting in “poor hospitalization outcomes” such as increased mortality rates and higher costs of care.

Indeed, according to an article published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

“Malnutrition is associated with many adverse outcomes, including an increased risk of pressure ulcers and impaired wound healing, immune suppression and increased infection rate, muscle wasting and functional loss increasing the risk of falls, longer length of hospital stay, higher readmission rates, higher treatment costs, and increased mortality.”

The authors of the article point out that malnutrition is often overlooked, despite its dire consequences and the startling number of patients who suffer from it.  Per research cited in the article, it is estimated that in developed countries at least one third of patients are malnourished to some degree at the point of admission; during their hospital stay, the nutrition of about two thirds of these patients will worsen if untreated; and about one third of patients who are not malnourished when admitted may become malnourished during their stay.

Fortunately, hospitals can prevent many of the negative effects of malnutrition.  The authors of the article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggest healthcare facilities apply the following six principles to nutrition care in order to reduce patient malnutrition:

Reduce Patient Malnutrition


1 – “Create an institutional culture where all stakeholders value nutrition” – Administrators and all healthcare professionals (doctors, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, dieticians, etc.) must collaborate.

2 – “Redefine clinicians’ roles to include nutrition care” – Provide clinicians with nutrition training and continuing education.

3 – “Recognize and diagnose all malnourished patients and those at risk” – Every hospitalized patient should be screened according to a standardized procedure.

4 – “Rapidly implement comprehensive nutrition interventions and continued monitoring” – Immediate nutrition interventions must be a high priority; consumption must be monitored and adjusted as necessary.

5 – “Communicate nutrition care plans” – Ensure patients’ nutrition care plans are updated in the EHR and all healthcare professionals are informed.

6 – “Develop a comprehensive discharge nutrition care and education plan” – Communicate the nutrition care plan to the patient and caregivers, provide them with nutrition education, and follow up to check adherence to the plan.


A doctor holds a tablet showing healthy food images representing the blog topic – reduce patient malnutrition.

Reduce patient malnutrition to improve health outcomes.

A piece featured on the Hospitals & Health Networks website proposes that “before implementing interventions, a hospital must first visualize food as medicine to realize the impact that food can make in the community.”  This article provides many ideas for hospitals looking to serve their communities and reduce patient malnutrition (such as establishing on-site gardens, healthy cooking classes, food pantries, and food pharmacies).

March is National Nutrition Month®, an education and information campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  This is the perfect time to start implementing the above principles at your facility and take steps to reduce patient malnutrition.  You can also promote healthy eating habits for your employees and patients using the tools the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics provides here.

Don’t forget to recognize the RDNs who serve and advance the health of your community by celebrating Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day (the second Wednesday in March) as well!


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


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

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

Addressing Health Insurance Confusion to Improve the Patient Experience

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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