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 nurse speaks with an elderly patient: Directing assistance toward at-risk patients can reduce hospital readmission rates.

8 Ways to Reduce Hospital Readmission Rates

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HealthWare Systems Blog

8 Ways to Reduce Hospital Readmission Rates

Posted on Wednesday, May 2, 2018

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

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

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


A nurse speaks with an elderly patient: Directing assistance toward at-risk patients can reduce hospital readmission rates.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reduce Hospital Readmission Rates with a Multi-Strategy Approach


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

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


By Stephanie Salmich

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

Improve patient safety for patients like the family and newborn pictured here.

Medical Errors Statistics Reveal the Need to Improve Patient Safety

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Medical Errors Statistics Reveal the Need to Improve Patient Safety

Posted on Monday, March 12, 2018

In 2018, it can be easy to take patient safety for granted; however, studies show that we have a long way to go to truly improve patient safety:

According to a nationwide survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, 21% of patients report experience with medical errors.  The survey also found that these medical errors “often have lasting impact on the patient’s physical health, emotional health, financial well-being, or family relationships.”

With approximately 251,454 deaths in the U.S. per year due to medical errors, Johns Hopkins University researchers estimate that this is the third leading cause of death in the country.  (Research published in the Journal of Patient Safety estimates the number of premature deaths due to medical errors could be even higher – over 400,000 per year.)

Patient safety is of the utmost importance to any healthcare system, so how can these numbers be so high?

As the PatientSafe Network explains, there are many obstacles that thwart or diminish efforts to improve patient safety.  These include issues regarding cognitive dissonance, blame/pointing fingers, complexity, cost, and many more.  See their full list of (18!) obstacles here.

Improve Patient Safety

Improve patient safety for patients like the family and newborn pictured here.

Make the commitment to reduce medical errors and improve patient safety during National Patient Safety Awareness Week.

This week is National Patient Safety Awareness Week, an initiative of The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) “designed to mark a dedicated time and a platform to increase awareness about patient safety among health professionals and the public,” according to their website.  There will be two main issues highlighted this year – safety culture and patient engagement.

National Patient Safety Awareness Week offers an opportunity for both healthcare professionals and healthcare consumers to come together to improve patient safety.  IHI and NPSF offer plenty of ideas for getting involved and a day-by-day guide to activities for the week, and invite you to join the conversation on social media (use the hashtag #PSAW in your posts).

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.

In order to improve patient safety and reduce medical errors and patient safety risks, it will take the work of all stakeholders (administrators, clinicians, staff, patients, family members, etc.) to raise awareness of this critical issue.  It will also take their commitment to making the changes necessary for lowering risks to patient safety.


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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HealthWare Systems Blog

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

Managing the flu season: Sick patients sit in the waiting room.

Managing the Flu Season and High Patient Volume

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Managing the Flu Season and High Patient Volume

Posted on Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Managing the flu season has been especially difficult for hospitals this year as health systems around the country are overflowing with record numbers of flu patients, resulting in ambulance diversions and delays, bed shortages, and ERs that are operating beyond capacity.

For example, Saint Agnes Medical Center’s ER in California has been operating at 104% capacity and UCLA Medical Center’s ER, which usually treats around 140 patients/day, recently treated over 200 patients in one day.  In January Illinois had 100 more flu outbreaks than it did last year at the same time.

Here are some suggestions for managing the flu season:


Prevention

The best thing you can do in your work toward managing the flu season is to take preventive measures to reduce the number of patients the flu will bring in in the first place.  Be diligent in your efforts to educate patients about, and encourage them to receive, the flu vaccine.  Many may not realize that it’s not too late to get the flu shot for this flu season.  Provide them with the CDC’s tips for prevention and dispel any of the common flu myths they may believe.

The ModernMedicine Network outlines the importance of considering how you might compete with drug stores and retail clinics to secure your patients’ business for flu shots.  They suggest providing for walk-in vaccinations, setting up after-hours or weekend vaccination clinics, and partnering with nearby businesses to arrange flu shot clinics for their employees (which has the potential to generate new patients), among other ideas.


Preparation

Prepare for managing high patient volume, which you’re likely to see during the flu season.  Adjust your staffing needs and keep in mind that your employees may get sick, too.  A patient tracking system will help you to better allocate staff and resources and will vastly improve efficiency and patient throughput.

Other workflow automation tools will also aid you in managing high patient volume by increasing efficiency and perhaps compensating for an uptick in sick/absent employees.


Containment

Research published in the American Journal of Infection Control found that 4 in 10 healthcare professionals work while experiencing flu-like symptoms, risking the safety of the most vulnerable patients such as the elderly and those with chronic diseases.  Sick employees with a fever and respiratory symptoms should be instructed not to return to work “until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever (without the use of fever-reducing medicines such as acetaminophen),” according to the CDC.

Additionally, create a designated space in the waiting room for patients with flu symptoms where they can sit without spreading the flu to other patients.  And make sure plenty of hand sanitizer, tissues, and masks are available to help contain the virus.

Managing the flu season: Sick patients sit in the waiting room.

High patient volume makes containment in the waiting area especially important to managing the flu season.

Managing the flu season is a challenge, but prevention, preparation, and containment will help you to operate efficiently while managing high patient volume and keeping your patients safe.


By Stephanie Salmich

A person presses a button on a fax machine and part of the blog title appears – Secure Healthcare Faxing and Information Exchange: Is Your Fax Machine Sabotaging Your HIPAA Compliance?

Secure Healthcare Faxing and Information Exchange: Is Your Fax Machine Sabotaging Your HIPAA Compliance?

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Secure Healthcare Faxing and Information Exchange

Is Your Fax Machine Sabotaging Your HIPAA Compliance?

Posted on Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Providers strive to protect patient privacy with secure healthcare faxing and information exchange. Unfortunately, the tool often used for the job is the outdated and unreliable fax machine. According to a national survey of physicians, 63% say they use fax machines as their primary way to communicate with other physicians.

While many would like this technology retired for good, for now it seems the fax machine may continue to be a necessary evil in the industry; therefore, it’s important for healthcare facilities to consider its effect on patient privacy and HIPAA compliance, as well as solutions for ensuring secure healthcare faxing and information exchange.

Security & HIPAA Compliance Issues


Here are just a few ways your fax machines may be putting your facility’s security at risk:

A person presses a button on a fax machine and part of the blog title appears – Secure Healthcare Faxing and Information Exchange: Is Your Fax Machine Sabotaging Your HIPAA Compliance?

Do you have tools in place that enable secure healthcare faxing and information exchange?

Wrong numbers – Fax machines are not immune to human error. All it takes is for an employee to press one incorrect button, and a patient’s identity and private health information are exposed to a random recipient whose trustworthiness is unknown.  Even if you provide a cover sheet that explains the fax is classified and for a specific recipient, you have no control over the actions of the person on the other end.

Lost or incomplete documents – With numerous, multi-page documents coming in at the same time, pages can get mixed up and sorted into the wrong pile.  Someone without the proper authorization can unintentionally gain access to confidential material, jeopardizing patient privacy.

Physical location – Where do you keep your fax machines?  Have you placed them in busy areas where everyone can easily access them, like many organizations have?  While this may be convenient, anyone could walk by and read, or even steal, sensitive documents.  A fax can also be received outside of regular office hours, when there are even fewer workers around to notice potential theft. 

Physical disposal – Are you certain your staff members dispose of every single sensitive paper document in the proper shred box, and that they are never placed in a regular garbage can? (And how much money are you spending on a HIPAA-compliant document shredding company?)  Additionally, thermal fax machines contain a carbon copy of every fax they’ve ever sent or received.  If this type of machine is not properly discarded, it can end up unsecured in a landfill or sold to anyone who could effortlessly retrieve all the information that ever passed through the device.

Inadequate audit trails – Fax machines can confirm that a document was received by another fax machine, but cannot guarantee that the intended person at that organization picked up the document or that no one else read it. They also don’t keep track of which individual sent each fax.

The Solution for Secure Healthcare Faxing and Information Exchange


Fortunately, it is possible to utilize fax communication while also protecting patient privacy and avoiding a HIPAA violation that must be reported, requires you to implement a costly corrective action plan, and could lead to being placed on the CMS compliance watchlist.  Here is how an electronic document management solution can save your facility from the concerns listed above when it comes to secure healthcare faxing and information exchange:

Restricted transmission – Correspondence is limited to only those recipients on your pre-programmed, approved list of destinations; wrong number entries simply don’t happen.

Electronic access – There is no need to worry about physical paperwork disappearing; physician orders and other forms are electronically routed to appropriate departments using paperless workflow for all data. Different authorized departments or users can access the same documents simultaneously, so printing hardcopies is unnecessary.

Encrypted storage – Documents can be indexed for permanent, encrypted storage and future retrieval using the search function; lost orders are eliminated.

Audit trails – HIPAA-compliant audit trails are assigned to each document.

IT systems integration – An electronic document management solution like ActiveXCHANGE can be seamlessly integrated with most existing hospital information systems and technologies, including RightFax.


HIPAA compliance requires healthcare facilities to apply “reasonable safeguards” when communicating about patients’ medical information, which is a bit of a subjective phrase.

Why not eliminate the ambiguity surrounding HIPAA compliance with an electronic document management solution that protects your facility from the above risks and ensures secure healthcare faxing and information exchange?


By Stephanie Salmich

A pharmacist fills prescriptions: Improving interoperability in healthcare can help prevent adverse drug events that affect public health and patient safety.

Interoperability in Healthcare and Its Effect on Patient Safety and Public Health

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Interoperability in Healthcare and Its Effect on Patient Safety and Public Health

Posted on Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Interoperability in healthcare is becoming increasingly important to the patient experience, public health, and patient safety.  Patients should be able to trust that when they see multiple providers at various doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies, labs and imaging facilities, and other locations, their health information is protected, accessible, and actionable.

Yet, research posted by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) found that only 26% of hospitals successfully conduct all 4 core domains (electronically sending, receiving, finding, and integrating/using key clinical information) of interoperability in healthcare.

Improving this percentage is absolutely vital to patient safety and public health.  Consider how these two categories of patient safety are affected by inadequate levels of interoperability in healthcare:

Individual Patient Safety


According to the ONC’s study, only 46% of hospitals had required patient information from outside providers or sources available electronically at the point of care and only 18% reported that their providers “often” used electronically received patient health information from outside sources when treating their patients.

Tragically, treating a patient without all necessary medical information can result in adverse drug events due to inaccurate medication reconciliation, preventable pain and suffering, life-threatening medical errors, and even death.

A pharmacist fills prescriptions: Improving interoperability in healthcare can help prevent adverse drug events that affect public health and patient safety.

Improving interoperability in healthcare can help prevent adverse drug events that affect patient safety.

At the very least, delays in access to relevant health data mean delays in treatment and extra discomfort, pain, or worry for patients and their family members as they wait.

Public Health & Safety


Public health reporting is critical for preventing/containing outbreaks of disease, preparing for health emergencies, investigating population health trends, educating communities, promoting healthy lifestyles, and informing and monitoring health policies.  Public health reporting, to local, state, and federal organizations like the CDC, is also hindered by poor interoperability in healthcare.

The ONC explains in an Issue Brief that for public health reporting:

“The goal is to move to seamless, real-time or near-real-time bidirectional exchange of data . . . This allows for the most complete and up-to-date record possible.” (p. 4)

The accuracy of public health reporting, and the strength of the health policies created from it, can only be as sound as a system’s interoperability capabilities will allow.

Fortunately, there is technology that can greatly improve individual patient safety and public health by creating true interoperability in healthcare and seamlessly integrating with healthcare IT systems.

This is an ethical issue – if we want to protect the public and patient safety, we must make interoperability in healthcare a top priority.


By Stephanie Salmich

A calendar showing a month-by-month guide to health observances.

Health Observances: 12 Months of Patient Engagement & Patient Education

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Health Observances: 12 Months of Patient Engagement & Patient Education

Posted on Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Health observances create ample opportunities for your facility to reach patients, stay relevant, and both improve patient engagement and improve patient education.  Here is a month-by-month list of ideas to help get you started:

A calendar showing a month-by-month guide to health observances.

Prepare for the year with this month-by-month guide to health observances.

 

Health Observances Throughout the Year


JANUARY is  National Blood Donor Month.  There are fewer blood donors during the winter months due to inclement weather, illness, and the busy holiday season.  To help prevent blood shortages and include your patients in the cause, hold a blood drive at your facility.

FEBRUARY is  National Children’s Dental Health Month.  Collaborate with a local dentist to create a presentation on the impact oral health has on overall well-being and invite your patients to attend.  Attending educational events can greatly improve patient engagement.  You can also download posters and fun dental health-related activity sheets for kids on the American Dental Association’s website.

MARCH is  National Nutrition Month.  Offer healthy cooking classes as a fun way to improve patient education about nutrition.

APRIL is  National Humor Month Improve patient education about the importance of humor for health and well-being with the Decorate-A-Smiley Project.  Children (and adults) can decorate smiley faces in the waiting room and you can display them for all patients to see.  Be sure to also post information about the benefits of humor (this poster can be downloaded for free).  You can provide funny books for kids to read as they wait as well!

MAY marks the start of  National Run a Mile Days, which lasts through June 14th.  Consider partnering with a nearby elementary or middle school and helping them host a Run A Mile Days event!  Promote your facility and the idea that running is a fun way for kids and adults to stay healthy.

JUNE is  Men’s Health Month.  Men are less likely than women to see a doctor, whether for a health concern or standard annual exam.  Improve patient engagement for the men in your community by hosting a health awareness event, health screening, or health fair.

JULY is  UV Safety Month.  Post warnings about the harmful effects of the sun to the eyes and guidelines for proper eye protection from UV rays around your facility and in your newsletter.  Hand out sunglasses stickers to kids with a note attached that explains what factors to look for when purchasing sunglasses.

AUGUST is  National Immunization Awareness Month.  Schedule a webinar to improve patient education about vaccine recommendations for each stage of life.

SEPTEMBER is  Baby Safety Month, September 23rd-29th is  Child Passenger Safety Week, and September 29th is  National Seat Check Saturday.  Give parents and caregivers the chance to have their car seats checked for proper installation by a certified child passenger safety technician at your facility.  Offer free demonstrations on how to buckle children of all ages into car seats.

OCTOBER is  National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Send out reminders, via text, phone call, email, or postcard, to all female patients who may need to schedule a mammogram.

NOVEMBER 15th is the  Great American Smokeout.  Organize an event where patients can make a public commitment to quit smoking with the support of their family and friends, the American Cancer Society, and your facility.

DECEMBER is  Safe Toys and Gifts Month.  Why not conduct a toy drive for Toys for Tots?  Invite both employees and patients to participate and provide them with guidelines for which toys are considered acceptable donations according to safety standards.  This is a great charitable opportunity for your facility; plus, you’ll improve patient engagement by educating them about safe toys and giving them the chance to contribute a donation as well.


In addition to the ideas listed above, be sure to utilize the power of social media to spread awareness of these important health topics and to help your facility stay relevant.  Many of the organizations that sponsor these health observances even provide materials on their websites that you can share from your own social media accounts.  Most of the 2018 health observances also have their own hashtags.

Check out even more 2018 health observances here.  Perhaps there are others that your facility can use to improve patient engagement and improve patient education.


By Stephanie Salmich

A clock and stethoscope representing the blog, 3 Simple Time-Savers for Physicians.

3 Simple Time-Savers for Physicians

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HealthWare Systems Blog

3 Simple Time-Savers for Physicians

Posted on Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The following time-savers for physicians can help busy doctors who don’t always have as much time to meet with each patient as they’d like.

Provide your doctors with these three simple time-savers for physicians to help them more efficiently use the time they do have, generate better health outcomes, increase patient satisfaction, and reduce physician burnout.

A clock and stethoscope representing the blog, 3 Simple Time-Savers for Physicians.

Share these 3 simple time-savers for physicians with your doctors.

1. Set an Agenda with Your Patient


Begin the appointment by agreeing on your expectations and priority items for the visit. Determine what your patient’s primary concerns are and list your own, then make sure you cover these first; then if there’s time you can focus on any others.

You will increase patient satisfaction if you ensure their most pressing concerns are addressed, even if that means scheduling another appointment for the lesser concerns that you didn’t get to in one meeting.  The Language of Caring for Physicians® can guide you through how to “establish the concept of time limits upfront.”

2. Practice Physician Empathy


Another way to make certain you address your patients’ most important concerns is through empathic behaviors, such as refraining from interrupting when patients explain what’s bothering them and consistently asking “what else?” to prompt patients to divulge more.

Physician empathy produces better health outcomes, can increase patient satisfaction with their provider, and will save you time by getting straight to the critical details that may not otherwise be revealed until the “Doorknob Moment,” when you’re about to leave but the patient says, “oh, one more thing…”

Physician empathy is a learned skill that you can hone through physician empathy training programs.

3. Write Legibly & Proofread


Although it may seem like it saves time to scribble out a prescription as quickly as possible or speed-type instructions into a patient’s record and skip reading them over, these behaviors actually slow doctors down in the long run (and lead to patient safety errors).

Write carefully and legibly and proofread your typed notes.  This will help you avoid the time-consuming rework that consists of answering phone calls and messages from other providers or pharmacists looking for clarification on any confusing or incorrectly recorded information.  Better health outcomes are also much more likely when mistakes and miscommunication are prevented.  

Time-Savers for Physicians: The Benefits


Each of these tips will benefit your doctors and patients.  Setting an agenda will result in more productive visits; physician empathy will improve patient-physician relationships; double-checking their own notes will decrease frustration for your doctors later.

These simple time-savers for physicians will not only increase patient satisfaction and generate better health outcomes, but also help in reducing physician burnout because your doctors (and their time) will no longer be spread so thin.


By Stephanie Salmich