A remote worker smiles as she enjoys the benefits of remote work solutions that enable healthcare staff to work from home.

11 Reasons to Enable Healthcare Staff to Work from Home

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HealthWare Systems Blog

11 Reasons to Enable Healthcare Staff to Work from Home

Posted on Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Not all healthcare employees need to be on site to complete their work. When you enable healthcare staff to work from home, your employees, organization, and community will benefit!

A remote worker smiles as she enjoys the benefits of remote work solutions that enable healthcare staff to work from home.

Everyone benefits when you implement remote work solutions that enable healthcare staff to work from home.


Here are 11 reasons why you should implement solutions that enable healthcare staff to work from home:


1.) Limit the number of people on sitethe COVID-19 crisis has caused numerous organizations to reassess how many employees are actually necessary to keep on site. Moving workers off site now will help protect patients and employees from the current coronavirus; and, it will establish a more proactive approach for any future public health emergencies by ensuring staff who can work from home are already set up to do so when another new disease strikes.

2.) Maintain HIPAA-compliancethe healthcare industry has been reluctant to offer remote work opportunities due to concerns over PHI security. HealthWare’s remote work solutions enable healthcare staff to work from home by providing controlled access to PHI, encryption of all information at all times, complete audit trails, and full transparency for management.

3.) Increase productivity many studies demonstrate the positive effects of working from home on productivity. For example, a Stanford paper reported a 13% performance increase when employees switched to remote work and Airtasker’s survey of 1,004 full-time employees found that on average, remote workers put in 1.4 more days of work each month (16.8 more days each year) than those working in an office. Plus, remote work has the potential to facilitate a more flexible schedule, so many remote workers can choose to accomplish some of their work outside of the typical “9 to 5” business hours if they feel more motivated in the early morning or late at night, with the result of producing higher quality work. (Our remote work solutions provide management with productivity monitoring for real-time oversight, so you can really be certain your remote workers are delivering.)

4.) Expand your pool of job applicantsif your employees can work from home, you aren’t limited to hiring workers who live within commuting distance of your facilities.

5.) Recruit top talentin addition to more potential candidates, you’ll also attract the best contenders. According to Indeed’s 2018 survey, an organization’s remote work policy is an important factor for 47% of employees in their job search and 40% would even consider taking a pay cut if it meant they could work from home. And if you can offer a work from home incentive, you’ll especially appeal to Gen Z and Millennial healthcare employees who have joined or are entering the workforce at a time when remote work opportunities are increasingly common.

6.) Reduce your footprintcommuting and company offices are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Moving some of your healthcare staff off site will make a significantly positive environmental impact. These remote workers’ homes will double as their office space and they will travel fewer miles, use less gas and oil, and reduce their contributions to air pollution.

7.) Keep workers healthyworking remotely means your teams won’t be exposed to workplace (or public transportation) germs. This is especially enticing for employees who work in the healthcare field and would otherwise be vulnerable to germs from both colleagues and ailing patients. And on top of the physical health advantages, remote workers experience mental health benefits related to stress (e.g. no commute/traffic, more free time, better work/life balance). Physically and mentally healthy employees can better concentrate to produce superior work.

8.) Decrease sick days and absencesemployees are not only less vulnerable to getting sick in the first place when they work remotely, but they’re also more apt to work through a mild cold or sickness if they can do so in the comfort of their own home. In fact, the reason some employees may choose to call in when sick is not because they don’t feel up to working, but simply to avoid spreading the illness to their coworkers – a concern that remote workers don’t have to worry about!

9.) Improve employee satisfaction and retentionemployees who enjoy the perks of remote work will be more satisfied, more loyal to your organization, and less inclined to leave their positions.

10.) Save moneycost savings come in the form of less office space/equipment/supplies, reduced turnover, fewer absences, increased productivity, and recruitment of better talent, to name just a few areas in which you’ll see major returns on investment. (We estimate savings of $10,000 per year per worker when you employ our remote work solutions.)

11.) Remote work is the futurebetween 2005 and 2017, remote work increased by 159% in the United States. A recent study projects that 73% of all teams will include remote workers by 2028.

The time has come to embrace work from home solutions in order to remain competitive in the eyes of prospective employees – you simply can’t afford to resist this inevitable change to the workforce.

Remote Work Solutions for Healthcare


Which parts of your operation would you move off site if you could? HealthWare Systems can analyze your paper and fax-based workflows and offer alternative solutions that enable healthcare staff to work from home in a HIPAA-compliant, secure environment.

Schedule a phone consultation and we’ll help you determine how you can enable healthcare staff to work from home, and which departments to target, so you can start reaping the benefits listed above as soon as possible.


By Stephanie Salmich

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

A daughter and mother celebrate the health benefits of a clean home.

Spring Cleaning! The Health Benefits of a Clean Home

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Spring Cleaning! The Health Benefits of a Clean Home

Posted on Monday, April 1, 2019

Spring cleaning season is here!  This is a great time to educate your patients on the health benefits of a clean home and encourage them in their spring cleaning goals.

A daughter and mother celebrate the health benefits of a clean home.

The health benefits of a clean home are both mental and physical.


Promote the Health Benefits of a Clean Home

A clean home is beneficial to both your patients’ physical and mental health!


Here are a few of the health benefits of a clean home:

Improves respiration – Common asthma triggers include dust, pet dander, mold, and mildew.  Decluttering, dusting, and vacuuming can all help asthma and allergy symptoms.

Prevents sickness – In order to stop the spread of an illness after someone in their home has been sick, it’s important that patients thoroughly clean and disinfect (especially areas of the house that are frequently touched, like doorknobs, counters, and cellphones).

Better sleep – A National Sleep Foundation Bedroom Poll found that “respondents who say they make their bed every day are 19% more likely to say they get a good night’s sleep every night than those who don’t.”  Furthermore, at least two thirds of respondents believed clean, allergen-free air and a clean bedroom are important for a good night’s sleep and 71% of respondents said “they get a more comfortable night’s sleep on sheets with a fresh scent.”

Enhances concentration – Both children and adults can have trouble focusing on tasks when surrounded by clutter and mess.

Boosts mood – A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin analyzed couples’ descriptions of their homes.  Women who described their homes as “stressful” (cluttered, with unfinished projects) “had increased depressed mood over the course of the day.”  Women who described their homes as “restorative” “had decreased depressed mood over the day.”

Lowers stress – Not only can having a clean home lower stress, but so can the cleaning process itself.  Some people practice meditation or gratitude exercises while cleaning.  Cleaning can also give us a sense of control over our environment.  Plus, cleaning is a physical activity, which is a de-stressor.

Provides exercise – While not recommended as a patient’s only form of physical activity, household chores can burn some extra calories and even stretch and tone muscles.

Prevents injuries – According to the CDC, more than one out of four people aged 65 and older falls each year and one out of five falls results in serious injury.  Patients can reduce some risk factors by keeping floors and stairs clear of clutter.

Provide Patient Education for Safe Spring Cleaning

Along with the health benefits of a clean home, advise your patients about cleaning safety.  Unsafe cleaning practices can lead to health risks and injury.

For example, direct them to guidelines for poison prevention (particularly related to ventilation and handling and storage of cleaning products that contain chemicals).  Or, perhaps your doctors have recommendations for chemical-free products.

Other cleaning safety considerations include proper indoor and outdoor ladder usage and appropriate disposal of expired items (such as paint, medicine, and batteries).

Equipped with this knowledge, your patients can pursue the health benefits of a clean home without putting patient safety at risk.


The social determinants of health include patient housing and living conditions.  One way to address these is to arm your patients with the knowledge they need to keep their homes safe and clean.

Many of us are extra motivated to get our homes in order when spring cleaning season rolls around.  Foster this enthusiasm in your patients now, but encourage them to also maintain adequate cleaning (and cleaning safety!) habits throughout the year.  Your patients will be grateful to enjoy the health benefits of a clean home all year round, and you can enjoy the benefits of better health outcomes for patients at your facility.


By Stephanie Salmich

Appealing to Millennial patients: Millennials gathered at a table with smart phones and coffee.

Appealing to Millennial Patients

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Appealing to Millennial Patients

Posted on Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Appealing to Millennial patients: Millennials gathered at a table with smart phones and coffee.

Appealing to Millennial patients can help your facility keep up on the latest healthcare trends.

Appealing to Millennial patients is becoming increasingly important to a healthcare facility’s revenue cycle.  Not only do they number 83.1 million and make up over 25 percent of the U.S. population, but Millennials are also driving new healthcare trends.

One alarming trend is that many Millennials do not have a primary care physician or keep up on regular health appointments and exams.  Instead, a growing trend is their use of urgent care facilities.  As Dr. Niket Sonpal (speaking with CBS) explained:

“We found that Millennials tend to want to have access to care right away, they want it immediately and they want to be able to see a doctor quickly . . . When they feel well, they don’t want to go to the doctors, and they don’t.  So then when they feel unwell, they’re like I want to see a doctor right away and not wait for weeks for an appointment.”

Unfortunately, this trend has serious consequences.  While many Millennials are health-conscious, they may be missing out on recommended eye exams, blood pressure screenings, PAP smears, STD/STI screenings, mental health screenings, and IBS/digestive exams, as well as failing to get vaccinations on time.


You may also be interested in: “Attracting and Retaining Millennial Healthcare Employees (Part 1)

In order to help ensure Millennials receive the care they need, heed the healthcare trends that are appealing to Millennial patients. The following are a few ideas to help get you started:

Don’t Waste Their Time

Wait times – As noted, Millennials don’t want to wait for care.  The following common scenario is definitely not appealing to Millennial patients:  first waiting days or weeks for an appointment, then waiting 20-30 minutes in the waiting room, THEN waiting in the exam room even longer before the doctor actually shows up.  To prevent this situation from occurring, implement a solution like ActiveTRACK, which can lower wait times by 75%.

Telehealth – Offering telemedicine appointments is another way to help Millennial patients save time, something they highly value.  Millennials are technologically savvy and accustomed to immediacy and convenience, so telehealth options may be attractive to them.

Simplify the Financial Aspects of Healthcare

Payment plans – One factor that may be keeping Millennials from accessing healthcare is the high cost.  Offering payment plan options so that they don’t have to cover the cost of a large bill all at once can help Millennial patients afford the care they need.

Price transparency – Millennial patients want to compare costs between providers and obtain out-of-pocket estimates before receiving care.  They also want to understand their bills before they pay them.

Health insurance confusion – Many Millennials are confused about their health benefit options and medical bills.  Clearing up their health insurance confusion can really help you stand out from your competition.  An easy place to start is by educating patients that many plans cover annual physicals at no cost.

Stay Technologically Relevant

Online payment options – Millennials are more likely than older generations to pay their bills using technology or mobile devices and may see paper bills as inconvenient and outdated.

Maintain a mobile and online presence – Use social media in healthcare to improve patient engagement.  To help attract new patients, monitor online reviews of your facility and respond to any negative feedback.  (Over 75 percent of Millennials check online reviews before choosing a doctor.)

Interoperability – It is hard for a generation that grew up with constant technological progress to understand how healthcare has been unable to keep up.  In other aspects of Millennials’ lives, data can be instantaneously transferred with a click of a button.  Interoperability in healthcare will be expected too, and there is technology that can help you achieve it.


You may also be interested in:  “Attracting and Retaining Millennial Healthcare Employees (Part 2)”

In other industries, Millennials are used to having many choices.  They expect companies to offer convenience and respect their time, provide competitive and transparent pricing, and keep pace with changes in technology.  Health systems can learn from these consumer-centered practices that are standard in other markets.  Plus, these practices are becoming more attractive to other generations as well.

Appealing to Millennial patients will help your facility keep up on the latest healthcare trends, attract a large group of potential patients, and boost your revenue cycle.


By Stephanie Salmich

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

Increasing Preventive Screenings for Men at Your Facility

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Increasing Preventive Screenings for Men at Your Facility

Posted on Thursday, November 1, 2018

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


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


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

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

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

Ensure patients are aware that most health plans are required to cover the cost of many preventive screenings (when performed by an in-network provider).  Highlight the fact that most plans cannot charge a copayment or coinsurance for these services even if the patient has not met his yearly deductible yet.  Instruct patients to check with their insurance company.  Additionally, help patients find out if they qualify for financial assistance and facilitate the application process for them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take proactive steps toward increasing preventive screenings for men!


By Stephanie Salmich

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

Ideas for Increasing Mammogram Appointments

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Ideas for Increasing Mammogram Appointments

Posted on Monday, October 1, 2018

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

Take proactive steps toward increasing mammogram appointments!

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


Consider these ideas for increasing mammogram appointments at your facility:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


By Stephanie Salmich

The social determinants of health are listed.

The Social Determinants of Health & Their Effect on Health Outcomes

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HealthWare Systems Blog

The Social Determinants of Health & Their Effect on Health Outcomes

Posted on Friday, August 17, 2018

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The social determinants of health are listed.

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


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

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

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


By Stephanie Salmich

A healthcare worker and the blog title appear: How Can Hospitals Address Patient Housing Needs?

How Can Hospitals Address Patient Housing Needs?

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How Can Hospitals Address Patient Housing Needs?

Posted on Wednesday, August 8, 2018

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

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

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

A healthcare worker and the blog title appear: How Can Hospitals Address Patient Housing Needs?

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


By Stephanie Salmich

Male patient engagement: A doctor and male patient shake hands.

Male Patient Engagement: Improving Men’s Health Outcomes

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Male Patient Engagement: Improving Men’s Health Outcomes

Posted on Tuesday, June 5, 2018

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

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

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

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

Improving Male Patient Engagement

Male patient engagement: A doctor and male patient shake hands.

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


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

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

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

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

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


By Stephanie Salmich

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