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

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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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 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

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

Improving Patient Engagement Beyond the Healthcare Facility

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Improving Patient Engagement Beyond the Healthcare Facility

Posted on Wednesday, September 20, 2017

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

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

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


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

Health Apps

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

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

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

Social Media

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

Learning Resources

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


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

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


By Stephanie Salmich

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

Social Media in Healthcare: WHY Your Facility Needs It

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Social Media in Healthcare:

WHY Your Facility Needs It

Posted on Wednesday, September 06, 2017

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

1. Patients are Online


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

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

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

Use social media to promote your facility.

2. Promote Your Facility


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

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

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

3. Serve the Community


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

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

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


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


By Stephanie Salmich