A father and daughter look over a field and the blog title appears – ActiveASSIST: Financial Assistance Screening for Rural Patients

ActiveASSIST: Financial Assistance Screening for Rural Patients

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HealthWare Systems Blog

ActiveASSIST: Financial Assistance Screening for Rural Patients

Posted on Monday, May 17, 2021

Patients are now responsible for a larger portion of healthcare costs than ever before. Even those who have health coverage may be considered “underinsured” due to high cost-sharing plans that leave them with significant out-of-pocket expenses they often cannot afford to pay.

According to the Commonwealth Fund’s Biennial Health Insurance Survey, as of June 2020:

    • 12.5% of U.S. adults ages 19 to 64 were uninsured.
    • 43.4% of U.S. adults ages 19 to 64 were inadequately insured
      (uninsured, underinsured based on out-of-pocket medical costs compared to income, or experienced a gap in coverage).

Rural patients are more likely to be uninsured than are non-rural patients.

The financial viability of rural healthcare facilities will depend on their ability to find alternative funding sources for the medical bills that their patients may not be able to pay.

ActiveASSIST: Financial Assistance Screening for Rural Patients


ActiveASSIST is HealthWare Systems’ financial assistance screening tool and workflow management solution. ActiveASSIST identifies potential funding sources for patient accounts prior to their date of service and ensures the provider is payer of last resort by exhausting all other options first.

ActiveASSIST streamlines and automates the financial assistance process by:
  • Utilizing business rules to determine which patients are most likely to qualify for charitable assistance.
  • Simultaneously pursuing multiple assistance programs for these patients.
  • Pre-populating patients’ application forms with their data.
  • Providing real-time updates, while monitoring progress and documentation requirements.
  • Tracking follow-up tasks and escalating accounts that are not advancing at an acceptable pace.

Implementing ActiveASSIST at your facility does not require you to hire additional employees – our solution is designed to enable your internal staff, on-site vendors, and/or off-site and field associates to manage your self-pay and underinsured patient population.

Patient-First Technology


A father and daughter look over a field and the blog title appears – ActiveASSIST: Financial Assistance Screening for Rural Patients

Improving healthcare access with financial assistance screening for rural patients.

ActiveASSIST promotes a culture of patient advocacy by not only lowering or eliminating patients’ medical fees, but also through empowering patients with financial counseling and education. Patients who understand their own financial responsibility are much more likely to make their payments (if they can).

ActiveASSIST aids staff with follow-up and counseling discussions, helping them provide compassionate, supportive guidance and providing payment collection options based on each patient’s situation.

Improving Healthcare Access for Rural Patients


Many rural patients face unique barriers to healthcare access, which may include living long distances from healthcare facilities and specialists, poverty, provider shortages, and rural hospital closures or service cutbacks – and each of these has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As mentioned, rural patients are also more likely to be uninsured than are non-rural patients. Unfortunately, insufficient health coverage is a major barrier to healthcare access and can cause patients to delay or avoid medical care altogether.

ActiveASSIST can help you remove some of these obstacles and improve your patients’ access to the care they need.

With ActiveASSIST, you can both alleviate your patients’ financial burden and enhance the financial outlook of your own organization to ensure you remain open and can continue serving your patients and community.


Contact us to learn more about ActiveASSIST and financial assistance screening for rural patients; plus, view our other solutions for rural healthcare facilities.


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

Creating a culture of patient advocacy: A healthcare employee holds a patient’s hand.

4 Ways to Build a Culture of Patient Advocacy at Your Facility

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HealthWare Systems Blog

4 Ways to Build a Culture of Patient Advocacy at Your Facility

Posted on Wednesday, February 6, 2019

How can a healthcare facility practice patient advocacy?  Of course, patient advocates offer wonderful support to patients. But providers can create a larger culture of patient advocacy at their facility as well by tackling a few key areas.

Here are 4 ways hospitals can support their patients and build a culture of patient advocacy:


1.) Address The Social Determinants of Health

Creating a culture of patient advocacy: A healthcare employee holds a patient’s hand.

Create a culture of patient advocacy with Patient-First Technology like ActiveASSIST.

The American College of Physicians states that addressing the social determinants of health “is a critical step forward in solidifying physicians’ roles as advocates for patients.”  You can supply your physicians with screening tools and training to help them identify patients’ social needs and how these may be affecting their health.

Additionally, your organization can do its part in addressing the social determinants of health in your community.  For example, you may be able to reduce patient malnutrition, ease patient transportation needs, or assist with patient housing needs.

Supporting your patients’ social needs is an incredible form of patient advocacy.  It can also lead to better health outcomes and lower healthcare costs for your facility.

2.) Offer Financial Assistance Screening

A lot of patients don’t realize that financial assistance may be available to them. Many hospitals have changed their financial assistance policies to include not only the uninsured, but the underinsured as well.

Notifying patients of which programs they could qualify for demonstrates a great deal of patient advocacy.  What really goes above and beyond, though, is facilitating the entire financial assistance process on behalf of your patients!

Technology like HealthWare SystemsActiveASSIST and Facilitator can both identify programs applicable to specific patients AND manage the financial assistance workflow.

By exhausting all other payment options first, you also ensure the provider is payer of last resort.

3.)  Alleviate Stressors Surrounding Costs and Payment

Larger-than-expected or difficult-to-decipher medical bills, as well as health insurance confusion, are major sources of frustration for patients.  They can also result in unpaid medical bills and medical debt, or cause patients to forgo some health services altogether.

Reducing patient uncertainty concerning the financial aspects of their care would help you foster a culture of patient advocacy.  Ensuring patients are financially cleared before arrival, generating estimates and identifying potential out-of-pocket costs, and setting up payment plans are all ways you can assist patients in this area.

4.) Provide Patient Education

February is National Wise Health Care Consumer Month!

What a perfect time to share educational materials and classes related to health insurance and financial assistance with your patients.  Perhaps the best way to advocate for your patients is to help them develop the skills they need to advocate for themselves!


Each of these areas provides you with excellent opportunities for patient advocacy.  Plus, there is a bonus: supporting any of these endeavors can ultimately improve your bottom line as well.

Practicing patient advocacy will help you support your patients, improve the patient experience, and offers financial benefits for all parties involved.  Developing a culture of patient advocacy can truly pay dividends.


By Stephanie Salmich

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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HealthWare Systems Blog

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

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

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