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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HealthWare Systems Blog

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

Reducing patient uncertainty: Healthcare providers connect puzzle pieces.

Reducing Patient Uncertainty: 6 Areas to Address

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Reducing Patient Uncertainty: 6 Areas to Address

Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Reducing patient uncertainty should be a high priority item for healthcare providers.  Feelings of uncertainty can affect the patient experience and lower patient satisfaction.

Most of us are uncomfortable with uncertainty and many visits to healthcare facilities are made with the purpose of diminishing it.  Patients seek out your facility hoping to find answers to health questions; the last thing they are looking for is even more confusion.

Reducing patient uncertainty: Healthcare providers connect puzzle pieces.

Reducing patient uncertainty can vastly improve the patient experience.

Below are 6 areas that can either increase or decrease patient uncertainty.
By reducing patient uncertainty through addressing these areas, providers can greatly improve the patient experience:

1. – Online Presence:

A strong online presence and positive online reviews can aid in reducing patient uncertainty by helping patients become more familiar with your facility and organization before they even visit.  Utilize your website and social media accounts to their full advantage.

For example, a study published in the journal Health Communication found that video biographies for primary care physicians were more effective in reducing patient uncertainty than the standard text biographies that most providers post on their websites.

2. – Wayfinding:

Navigating their way around an unfamiliar building can increase patients’ anxiety over their hospital visit.  Wayfinding solutions (such as digital signage, mobile apps that guide patients around your campus, and touchscreen kiosks that print wayfinding maps) can ensure that patients and their visitors don’t get lost, all while reducing patient uncertainty about finding their destination.

3. – The Waiting Room:

The waiting room offers numerous opportunities for reducing patient uncertainty surrounding many topics.  In the waiting room, uncertainty about wait times can be just as frustrating as the actual waiting.  Patients’ family members face uncertainty as well, about how long they’ll be waiting, about the details of a procedure, and about the outcome for their family member.

A patient tracking board and real-time text updates can be instrumental in reducing patient uncertainty and lowering waiting room anxiety for patients’ family members.  Patients can better gauge how long they’ll be waiting, and patients’ family members know their loved one’s status at each stage (e.g. “in prep,” “in surgery,” “in recovery”) of the encounter.

4. – Interoperability:

Patients should not have to face uncertainty regarding whether their doctor has all the information he/she needs to properly care for them.  Yet, only 46% of hospitals had required patient information from outside providers or sources available electronically at the point of care according to research posted by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

With odds like these, patient uncertainty about transfer of medical records or if a physician’s order/referral will be received in time is warranted.  Reducing patient uncertainty can be accomplished by ensuring your facility can electronically send, receive, find, and integrate/use all necessary health information.

5. – The Discharge Process:

Researchers have created a new tool called the Uncertainty Scale to measure patient uncertainty and predict hospital readmissions.  Some of the major themes they’ve found in their work include patients’:

  • “Lack of clarity regarding self-management, such that patients are unsure how to deal with symptoms at home”
  • “Lack of self-efficacy, manifesting as patients not knowing where to go for help for certain symptoms”
  • “Lack of clarity about the decision to seek care, meaning that patients do not know which symptoms are serious enough to warrant seeing a health professional”

Improving patient education during the discharge process can help in reducing patient uncertainty about self-care, where to seek help, and when it is necessary to seek help, as well as lower readmission rates.

6. – Payments:

Patients want price transparency and as wise healthcare consumers, they have the right to be informed about the use of their healthcare dollars.  Confusion about health insurance and how much money they owe for health services, even after they’ve received a bill, is a source of patient uncertainty.  Patients may have great clinical outcomes, yet, if they are surprised when the bill is larger than expected, their satisfaction surveys will reflect low scores.

Providing estimates for out-of-pocket costs upfront, helping patients with insurance issues, preventing insurance-related errors, and helping patients identify and apply for financial assistance opportunities can all help in reducing patient uncertainty about cost.


Uncertainty is unfortunately a common experience in healthcare for those with undiagnosed conditions and symptoms for which an explanation is unclear.  The six areas outlined here are within your control; by reducing patient uncertainty in these areas, your facility can greatly improve the patient experience.


By Stephanie Salmich

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

Address Patient Transportation Needs to Create Better Health Outcomes

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Address Patient Transportation Needs to Create Better Health Outcomes

Posted on Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Patient transportation needs can critically affect access to care and health outcomes; approximately 3.6 million Americans miss or postpone medical care due to transportation issues.

Improved access to transportation benefits patients, health facilities, and communities.  Health systems that address patient transportation needs are advocates for their patients, produce better health outcomes, lower readmission rates, reduce no-show appointments, and improve the general health of the community.

Efforts should begin with screening patients to determine their need/eligibility for transportation or other financial assistance.


Here are some specific ways your facility can then help those patients and create better health outcomes:


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

Educate Patients About Transportation Options


Compile a resource list of patient transportation options available in your area.  For example, many senior centers and churches provide free or low-cost transportation and Pace offers a “Call-n-Ride” service in the Chicago suburbs for as little as $2.00.  What affordable local transportation options could you suggest to your patients?

Promote patient transportation options through flyers, posters, or digital signage at your facility.  If you use a lobby display screen or patient notification board, include notices for patient transportation options that appear throughout your rotation of announcements.

Assign staff members to address patients’ needs, one-on-one.  These employees can help patients determine which transportation assistance programs they may be eligible for (e.g. Medicaid non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT), the American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery program), help them apply or sign up for assistance, and help them understand their existing benefits or coverage (e.g. how ambulance transportation may or may not be covered under Medicare).

Promote patient transportation options through your hospital’s social media accounts.

Create New Patient Transportation Options


Institute a driver volunteer program to provide rides to eligible patients, as Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital and Green Mountain RSVP have done.

Start a hospital van service, like the one Taylor Regional Hospital created to deliver prescriptions and bring patients to and from the hospital.

Partner with an on-demand transportation service, like Maryland Health System has with Uber and Denver Health has with Lyft, to offer free or discounted transportation to qualifying patients.

Provide shuttle, bus, or taxi travel vouchers.  Create an incentive program for eligible patients who keep their appointments.

Participate in local government and community planning projects.  The American Hospital Association suggests hospital representatives “participate in local or regional transportation planning initiatives and educate decision-makers about how health can be affected by transportation” to encourage the development of new patient transportation options (such as more walkable routes, bike lanes, bike-sharing programs, bus or shuttle services, etc.).

Alleviate Patient Transportation Needs by Bringing Care to the Patients


Invest in a mobile health center, as Calvert Health System has; the Calvert Health System Mobile Health Center brings primary and preventive health services to patients by visiting churches and community centers.

Create a prescription delivery or mail service, or provide pharmacy services on site to cut travel for patients, as the American Hospital Association advises here (p. 12).

Provide more telehealth opportunities and encourage use of the patient portal for minor questions.


Make a commitment to address patient transportation needs using the suggestions above, and your patients, community, and facility will all enjoy the benefits of better health outcomes.

You can read in further detail how the health systems mentioned above (Grace Cottage, Taylor Regional, Denver Health, and Calvert Health) address patient transportation needs in the case studies provided by the American Hospital Association.


By Stephanie Salmich

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

Touchscreen kiosks are a great wayfinding solution.

Improve Hospital Navigation and the Patient Experience with a Wayfinding Solution

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Improve Hospital Navigation and the Patient Experience with a Wayfinding Solution

Posted on Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Navigating their way through a large hospital building full of many different hallways and departments can add an extra layer of anxiety to an already stressful experience for patients, their families and friends.  Adding a wayfinding solution dramatically improves hospital navigation and the patient experience.

Here are three different technological wayfinding solutions hospitals are adding to their facilities:


1. Mobile Apps

Hospitals have been developing their own apps to help patients navigate through their facility. By adding this type of technology-driven wayfinding solution, visitors are easily guided to their destination and this adds to a more enjoyable hospital visit. After all, cell phones and mobile technology are constantly around us (most of the time in our hands); why not use a smartphone app to help patients direct their way through the facility? Some mobile apps even include interior maps with turn-by-turn directions to any destination on campus!

Touchscreen kiosks are a great wayfinding solution.

Wayfinding solution: ActiveTRACK Touchscreen Kiosk

2. Touchscreen Kiosks

Some hospitals have created a wayfinding solution through touchscreen kiosks installed in their lobbies for patients to check-in. These “greeter stations” provide the ability to not only check-in without the assistance of a greeter, but the patient can also scan any needed documentation (e.g. driver’s license, insurance card). Any captured documents are delivered to the registrar electronically.

Touchscreen kiosks can print physical wayfinding maps as well as registration packets for the visitor to review while he/she waits. This helps expedite the final registration step and provides patients with something to do while they are waiting, enhancing the patient experience.

3. Digital Signage

A patient notification board is a great wayfinding solution.

Wayfinding solution: ActiveTRACK Patient Notification Board

 

Having digital signs throughout a hospital is very helpful for wandering visitors. With maps and announcements being displayed, guests won’t get lost while visiting loved ones and hospital staff won’t miss important messages.

One specific type of digital signage used in some hospitals is a patient notification board. A patient notification board informs patients when to proceed to a registration booth. It provides an audible tone and/or message when a registrar is available and ready to serve them. Between these notifications, the patient notification board can be set up to display marketing and informational messages to patients while they are waiting (e.g. wellness programs, hospital services).

 


True, these current wayfinding solutions for hospital navigation cater to a younger, more tech-savvy hospital visitor, but keeping up with the current trends and technology takes a facility to the next level.  Implementing a wayfinding solution from the list above can leave an extremely impressive and lasting impression on the patient experience.


By Samantha Willis

A woman and her daughter forming their first impressions in healthcare at the reception desk.

First Impressions in Healthcare: 3 Critical Moments to Consider

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HealthWare Systems Blog

First Impressions in Healthcare: 3 Critical Moments to Consider

Posted on Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Forming positive first impressions in healthcare starts before your patient’s appointment even begins.

Here are three critical moments to consider:

Choosing the Facility – Online Presence

Before a patient decides to utilize your services, he/she may seek information about your organization online.  Patients visit your website, check out your Facebook page or other social media accounts, and read online reviews about your facility and clinicians.  Is your website easy to use and up to date?  How does it compare to your competition’s?  Are you leveraging the power of social media in healthcare and monitoring online reviews related to your facility?

Creating positive first impressions in healthcare begins with managing your online reputation.

Setting the Appointment – Over the Phone or Online

How complicated is it for a patient to set an appointment with your facility?  When patients call, how long is it before they talk to a real, live human being (and is that person pleasant to speak with)?  Negative first impressions in healthcare can easily form when patients become frustrated by rudeness, long holds, and uncertainty about how long they’ll be waiting on hold or for a call to be returned.  Train your staff to practice strategic telephone etiquette that will boost efficiency and increase patient satisfaction.

You can further improve the patient experience by providing the option to set appointments online, through a patient portal or mobile app, for example.  These resources (which are available 24/7, outside of normal calling hours) can make setting an appointment more convenient for some patients, plus they won’t have to worry about being placed on hold during busy calling times.

Arriving at the Facility – Be a Hospitable Hospital

When patients arrive at your facility for the first time, they should feel welcome.  Create an inviting atmosphere that begins with the lobby, waiting room, and greeting.

The lobby and waiting area must look neat and professional.  Guests feel welcomed when they can see that their hosts have taken great care to prepare for their visit by cleaning, organizing, and providing provisions just for them.  Consider offering refreshments, like coffee and water, and stocking the waiting area with items to occupy your guests’ time (e.g. CURRENT issues of magazines, games, puzzles, free Wi-Fi).  Make their wait as comfortable as possible, which will greatly improve the patient experience.

Just as important to creating positive first impressions in healthcare is the greeting your guests receive as they enter your facility.  Staff should exhibit a friendly, positive, calm attitude that sets the tone for the rest of the patient experience.  A rude or visibly agitated greeter can completely negate your other efforts to create positive first impressions in healthcare.

A woman and her daughter forming their first impressions in healthcare at the reception desk.

First impressions in healthcare start before the patient’s appointment even begins.


First impressions in healthcare affect patients’ perceptions of the rest of their experience with your facility.  When you improve the patient experience throughout these three critical moments that shape first impressions in healthcare, you will greatly increase patient satisfaction overall.


By Stephanie Salmich