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Articles from AnswerStat

Care Management

By Terri Hibbs, BSN, RN, CCCTM

The healthcare system has a large population of elderly patients, many with multiple healthcare issues or chronic conditions. Taking part in a care management program can help these patients become healthier by educating them about their disease processes and the importance of medication compliance, regular blood work, annual tests, and preventative measures such as flu and pneumonia shots and mammograms, and colonoscopies. 

Care management services provide patients with contact to inform them of their conditions in terms they understand and to involve them in personal healthcare goals. In this way, patients are more likely to want to be involved in reaching their goals and becoming healthier. The intent is to keep these patients out of the emergency room and hospital as much as possible. 

What is Care Management?

“Care Management programs apply systems, science, incentives, and information to improve medical practice and assist consumers and their support system to become engaged in a collaborative process designed to manage medical, social, and mental health conditions more effectively. The goal of care management is to achieve an optimal level of wellness and improve coordination of care while providing cost effective, non-duplicative services.” (“Care Management Definition and Framework,” Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc., 2007.)

Taking part in a care management program can help these patients become healthier. Click To Tweet

Two Types of Care Management

1. Transitional Care Management is a Medicare service that became effective Jan. 1, 2013, per cms.gov. The care management team or nurse navigator will call a patient or caregiver within two days of inpatient discharge to discuss medication, a new diagnosis, or important follow up appointments with the purpose of reducing and preventing readmissions and medical errors. 

2. Chronic Care Management (CCM), according to The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), is a chronic care management services, which are a critical component of primary care that contributes to better health and care for individuals. The goal is to provide the patient and family with the best care possible to keep them out of the hospital and emergency room and to minimize overall medical cost. The program is used to help patients achieve a better quality of life through continuous care and management of their chronic conditions. Patients collaborate with healthcare providers to set healthcare goals, thus making it more likely they will accomplish those objectives.

Case Study

One patient I worked with is a successful participant in the CCM program. He initially visited the emergency department because of unstable vital signs, weakness, dizziness, and uncontrolled hypertension. He had been out of his medication for three months, was admitted for congestive heart failure and atrial fibrillation, and spent four days in the hospital. He also had uncontrolled diabetes with a Hemoglobin A1C of 10.7 percent and his average fasting blood sugars at home were running in the 300s. 

The patient consented to the CCM program for his chronic conditions of atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. He was very eager and willing to learn about his disease processes and to take his medication on a regular basis. He was given information on Medicaid services to help with medication expenses and was educated on Metformin titration and use of his insulin. 

I also regularly contacted him for a report on his blood sugar and blood pressure readings. In just two short months the patient has stopped smoking and his fasting blood sugars are now running in the low 130s. He has a better relationship with his son and granddaughter, is more physically active, and is making better food choices. He is due for a repeat Hemoglobin A1C level next month. 

This is just one of many examples of what care management can do for a patient. As a nurse navigator, my patients become like a part of my family. I am blessed to be able to educate and support our patients and their families and to help them to make better healthcare choices that can potentially save their lives. 

Terri Hibbs, BSN, RN, CCCTM is a care navigator for Baptist Health Hardin Family Medicine.

Virtually Consolidating Large and Multi-State Hospital Call Centers to Work from Home


1Call, a division of Amtelco

By Nicole Limpert

According to a survey published by the American Hospital Association (AHA) in 2016, there are 3,231 community hospitals in the United States that are a part of a larger hospital system.

The AHA defines these enterprises as either a multihospital system where two or more hospitals are owned, leased, sponsored, or contract managed by a central organization; or a single, freestanding hospital that includes membership of three or more, and at least 25 percent, of non-hospital healthcare organizations. These sizable healthcare systems are often the result of mergers. Hospitals announced a total of 115 merger and acquisition transactions in 2017 alone and this trend is on the rise.

No matter how large the hospital enterprise, call centers are often the first point of contact when a patient or prospective patient contacts a healthcare organization. It’s essential that callers have a helpful, positive interaction with the operators they speak with because medical call center representatives often serve as the face of a health system.

Communications within these large hospital systems were already incredibly complex before the coronavirus began to spread. When the pandemic began, many hospitals sent their call center workforce home to safely handle calls while in isolation.

Call center software gives hospital organizations the flexibility to turn any computer into a fully functional operator workstation. Callers have a seamless communication experience with their provider, even if their hospital has various campuses or locations across multiple states, all while the person they are talking to is working from home.

Using a Virtual Server Brings Multiple Hospital Call Centers Together

Healthcare systems with multiple hospitals, clinics, and call centers can run on a single virtual server located anywhere in the country to function together seamlessly—even if they all use different PBX telephone systems.

This enables hospital call centers to pivot during uncertain times, such as the current coronavirus outbreak, and also grow without adding additional server hardware. Using a virtual server means less equipment needs to be maintained. This saves an organization time and money, which has become even more crucial with pandemic-related budget crises. 

To streamline call flows, hospital enterprises are combining and scaling their communication systems virtually. This allows them to take advantage of running their call centers in a virtual server environment or in the cloud, while keeping staff safe. 

Other benefits of running call centers remotely:

  • Ability to route calls to another center in the event of an emergency
  • Offering longer operating hours by taking advantage of call centers or agents located in different time zones
  • Easier for supervisors to get fill-in operators if an agent is sick
  • Ability to handle more calls during peak hours by overflowing calls to other centers during their non-peak times
  • Tap other labor markets such as retired nurses, students, or a lower-cost workforce and hire people who are located outside of expensive city areas with high compensation rates

Secure Messaging Apps Remotely Support Care Teams

Secure organizational communication is crucial for protecting patients, medical staff, and hospital organizations. Care teams use these apps to send secure text, photo, audio, and video content related to a patient’s electronic protected health information (ePHI), via smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers. 

These apps simplify healthcare communications to provide a better patient experience and speed the process of patient admissions, lab results, and patient transport within a hospital. Call center agents working from home also use cloud-based secure messaging apps to contact on-call medical staff via their computer. 

“As a healthcare system, we need a secure messaging platform for our clinical staff to share critical health information quickly and easily,” says Steven Spachtholz, director of information systems for Butler Health System in Butler, PA. “For us, the advantage of using the platform is its tight integration to our call center system that we use to provide answering services to our physicians.”

Steven explains, “We started using secure messaging with our internal answering service, but it grew to become our only secure messaging platform. What makes the secure messaging app we use different, is its integration with our call center software for on-call data and the integration engine we use which allows us to inject messages from other systems. All routine consults now flow from our electronic health record (EHR) database to our secure messaging app automatically.”

Secure texting apps can also keep track of all message activity with an audit log and a message log, complete with message histories, indicating whom messages were sent to, when messages were read, and who replied to a message. These logs can be made into reports for call center supervisors and hospital management.

Future of Web-based Hospital Communication

Hospital staff must be able to access the information they need at any time from any place. It’s a fundamental and critical part of any healthcare organization’s communication protocol. This is especially true during a pandemic since it’s more likely that both call center and medical staff may be working from home or from different hospital locations.

Web-based applications that are specifically developed for the healthcare industry have proven to be incredibly effective in providing fast and secure communication, improving communication times, adding efficiencies through remote access, and reducing the number of potential errors caused by miscommunication. 

Some hospital call centers already had a select group of operators working from home, but the COVID-19 crisis forced more hospitals to take advantage of having a virtual call center. Many studies have since been published about the benefits and cost-savings of having staff work from home. Some organizations have already decided to keep their call center staff remote, and the latest trends indicate this once temporary solution is going to be a permanent shift in the industry.

1Call, a division of Amtelco

Nicole Limpert is the marketing content writer for Amtelco and their 1Call Healthcare Division. Amtelco is a leading provider of innovative communication applications. 1Call develops software solutions and applications designed for the specific needs of healthcare organizations.

A Problem—and Opportunity—for Healthcare Call Centers



By Greg Kefer

Your phone starts ringing, you drop what you’re doing, look at the screen, and see a call from some odd number from a faraway place. Or worse yet, it says “Scam Likely!” I’m rarely in the mood to listen to some foreign language robot or get rich pitch. Phone calls that matter have increasingly become the minority.

According to estimates, US mobile phone users were exposed to 48 billion robocalls in 2018, which means that every time the phone rings, there’s a 50 percent chance it’s a spam robocall.

Training the Masses to Decline Calls

There are few viable solutions available for blocking 100 percent of these annoying intrusions, so the best option when that unknown phone number shows on the caller ID is to simply hit the decline button and move on with whatever you were doing. Robocalls are creating anti-call center muscle memory across the entire mobile phone user population.

The shunning of annoying telemarketing cold calls is not a new thing. But thanks to robocall automation, the surge of incoming noise has become so intense, there’s little chance a consumer will pause and consider the possibility that an incoming call might actually matter. This is a problem for the healthcare industry.

Call centers have always been a big part of the healthcare patient experience. Challenges with being on hold, ineffective agents, and general customer dissatisfaction with call centers are well documented. But what about the outbound side?

The Challenge for Healthcare Call Centers

The healthcare industry is investing heavily in engaging patients, and call centers are a big piece of that strategy. Outbound calling campaigns help patients navigate their care, set appointments, take medicines, or check in after a visit. These are potentially important touch points. If people stop answering their phones, what happens? Email outreach is frequently intercepted by spam filters, secure messaging is clunky, and most patients don’t log into their healthcare portals.

At call centers, human capacity has always been a constraint. When it comes to dealing with healthcare situations, there have not been a lot of viable automation options that blend a quality, well-designed engagement experience with a high-scale system. Anybody that has received a robocall doctor’s appointment reminder knows how disengaging it is.

The healthcare industry faces a challenge when it comes to reaching out to patients, often for critical issues.

  • Providers and pharma companies need to reach out and connect with patients.
  • Most patients have a mobile phone and prefer to communicate through them.
  • Robocalls have trained consumers to avoid answering their phones.
  • Healthcare mobile apps are too clunky and remain unused.
  • Consumers prefer text messaging.

Heavy investment in call center technology that’s focused on intelligent patient information and agent enablement is still key. But is there a new opportunity for call centers to reach out to patients as part of a patient engagement effort?

Digital Conversations at Unlimited Scale

Conversational chatbots that interact with people in a way similar to text messaging are finding their way into many industries. What would happen if an interactive text front end, first touch was woven into the outbound call center approach? The bot could completely handle simple tasks, such as reminders and information gathering. Or it could start on some of the more advanced workflows, such as monitoring care progression or providing drug background information in advance of a human to human interaction.

As they stand today, call center agents are premium level expenses when compared to a well-designed chatbot that can run 24/7. Imagine a call center not constrained by human capacity.

If the virtual dimension of a modern patient engagement strategy requires outreach and interaction with vast populations of patients, the answer isn’t to hire more agents. Rather, you must find a way to make the agents you already have handle an increased volume, with conversational chatbots conversing and engaging patients across a spectrum of workflows. And the entire process would be in the medium that consumers increasingly prefer—text-based messaging.

With this chatbot technology, the odds of reaching someone and helping them with their care can only increase.

Greg Kefer is the CMO at LifeLink.

3 Steps to Improve the Patient Experience Through Contact Centers



By Donna Martin

Hospitals and health systems are competing ever more fiercely to gain and retain patient business, and first impressions are critical. This is why a modern patient contact center is essential both for differentiating your organization from the competition and preventing revenue leakage.

As we head into 2021, the healthcare industry will face continued financial distress and uncertainty. To remain competitive, it will be crucial to understand how your organization uses vital contact points to ensure patients have a seamless experience from start to finish. 

Assess Your Patients’ Needs

Just like you, your health system’s patients are consumers who shop at Amazon, go to Starbucks, and purchase airline tickets. As a result, they’ve grown accustomed to expect a concierge level of ultra-personalized customer service. The retail industry has decades of experience providing this level of service. Retail companies tap technology to make constant improvements to help differentiate their brand through predicting and delivering on the needs of their customers. This, in turn, helps retain and grow their customer base. 

The healthcare industry is just starting to catch on to this level of customer service, with providers being incentivized or penalized to implement value-based care throughout the patient experience. Let’s explore how to measurably improve patient experiences and engagement in ways that are realistic and based on the unique requirements of healthcare delivery.

The goal of contact centers should be to make the patient experience as easy as possible through both personalization and self-service. Click To Tweet

Step 1: Create a Foundation

From your patient’s perspective, even small hospitals are difficult to navigate via telephone. Partial or full automation of inbound phone calls from patients can allow providers to create a “single front door” for patients. This will create a unified patient experience and cut down on a needless chain of call transfers. 

Adding automated patient identification and authentication not only personalizes the interaction and ascertains the primary reason for the patient’s call, but also leads to complete resolution for a host of common inquiries like appointment confirmations, directions, hours, and payments, without ever needing to engage an agent. With this streamlined foundation in place, providers can begin to continuously and consistently track patient interactions to build intelligence for future contact, as well as gather communication preferences where possible. 

Every new element of data collected builds on previous elements and paints a holistic portrait of your patient. This helps create the foundation for predictive intent and provide an effortless patient experience. In addition, as you develop a performance baseline, you can conduct patient experience surveys to use actionable data to make agile, targeted improvements.

Step 2: Be Proactive and Dynamic

One goal of value-based care is keeping patients in your health system, but out of the hospital. Why not apply a similar goal to patient engagement? By applying dynamic decision-making to the data collection efforts established in Step 1, you can begin to develop proactive patient engagement strategies that may reduce the need for patients to call. 

For example, with the right automated inbound solution, your organization can identify patients calling from a mobile device and then take that opportunity to drive them to alternative, lower cost channels, such as SMS, text, and patient portals. The combination of these elements will further the productivity of your access center, drive costs down within your business, and maximize the patient experience. In addition, this level of dynamic data collection and usage can also provide you with a steady stream of valuable patient data to continue to enhance and optimize your solution.

Step 3: Integrate Patient Preferences

Last, using components of Steps 1 and 2, layer in patient communication preferences and cross-channel patient interaction data. In this scenario, you could see that a patient accesses the patient portal to find a specialist and is now calling into the access center for help. An intelligent self-service solution recognizes the patient, confirms they are looking for a specialist and sends the patient directly to the appropriate scheduling agent without the patient having to make a single menu selection—again, an effortless and loyalty building patient experience. 

Conclusion

With all these steps offered in a cloud-based, self-service environment, your organization will achieve maximum scalability, reliability, and flexibility for agents who work in either a brick-and-mortar setting or through a business process outsourcing partner. Implementing these three steps ensures your access center will always be available to support patients and providers. The goal of contact centers should be to make the patient experience as easy as possible through both personalization and self-service—striving for that perfect balance between automation and a live, human-touch interaction.

Donna Martin is senior vice president at HGS Healthcare.

Serve Your Stakeholders

Understand Your Purpose in Working at a Healthcare Call Center

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

You work in a healthcare call center. Why? The most basic answer is to receive a paycheck so that you can pay your bills. Though this is an essential motivation, earning a living will only take you so far in your call center work—and your career. To find fulfillment, you must move beyond a paycheck to embrace the purpose of the call center. Why are you there? To serve your stakeholders—all of them.

Callers

The most obvious on the list of stakeholders are the people who call you. They have a need, and they hope you can meet that need. When you do, you end up making their life a little bit better. They end the call glad to have talked with you and appreciative of what you did for them. But when you fall short of helping them achieve their goal, you cause consternation. They hang up frustrated.

Although you won’t win with every call, you can strive to succeed as often as possible. Meeting the needs of callers and patients is the first way to serve your stakeholders.

Be an asset to your organization and serve your stakeholders—all of them—with excellence. Click To Tweet

Coworkers

As you serve callers, you do so within a team environment. Are you a team player? Do your coworkers view your presence as an asset or a liability? Make sure your colleagues can count on you to do your part and not cause more work for them. In fact, do more than what’s expected whenever possible to help make your associates’ jobs easier. 

Your coworkers are also stakeholders, albeit an often-overlooked cadre. Don’t be the person who blasts through the day without regard to the people who work around you. Instead aim to be the person everyone wants to sit next to.

Boss

Whatever position you fill in your healthcare call center, you have a boss—often more than one. Your bosses are also stakeholders. By serving callers with excellence and getting along well with your colleagues, you’ve taken the first two steps in being the employee every manager wants to have. Now look for ways you can do more to make their job easier or lighten the load they carry in your call center.

Community

A fourth stakeholder to consider is your local environment. By doing your job well, you play a part in making society better. As you address the healthcare needs of your callers, you elevate the overall health of the area you live in. Don’t lose sight of the fact that the work you do benefits your neighbors and community.

Organization

Whether a corporation or nonprofit, the organization you work for is an essential stakeholder. It provides the infrastructure for you to work in and the means to pay you and provide benefits. As your organization succeeds, you will be the better for it. But if your organization struggles—especially if you could have helped realize a different outcome—you’ll experience the same fate. 

Though no organization is perfect in all it does, do what you can to help yours become the best it can. This not only occurs on every phone call you take but also in the space between them.

Conclusion

Don’t be an employee who just shows up to collect a paycheck. Be an asset to your organization and serve your stakeholders—all of them—with excellence. This includes your callers, your coworkers, your boss, your community, and your organization.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

Care Management and the Contact Center


LVM Systems

Traci Haynes, MSN, RN, BA, CEN, CCCTM

The need for care management continues to grow exponentially in the United States. The ever-increasing number of chronic conditions in both adults and children has placed greater demand on healthcare resources and services. US healthcare spending reached an all-time high of 3.81 trillion dollars in 2019, with a predicted growth to 4.01 trillion dollars this year. 

In a report from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of the Actuary, healthcare spending is expected to grow by 5.4 percent from 2019 to 2028. This prediction will result in healthcare spending at 6.19 trillion dollars and will account for 19.7 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), up from 17.7 percent in 2018.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion indicates that six in ten adults in the US have a chronic disease and four in ten adults have two or more. The CDC also estimates that about 25 percent of children in the US, ages two to eight, have a chronic health condition. They report that a concise list of risk behaviors causes many chronic diseases. These include tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke; poor nutrition, including diets low in fruits and vegetables and high in sodium and saturated fats; lack of physical activity; and excessive alcohol use.

Care Management

Many of the complications of the most common and costly chronic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, COPD, obesity, and asthma could be prevented or better controlled. Also, many individuals who struggle with multiple conditions often have combined social complexities. Even the most clinically astute patients find it difficult to navigate complex and fragmented healthcare systems, especially when the responsibility falls to the individual alone without adequate support or partnering. This difficulty in navigating healthcare systems often results in inefficiencies, increased costs, and poor outcomes.

The contact center can play a vital role in managing and improving the patient’s condition Click To Tweet

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) states that “Care management is a promising team-based, patient-centered approach designed to assist patients and their support systems in managing medical conditions more effectively. It also encompasses those care coordination activities needed to help manage chronic illness.

In 2012, The American Nurses Association (ANA) stated that “Patient-centered care coordination is a core professional standard and competency for all nurses, and should be the foundation for all care coordination programs.” They also said, “Nurses need to position themselves within the interprofessional team to perform this core nursing process and contribute to better patient outcomes.”

Doing this involves systematic, organized teamwork, including the patient and family, and requires communication among all participants.

Currently, care coordination is one of the National Quality Strategies of the National Quality Agenda. A coordinated effort involving an interprofessional team with the patient and their family can help achieve the Institute of Healthcare Improvement’s Triple Aim goals of better care, better health, and reduced costs.

As part of their triple aim interventions, the AHRQ supports identifying populations with modifiable risks, aligning care management services to the needs of the population, and identifying, preparing, and integrating appropriate personnel to deliver the needed services.

Contact Center Support

The contact center can play a vital role in managing and improving the patient’s condition. By routinely checking on the patient at predetermined intervals and monitoring the individual’s plan of care, the contact center can communicate with the interprofessional team providing a picture of the patient’s current and recent status at that particular point in time. 

Using telecommunications can provide invaluable connectivity to monitor patients and provide a meaningful 24/7 service for clinical assessment capability and episodic care and interventions, should the need arise. And now more than ever during these unpredictable times, individuals both with and without chronic conditions, are avoiding or delaying preventative and needed care.

Nurses provide invaluable expertise in coaching, educating, and improving an individual’s self-management skills, thereby increasing the quality of care, resulting in better outcomes. They are also able to provide an assessment of symptoms and recommend interventions, often decreasing exacerbations.

The ANA, the American Academy of Nursing (AAN), the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN), and the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) each contribute resources for care coordination in the form of position statements, white papers, frameworks, policy briefs, core curriculum, and courses. There are also effective models and tools, along with hospital and community-initiated programs.

Conclusion

Contact center care management is a win-win-win. It’s a win for healthcare systems, the providers (interprofessional team), and most importantly, patients.

LVM Systems logo

Traci Haynes, MSN, RN, BA, CEN, CCCTM is director, clinical services at LVM Systems.

Remote Health Monitoring and Care Management


1Call, a division of Amtelco

By Nicole Limpert

Healthcare providers can remotely manage the health of their patients thanks to advancements in monitoring and communication technologies. Telehealth technology and hospital call centers work together to bring remote care management into the homes of patients.

When the current pandemic began, telemedicine became an even more critical tool to keep both patients and medical staff safe. As more time passes and COVID-19 continues to infect more people, the need for a long-term solution to remotely monitor patients with chronic conditions has become urgent. 

Remote care management programs and hospital call centers are working together to bring much-needed care and monitoring to patients. Remote care management can also help reduce organizational costs, provide patient education, and encourage adherence to treatment, which helps reduce readmissions.

Wearable Fitness Technology

Hospitals have traditionally used health monitoring devices to track and record vital signs. Nowadays, using FitBits and smartwatches has become commonplace as more people take an active role in their health. Research from Business Insider Intelligence found that more than eighty-percent of the consumers they polled were enthusiastic about wearables. 

The value of the wearables market is expected to grow to more than 23 billion dollars by 2025. Even though wearable technology can look like nothing more than the latest consumer gadget, doctors are becoming more comfortable with using them as a clinical decision support tool.

As patients become comfortable using wearable health technology and health insurers (including the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) are willing to pay for it, hospitals are going remote with their medical monitoring devices. Remote health monitoring has proven to be crucial during the current pandemic. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) even allowed selected FDA-cleared, non-invasive vital sign-measuring devices to be used remotely. This allows medical staff to monitor patients while they are safe at home. 

Monitoring Chronic Health Conditions

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ninety-percent of the 3.5 trillion dollars annual healthcare costs in the United States are attributed to treatment of people with chronic illness. 

Patient monitoring devices—such as scales, blood pressure gauges, and medication patches—are given to patients with chronic health conditions to collect biometric data (such as vital signs, weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, and electrocardiograms) and securely transmit it via a patient’s smart device back to the provider. Real-time monitoring of health assessment information alerts medical staff to changes in health patterns. 

KLAS Research partnered with the American Telemedicine Association in a study about remote patient monitoring. They found hospitals reported additional benefits from their remote patient monitoring program. These included reduced hospital admissions, readmissions, and emergency room visits, as well as improved patient satisfaction and health, along with organization cost reductions.

Hospital Call Centers Connect Remote Care

While remote patient monitoring helps to prevent hospital and emergency room visits, another goal is to enable patients to better manage their conditions on their own. 

An app or device can gather a person’s health data, but medical staff need to interpret the findings. Hospital call centers can bring patients and healthcare staff together to provide remote care via telehealth. Some hospitals route data from remote monitors to their call center, staffed in part by nurses. The nurses can use the call center software to securely connect to a patient’s electronic medical record, then call the patient to discuss the findings.

Patient education and medication adherence are also large components of monitoring a patient’s health. Depending on the call center’s nurse staff schedule, patients can receive remote care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

Concerns About Remote Patient Monitoring

While remote patient monitoring is proving to offer many benefits to both patients and healthcare organizations, the technology and adoption of the technology are still new. This means there is a need to address some important challenges, such as:

  • Big Data: An immense amount of new health data is being provided by patients, which needs to be handled and analyzed. Healthcare organizations must review and update their healthcare delivery models, begin using tools and AI for analysis and diagnosis, and develop a legal infrastructure to share patient data for care collaboration.
  • Ethics: Wearable technology and mobile apps collects and measures a person’s personal health information, movements, physical activity, moods, behaviors, and more. Using devices with a global positioning system (GPS) capability records location information. Data can be misinterpreted or misused to draw incorrect conclusions about a person or population.
  • Security: Patient confidentiality is a major concern because it can be difficult to ensure a device or application complies with HIPAA regulations. Encryption key management is imperative. However, the nature of biosensors has made designing key management schemes tremendously difficult, and cryptographic schemes depend upon secret keys, so there is a need for highly secure key agreement and distribution in a hospital’s network. 

Summary

Remote health monitoring and wearable technologies enhance care management by providing detailed health readings about patients to healthcare providers, clinical practices, and to the patients themselves. This enables medical staff to provide care to patients in any location, 24 hours a day. 

This technology is still in the initial stages and there are obstacles. But working to overcome the challenges will drive productive change in care delivery models, forge new partnerships between healthcare and technology providers, and improve health data privacy.

1Call, a division of Amtelco

Nicole Limpert is the marketing content writer for Amtelco and their 1Call Healthcare Division. Amtelco is a leading provider of innovative communication applications. 1Call develops software solutions and applications designed for the specific needs of healthcare organizations.

Successful Telemedicine Service Strategy

TriageLogic

Dr. Ravi Raheja

Hospitals, specialty clinics, and other healthcare organizations are no longer leery of telemedicine and are in fact expanding to provide quality services and generate revenue. With this growth and success, there are many telemedicine options available for every organization. It is important to be aware of the factors that providers must consider to make telemedicine services successful for both the patients and the organization.

Outcomes

During the pandemic, telemedicine has enjoyed widescale adoption. One study suggests that among 39 percent of people who consulted a healthcare professional, two thirds of the patients used telemedicine and 84 percent of them used telemedicine for the first time. More than 55 percent of consumers reported a satisfactory experience while using telemedicine and stated they will most likely use it again. Healthcare professionals believe telemedicine usage will continue to increase.

A survey done by the Foley & Lardner Law Firm illustrates that telemedicine provides a great opportunity for practices and medical organizations to see a financial return.

  • Over 70 percent of respondents realized cost savings or ROI from their telemedicine services.
  • Nearly one third saw more than 20 percent savings.

Considerations

Although many companies see a positive ROI, it is important to make sure that the telemedicine service provider chosen is right for them. There are a variety of options. Selecting the right telemedicine service or software will determine the level of success.

Type of Telemedicine: While people think of telemedicine as mostly doctors available remotely to patients, often a telephone triage nurse can resolve patient issues and provide a path to care. In fact, a triage nurse can resolve three-quarters of all patient calls. Triage nurses can determine which patients need further care or to see a physician, saving both time and money. Organizations can have a complete telehealth system with a triage nurse as the first line of care to further increase ROI.

Integrated: The telemedicine software should be able to integrate seamlessly with current workflows. To ensure that work is not doubled by adding a new technology to the mix, the telemedicine software needs to be cohesive and allow for easy data transfer.

Support: As with any technology, issues may arise. A successful telemedicine service should have training and support available to troubleshoot any concerns. 

Adaptive: The healthcare industry is always evolving and transforming. Whether it is regulation, new discoveries, inventions, or patient expectations, the only way to be successful is to adapt. Telemedicine service and software should do the same. Look for a company that listens to their clients and makes upgrades to what they need.

Measure Success: The best way to determine the ROI of a telemedicine service is to establish a way to measure results. Choose a platform that includes different portals for clients to look at data and analyze it.

Conclusion

The telemedicine field has exploded and doesn’t seem to be stopping. Above are only a few factors to consider when implementing or expanding telemedicine services, but it is important to do the research to find which solution will be best for the organization.

TriageLogic

Dr. Ravi Raheja is the medical director at TriageLogic, a leader in telehealth technology and services. Contact TriageLogic for a live demo.

Healthcare Customer Engagement



4 Steps to Charting an Empathetic Experience

By Srikanth Lakshminarayanan

Imagine you are in the hospital after an emergency appendectomy, and you have a simple but urgent question about the payment of this just-delivered health service. Your physical and mental stress is a load made only heavier with that pending insurance coverage conversation. You are in no mood to struggle with an exasperating app or digital exchange, you want a straightforward reassuring dialogue—one delivered with good, old-fashioned empathy. 

From another perspective, the expectations are higher for your engagement team. The right customer service agent must deliver on several levels as an empathetic advocate who can listen, relate, and resolve the issue at hand. Simply put, with all the renewed digital efforts toward optimized customer experience (CX), healthcare customer service remains highly challenging.

The recent COVID-19 surge exposed CX teams to an all-new type of issue, one which no bot or digital channel had ever dealt with. What’s needed is a fresh approach to empathy-based engagement as part of the healthcare customer experience. 

Now is the time for healthcare to learn a few lessons from technology-retail elites like Apple, which is renowned for its low-tech empathy focus. Apple aims for Geniuses to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and recognize the emotions their customers feel and change those, to make them feel better. The Apple manual advises the “Three F’s: feel, felt, and found.” This means connecting, relating from personal experience, and consoling with issue resolution. Healthcare would do well to borrow from this model and reduce friction points to result in more effortless, empathetic problem-solving.

Ultimately, there is still a solid foundation for every contact in healthcare to chart a basic blueprint for compassionate issue resolution. An optimized experience, delivered by an agent empowered to provide empathetic customer satisfaction, should comprise this flow.

Express Empathy

Empathy begins with active listening. From the first word spoken by the customer, the agent must focus 100 percent on the communication. This point in the conversation is critical as an opening to bond and win immediate customer trust. Agents shouldn’t make notes while listening. Unless they listen properly, they cannot react to the situation of the customer. 

Reduce any miscommunication with follow-up questions.

Acknowledge the Customer

Address the caller with a member or patient name and personalize the communication with a concierge touch to earn trust and loyalty. By using unified desktop and disparate systems, today’s agents can preemptively acknowledge the issue without spending time on a longer intake process. There are also opportunities to track prior visits to eliminate abrasion with unnecessary restating by the member or patient.

Express Compassion 

Show understanding. Remain calm. The adage is that you never truly know what a person is going through, but with healthcare, it’s even more critical. This is because one thing is clear with healthcare customer calls, and this is that a health issue affects the member or patient’s life. Empathy at this stage might mean a reassuring tone with, “I understand this is difficult. I’m here to help.” 

Do not interrupt the customer, instead show attentiveness.

Seek Resolution 

Demonstrate intent to resolve the issue, with the understanding that it won’t necessarily be the case, since not everything is within our control. At this stage, it’s key to let members and patients know that empathetic customer care means trying their best to help, with the understanding that some conditions or procedures may not be covered. Aim for authentic communication, with an added personalized touch, and “thank you” or expression of gratitude for patience.

Conclusion

Over the past fifteen years clients have evolved their metrics focus from a quality, first call resolution and call center customer satisfaction (CSAT) to net promoter score (NPS). One emphasis that has remained the same, however, is empathy, as the leading attribute in every single interaction that drives all these metrics. And while empathy is required for all customer service, in healthcare, even more so, the mission is to address the critical, personal impact related to health, finance, and often-raw emotions. 

Helping customers resolve their issues is a delicate balance of all three of these things. That’s what makes healthcare customer service as uniquely fulfilling as it is challenging.

 Srikanth “Sri” Lakshminarayanan is vice president, center of excellence for healthcare engagement services. Sri is a domain expert supporting the deployment, stabilization, and growth of capabilities in voice and related services in HGS’s healthcare programs.

Remote Patient Monitoring: A Worthwhile Investment


TriageLogic

By Dr. Ravi Raheja

Remote patient monitoring is part of a new era of medical technology. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote services and technology have been extremely valuable to patients, doctors, and healthcare organizations. Remote patient care typically means helping patients over the phone. Remote patient monitoring (RPM) takes care one step further and helps doctors collect and evaluate data from patients who use an electronic medical device.

As we move forward, the value of remote patient monitoring will continue to evolve for healthcare. Click To Tweet

RPM is starting to gain traction by the medical field because it improves patient care. Many of these devices can capture data not observed by the patient. As a result, providers can monitor important vitals and intervene before a patient even presents a concerning symptom. This cuts down on both morbidity and mortality while saving costs and decreasing Emergency Room (ED) visits. A recent article in the Center for Technology and Aging asserts that the healthcare industry “could reduce its costs by nearly 200 billion dollars during the next twenty-five years if remote monitoring tools were used routinely in cases of congestive heart failure, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and chronic wounds or skin ulcers.”

There are many questions for providers and hospitals to ask themselves as innovative technology continues to become available. Technology is an investment, and changes to existing systems require effort. Is remote patient monitoring worth it, and will it soon be the standard of care for chronically ill patients? What are some requirements to consider while setting up an RPM program?

Which Patients Benefit Most from RPM?

According to the CDC, six in ten Americans have a chronic condition such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes. Four in ten have two or more chronic conditions. These chronic patients help make up more than eighty five percent of the 3.5 trillion dollars in healthcare costs across the nation annually and are responsible for eighty percent of all hospital admissions. It costs 3.5 times more money to treat chronically ill patients than those without these conditions, and they make up many of the leading causes of death in Americans.

RPM is especially effective for these types of patients. Continuous management of chronic conditions is burdensome in traditional office or clinic settings. Patients bring in notebooks or phone apps filled with notes, self-assessments, and symptoms. The onus is on the patient, and the reliability of that data falls into the hands of individuals, which can result in inconsistent or partially inaccurate information. RPM takes this burden from patients and relies on accurate, consistent technology. It also allows providers to measure additional important vitals and to receive the information daily.

Chronic health patients have been on the rise. We need solutions to help treat these patients in an effective and economical way. RPM addresses these needs.

How RPM Helps Manage Chronic Care Costs

A study published by the National institute of Health in 2016 by doctors Usha Sambamoorthi, Xi Tan, and Arijita Deb states that “The presence of MCC [multiple chronic conditions] has profound healthcare utilization and cost implications for public and private insurance payers, individuals, and families.”

These conditions require detailed, comprehensive care that can prove challenging. RPM allows for nurses and doctors to have access to health information of a patient in real time, and makes it possible for clinicians to issue health orders that can curb unnecessary emergency department visits by reacting to changes seen from a patient’s monitoring device.

It also gives doctors more access to their patients and creates opportunity for early education in patient behavior and an overview of patient participation in their treatment plan. Doctors can get a look into a patient’s activity and use nurses for check-ins to encourage the patient to comply with health orders. It gives doctors the power to give quality care outside of clinical settings and increases health outcomes. RPM gives doctors the information they need on a timely basis, which allows for swift intervention for high-risk patients.

Benefits to Providers

One concern for doctors when implementing RPM is the possibility of an increased workload, with doctors having to monitor patients regularly even when the patient is not receiving direct care. Doctor burnout is common, and its alleviation has its own value. An Ernst and Young’s 2018 survey on digital health showed that almost sixty five percent of physicians believe that “technology that captures consumer-generated data will reduce the burden on doctors and nurses specifically.”

However, there are solutions for providers to cut down on their work while providing better patient care through RPM. First, most monitoring devices have their technology programmed to inform the provider when there are anomalies or potential patient problems. Second, doctors can also use an outside remote nurse service to monitor the data coming from the devices. An efficient RPM company who provides this service can improve patient care while decreasing the workload on the physicians.

Industry Willingness to Implement RPM

According to a Spyglass Consulting Group report in 2019, at least 88 percent of healthcare organizations have an interest in investing in some form of remote patient monitoring technology to pivot to value-based care. Eighty-nine percent of practices surveyed in Spyglass’s report say that they are actively drafting strategies to get patients to take an active, continuous role in managing their chronic health issues. RPM as a prong to this strategy gives a continuous link between patient and doctor, and it supports these kinds of initiatives.

Health insurance companies have shown an interest as well. In 2019 the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposed several amendments designed to increase remote patient monitoring programs by improving reimbursements. Some of these amendments include reimbursements for RPM setup and patient education, which is a big incentive to providers who are thinking of implementing this technology. Revisions to who may monitor these devices have also occurred. This allows registered nurses (RNs) or medical assistants to do the bulk of the monitoring, freeing up physicians and nurse practitioners.

Conclusion

Remote patient monitoring offers a way for practices, hospitals, and health insurance companies to lower their costs, deliver continuous quality care, and alleviate doctor workloads. As we move forward, the value of remote patient monitoring will continue to evolve for healthcare organizations and implemented into care plans for the chronically ill.

TriageLogic

Dr. Ravi Raheja is the medical director at TriageLogic, a leader in telehealth technology and services. If you have any questions on how to implement remote monitoring for your patients, contact TriageLogic at info@triagelogic.com.