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Q&A: Better Patient Communications = Benefits for All

With Meaningful Use Stage 2 just released and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) being upheld by the Supreme Court, The healthcare industry is on the brink of a major shift: A move from a traditional fee for service to outcome-based reimbursement. This shift will require significantly more frequent and understandable patient and caregiver communications. Healthcare providers and payers are evolving with this shift by reevaluating member and patient communications and many providers are now jumping into the payer space as well.


Providing personalized, demographically appropriate & actionable communications to patients allows healthcare organizations to not only increase wellness care and outcomes but also retention and satisfaction.  


We’ve worked within the healthcare space for many years, and are often asked by payers and providers about how to improve patient communications and overall patient engagement. I thought I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some of the most frequently asked – and answered – questions:


Q:           What types of information should healthcare organizations communicate to patients to improve engagement?


 All healthcare organizations can and should provide information that will better a patient’s health and wellness, encourage care prevention and reduce the likelihood of a return visit for an avoidable readmission as well as improved chronic disease management.


For healthcare payers:  I recommend healthcare payers provide wellness tips and medication recommendations via Explanation of Benefits statements (EOBs). Most consumers don’t understand the EOB’s they receive today even after they review them carefully.   Customers are more likely to pay attention to messages promoting better health while utilizing analytics to provide personalized tips addressing a specific health condition. Even something as simple as a smoking cessation campaign to a patient who has a known addiction or nutritional guidance for a patient struggling with obesity will have an impact and reduce possible future health issues.


For healthcare providers:  For healthcare providers, I recommend clear, concise communications around post-hospital care through discharge documents, all transitions in care and ongoing personalized wellness communications.  For example, in discharge summaries it may be helpful to provide pictures of medication and the times that medications should be taken. Patients who have difficulty reading, or are unfamiliar with a specific language can easily understand their medication schedule.      


Q:           How should healthcare organizations deliver these communications?


With the proliferation of web usage, smartphones, and tablets, patient expectations around multichannel communications are accelerating. There are multiple ways that healthcare organizations can deliver communications including e-mail, SMS, web, apps or even snail mail.  It is important for healthcare payers and providers alike to determine, based on patient preference, which form of communication best fits its customers and patients.   


Q:           What results will healthcare organizations see from improved patient communications?


For healthcare payers:  When healthcare payers provide actionable health and wellness guidance, customers are  better suited to take ownership of their own healthy lifestyle which can result in less doctor visits and reduce the number of payer reimbursements.


Additionally, when healthcare payers provide personalized communications, consumers are more confident managing their healthcare. Companies who send EOBs with relevant information such as savings alerts by family member and prescription, health alerts, and photos of the prescriptions in use have found increased renewal of customers and referrals from existing customers.   


For healthcare providers: CMS estimates that approximately 20 percent of readmissions are preventable new research seems to indicate that a large portion of those readmits are often the result of a breakdown in communication that occurs when patients transition from one care setting to another- whether to the patient’s home, a nursing home, or rehabilitation facility.  Boilerplate communications frequently fail to resonate with a patient and often result in unanswered questions, contributing to avoidable hospital readmissions.


Providing personalized patient communications through discharge documents and the post-hospitalization care plan, understandable lab results, ongoing wellness communications just to name a few, healthcare providers can help reduce the number of unanswered questions, ultimately resulting in fewer avoidable re-hospitalizations.

 [MM1]Tami: We recommend hyper linking to the CXM blog.

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