The “What If”: The Downside of Not Using A Communication Platform for Patient Engagement

The “What If”: The Downside of Not Using A Communication Platform for Patient Engagement

By Lee Horner, CEO, Synzi.

Lee Horner

Clinician-to-patient communications are typically anchored
by in-person, at-home visits. Home health agencies may struggle with understanding
the benefits of technology adoption and how it will “work with” traditional
check-ins. The downside of not
implementing a communication platform unfortunately weakens an agency’s
positioning and performance amongst patients, family caregivers, and referral
sources. Without being able to safely communicate with patients via
HIPAA-compliant messaging, home health agencies may negatively impact their ability to:

  • Address patients’ questions and issues in a timelier
  • Drive deeper patient engagement on a day-to-day
  • Motivate adherence to the treatment plan and lower
    the risk of rehospitalization
  • Earn recognition as being an innovative and
    patient-centric partner in their community  
  • Increase referrals from hospitals, SNFs, and

Introducing technology into the communications between home
health agency staff and patients may be seen as a potential interference to
building and sustaining meaningful clinician-patient relationships. However,
the use of technology – specifically a communications platform – allows nurses
to more effectively perform their clinical responsibilities and more
efficiently keep patients engaged in their own care.  The benefits of using technology to strengthen
communications are many.

  1. Engaged patients
    are more invested in their outcomes:
    Patients who are engaged in their care are more aware of their
    day-to-day changes in their condition and more likely to ask their clinician
    questions if there are emerging concerns and issues. Using a communication
    platform to reach out to a home health clinician can mitigate trips to the ER
    and keep a patient on track with the appropriate steps in their care.
  • Engaged patients
    are more satisfied with their care.
    With easy access to their clinicians
    before/after scheduled appointments, patients are more satisfied as they are
    less anxious about accessing care if/when there is an immediate need. Family
    caregivers also appreciate the access to expert care afterhours and on the
    weekends. As a result, the family member and/or the patient is more apt to
    first contact their home health clinician team instead of immediately (and
    almost instinctively) heading to the ER.
  • Engaged
    patients are boosting your bottom line

    As the PDGM model is realized in 2020, agencies are more concerned with
    delivering care that is patient-centric yet cost-contained. To minimize
    penalties and maximize outcomes, referral sources are prioritizing home health
    agencies which can show how they are engaging patients, increasing satisfaction
    scores, and lowering readmission rates especially within the initial 30 days
    post-hospital discharge. With a communication platform and engagement strategy
    in place, agencies are aligning themselves with these referral sources as they
    share a like-minded objective – healthier and happier patients.   

A communication platform can help optimize the experience for the patient and the home health agency as all stakeholders can stay in better and more frequent communication during the episode of care. Administrators can schedule and send out timely messages suited to the patient’s condition and care. Ongoing communications include appointment reminders, adherence triggers, and diet/exercise recommendations.

Patients can also safely use the platform’s HIPAA-compliant email, text, SMS, and secure message to reach their home health clinicians regarding questions or issues. The essence of the in-person clinician-patient relationship remains intact during the video-based virtual check-ins. The patient’s family members can also be included in the virtual visits to drive better understanding of the patient’s progress and next steps.  

Data is key to allowing administrator the ability to assess
each patient’s level of interaction with each communication and the cadence of
touchpoints. As needed, the administrator has the flexibility to adjust the
compliance messaging to better engage (or re-engage) the patient. If there are
concerns about non-compliance, the home health agency can decide if a more
immediate intervention (e.g., call, in-home visit, or transfer to the ED is necessary.

Using a combination of messaging and video touchpoints, a
communication platform can help a home health agency increase satisfaction and
outcomes for the patient while actively reducing the number, length, and
related costs/penalties of hospital stays. The coordinated plan to engage
patients throughout the episode of care helps agencies minimize any “what if”
scenario for the future of their agency, their reputation, their staff and most
importantly, the agency’s impact in their region and community.  

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