People perform better if they have a vested interest in the outcome of a given situation. Employees who are given an ownership stake in their company historically perform better and enjoy a higher degree of satisfaction from their respective jobs than do their non-stake-holding counterparts.
Recent research has shown that a similar premise holds true in healthcare. Patients who are engaged in their own care generally have better outcomes and enjoy higher satisfaction in the care they received. According to the American Journal of Managed Care, “A growing body of research has established the benefits of patient activation, which is defined as the knowledge, skills, confidence and motivation to make effective decisions and take action to maintain or improve one’s health.”
According to a 2016 New England Journal of Medicine survey of 340 U.S. healthcare executives, clinician leaders and clinicians at organizations directly involved in healthcare delivery, 42 percent of respondents indicated that less than a quarter of their patients were highly engaged, and more than 70 percent reported having less than half of their patients highly engaged. And to underscore the importance of this result, 47 percent of those surveyed revealed that low patient engagement was the biggest challenge they faced in improving patient health outcomes.
This is not only true for hospitals, but also for specialty care practices. In these environments, it is imperative that practices understand the very specific needs and behavior of their patients, so they can determine how best to conduct effective outreach that will increase patient engagement and patient portal utilization.
Importance of User Interface
A results-driven (or high performance) patient engagement platform helps turn patients into partners in their own healthcare. In addition, a proper next-generation solution supports compliance with MIPS (Merit-based Incentive Payment System), a component of MACRA (Medicare Access and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) Reauthorization Act), and with meaningful use (MU), by providing patients the ability to view, download or share their medical record. Payback is many fold: In addition to helping providers meet regulations through a user-friendly interface, patients are freeing up time for caregivers to spend with them by self-populating data fields that would previously have been handled by caregivers. This streamlining of the patient intake process delivers significant time and cost savings to the practice.
Equally important is a patient portal that helps patients remain engaged while enabling practices to comply with government requirements under meaningful use and the MACRA regulations, thereby increasing Medicare payments and minimizing takebacks. It is imperative that the patient portal seamlessly integrates with the organization’s electronic health record (EHR), health information exchange (HIE) and accountable care organization (ACO), if the practice is participating in one. Ideally, the solution should be able to adapt to any healthcare facility’s IT system—not the other way around. Patient engagement initiatives should permeate the practice’s entire healthcare ecosystem.
Engaging for ACOs, Triple Aim
Originally a concept born of healthcare reform, accountable care organizations (ACOs) were initially little more than a way of redefining the shared responsibility of doctors and hospital staff to coordinate care, improve quality and lower costs. It did not, however, specifically examine the role of the patient. That all changed when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) came along and the ACOs were officially codified into law. Furthermore, the law also recognized that ACOs could not succeed without patient engagement. According to the IHI, “quality,” in this case, is defined from the perspective of an individual member of a given population, hence the logical focus on patient-centric care and patient engagement.
Guest post by Kate Jester-Brod, vice president of client success, EoScene.
Since Hurricane Katrina, the healthcare industry has been pushing towards maintaining comprehensive EHRs. The concept of an EHR combined with the concepts of the health information exchange (HIE) creates a means for patients and providers to always have a 30,000-foot view of the patient’s health. Which then begs the question, ‘what about the actual healthcare facilities?’ What does their 30,000-foot view look like? Are facility and staff doing their part to support exceptional and safe patient care?
In the most basic of explanations, enterprise risk covers the overall opinion of others towards your organization. It can affect revenue, staff retention, grant funding, and much more. In the healthcare industry, the enterprise is at risk at many levels. Drug safety, staff and patient safety, clinical outcomes, facilities maintenance, public relations, Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores are some but not all of the components of enterprise risk.
Moreover, reducing enterprise risk in any industry includes reducing not only overhead and operational costs but also consumer costs. In healthcare reducing costs for consumers can increase patient satisfaction, which is an obvious connection. More interesting, however, are recent news stories reporting on suits against major hospital systems for frauds and schemes—or applauding them for lowering healthcare costs.
While telemedicine and home health are increasingly major components of healthcare, much of healthcare operates in a facility like a hospital or clinic. Facilities, along with structural integrities and heating, ventilation, and air (HVA) systems, also include patient equipment and a state of cleanliness. All of these components comprise the environment of patient care and healing, and the enterprise. By taking control of these areas a hospital or healthcare facility becomes one step closer to protecting the enterprise.
The best way to protect it is to predict and manage risk before problems happen. This is even more critical as the healthcare industry works towards the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Triple Aim as a means to optimize care. The three components of the Triple Aim complement and overlap the need to reduce enterprise risk.
Fundamentally, the Triple Aim works towards creating system-level metrics to measure success. Enterprise risk is at the center of these metrics that ultimately drive decision making. Understanding the policies and procedures that make up facilities management, patient safety, accreditation, and the overall health of the system can significantly reduce enterprise risk while supporting more effective decision making.
Taking control of facilities management can directly impact the reduction of enterprise risk. Facilities Management holds many different responsibilities in a healthcare system, including emergency management, fire safety, patient and staff safety, infection prevention, environmental services, utilities and equipment, accreditation, and many others.
Improving patient-centered care with consideration for facility compliance results in tangible ways to improve the Triple Aim. The electronics health record is assumed to document all the components of the Triple Aim, but this clinically based monitoring system focuses on provider-patient experience and overlooks other components of the healthcare environment.
Utilizing facilities information technology plays a critical role in establishing the foundation necessary to achieve positive results in achieving the Triple Aim. Recent innovation in health facilities IT has resulted in quality improvement and measurement from the ground up and has the potential to address an often overlooked component of that we all strive for in Triple Aim.
Guest post by Abhinav Shashank, CEO & Co-founder, Innovaccer.
Whatever we do in the healthcare space, it is eventually meant for the greater good of patients, which is why today the aim of modern healthcare is shifting towards value-based reimbursement and with that the process is getting modified accordingly. Gradually, patient-centric care is becoming prevalent. The current standards require enhanced patient experience, and that comes with improved quality, coordinated care at a reduced cost.
CMS when releasing the fact sheet for Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program for the year 2016, said in a statement, “We now pay hospitals for inpatient acute care services based on the quality of care, not just the quantity of services provided.” Backing this statement was the fact that out of the four quality domains, patient experience of care bore 25 percent of the weight. This led to hospitals working earnestly towards enhancing the patient experience and utilizing the massive potential to qualify for the bonus and improve on current standards.
Why does Patient Experience Matter?
Patient experience is an essential component of the IHI Triple Aim, a schema for elevating the standards of providers’ performance:
Improving the patient experience of care.
Improving population health.
Reducing the per capita cost of healthcare.
Fortunately, health systems know that patient satisfaction isn’t just a tool for a performance bonus. Improving patient satisfaction is a way to identify gaps in care delivery and develop quality services. Also, according to a survey conducted by a health system found that out of 1,019 adults interviewed, 85 percent were dissatisfied with at least one aspect of their providers. Creating a patient-centric industry where experience and satisfaction of patients are overlooked is almost impossible!
Improving Patient Experience
A lot of researches have established that improving patient experience directly results in higher quality of care. Healthcare systems have realized the importance of the Triple Aim, and here’s how they can start working in this order on improving one of the fundamental aspects:
Patient Engagement a Priority
Patient engagement has been one of the most talked-about aspects of healthcare and unquestionably a way to improve the care experience. What we need to ensure is that the patient is willing to participate in the decision-making and the provider advocating this intervention. Even though healthcare providers are making efforts to improve patient engagement at their end, a survey revealed that only 34 percent of the patients are highly encouraged. Some effective methods patients found useful are:
59 percent of the surveyed people found increased physician-patient time vital.
54 percent of the patients favored being part of the decision-making.
36 percent promoted the growth of patient access to services.
Using Data Analytics
Data analytics have proven their worth in healthcare, and we have only scratched the surface of the immense sea of possibilities that can be realized using data analytics. When it comes to advancing patient experience, data analytics can be used in several ways:
Gathering data and creating actionable follow-up plans for patients.
Leveraging data analytics for accurate analysis of patients and reducing readmission rate.
Data analysis can zero in on inefficiencies and medical errors and help reduce avoidable expenses.
Guest post by Christina Richards, vice president, AOptix.
In recent years, the healthcare industry has experienced a Renaissance of sorts with the development and adoption of mobile and connected technologies. As a result, healthcare facilities the world over are increasingly making use of smart technologies to drive better patient outcomes, track equipment, and support overall operations. In addition, the developing practice of telemedicine is becoming increasingly commonplace for doctors in healthcare settings across the United States, which is raising new concerns about the infrastructure needed to support these real-time doctor-patient experiences.
Although the development of these digital technologies for healthcare applications is only in its infancy, we are already beginning to see their wide range of benefits, including the potential to help organizations achieve the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s (IHI) Triple Aim of bettering the patient experience, improving population health standings and reducing the cost of healthcare. For instance, a 2014 study by Dale H. Yamamoto of Red Quill Consulting, Inc. found that that the average estimated cost of a telehealth patient consultation was $40 to $50 per visit, compared to the average estimated cost of $136 to $176 for in-person acute care.
With the widespread adoption of any new technology however, there is a learning curve to ensure that they can be effectively integrated into existing operations to capture the greatest benefit without compromising the level of care. But what does this entail?
As healthcare facilities become more connected through the Internet of Things, adoption will continue across a broad spectrum of devices and sensors—from wearable tech that monitors patient location and vital signs to analytics platforms that track staff movements and create more efficient workflows. While these devices span a variety of applications, they all share a universal purpose, which is the constant collection and analysis of data.
Likewise, video conferencing and other mobile approaches to telehealth are highly data-intensive, requiring the transmission and processing of large amounts of information. As a result, many healthcare administrators have encountered the need for far more robust mobile networks in their facilities to support the massive amounts of data traveling across their systems.
In considering other data requirements on the horizon, take the case of rapid genomic sequencing. While the new technology allows researchers to quickly determine the complete DNA sequence of an organism to predict disease susceptibility and drug response, the process requires the transfer of massive amounts of data. To make this information more widely accessible, one company, NantHealth, is looking into a method of compressing the data into a more manageable size so it can be shared with other facilities through high-capacity wireless connections, rather than strictly relying on fiber. With ever-growing levels of data becoming necessary in the healthcare system, new technologies and methods for managing it across various networks will become even more important.
Under the traditional fee-for-service reimbursement model, providers and payers are natural adversaries. To maintain a steady source of revenue, providers are incentivized to render as many services as possible without running afoul of controls designed by payers to keep utilization in check. When healthcare costs inevitably creep up, providers demand higher reimbursements from payers. Payers, trying to keep claim in check and health insurance premiums competitive, respond by restricting members’ access to certain providers.
It’s this tension between payers and providers that forms the backbone of the U.S. healthcare system. At least, it has until recently. Policy and political leaders have come to realize that, absent of other factors such as quality, efficiency and patient satisfaction, healthcare costs will continue to rise, creating a weight under which the system will eventually collapse.
Enter the accountable care organization, a new model for healthcare delivery and reimbursement that exemplifies the key tenants of the Affordable Care Act and the healthcare Triple Aim: improving the patient experience of care, improving the health of populations and reducing per capita costs. Unlike the fee-for-service reimbursement model that rewards providers based on volume of services, the ACO model rewards providers for achieving specified quality objectives and constraining costs.
On their face, ACOs would seem to encourage cooperation between payers and providers. After all, to improve population health, providers need claims data and the type of technology solutions that payers have been investing in for decades. And to reduce healthcare costs, payers need to partner with quality providers with proven track records for keeping patients healthy. Ask any patient who has bounced back and forth between doctors’ offices and their health insurance company trying to sort out a medical bill, and the opportunity for improving the patient experience of care is tremendous.
So far, many ACOs are doing just that. Of the nearly 1,100 ACO contracts that Decision Resources Group is tracking today, more than half are commercial agreements involving 70 private payers. The largest private-payer ACO initiative in the country is led by Cigna, whose Collaborative Accountable Care program has 124 ACO agreements in 29 states encompassing more than 24,000 primary-care physicians and 27,000 specialists.
However, other aspects of healthcare reform are adding fuel to the payer-provider fire—and ACOs are a flashpoint. To keep health insurance premiums competitive, payers are excluding high-cost providers from their networks. Many of these narrow or exclusive provider networks also function as an ACO, with attached health plan products that are proving popular in public health insurance exchanges.
Guest post by Dr. Andrey Ostrovsky, co-founder and CEO, Care at Hand.
Seven-hundred-and-seventy billion dollars in Medicare and Medicaid spending and more than one fifth of the federal budget is going to be spent very differently in 2018 compared to today. In particular, Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary Sylvia Burwell declared that at least 50 percent of Medicare payments will be tied to value-based models, such as bundled payment or accountable care organizations, by the end of 2018. The majority of Medicaid dollars have already shifted from fee-for-service (FFS) to managed care. Providers, payers and even patients are increasingly being held accountable for health outcomes and cost of care. So how come there is no accountability for the health IT industry?
There is no 30-day readmission penalty for EHR vendors. There is no medical-loss ratio applied to population health management platforms. There is no shared savings for predictive analytics apps supporting bundles. The lack of accountability in the health IT industry is hampering the promising shift in the rest of the healthcare system from volume to value.
Technology has the potential to speed up adoption of payment-for-performance and achievement of the Triple Aim including improving outcomes, decreasing cost and improving patient experience. However, a recent analysis by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) found major gaps in the current digital health ecosystem with only 2 percent of technologies achieving all three aims and only 23 percent of technologies having any peer-reviewed research evidence for their claims.
While regulation can slow tech innovation and the FDA should be commended for loosening its regulatory grip over apps, financial incentives and constraints should be put in place to spread the risk – and reward – that the entire healthcare system is facing to the HIT industry as well.
Before the federal government realizes that health IT has slipped under the radar of accountability, our industry has a chance to shape it’s own future by incorporating risk-bearing into our business models. More important than the viability of technology vendors is the implication of accountability on the lives of vulnerable consumers and sustainability of providers serving those consumers.
The following guiding principles can ensure that vendors are held accountable of supporting high-quality, patient-centric delivery models and achievement of the Triple Aim: