When a patient leaves the hospital, the last thing they want to do is go back. Yet, hospital readmissions happen all of the time with studies showing 1 of every 4 patients is readmitted following hospitalization. Studies also show that one of the most common reasons for this is insufficient communication for a discharge plan between healthcare providers and patients.
Readmission rates are an important metric for hospitals, and becoming even more so, because it is one of several factors tied to centers for Medicare and Medicaid service reimbursements.
Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) is a standardized survey given to patients following hospitalization. One of the contributing factors to a facility’s score is the readmission rate. Hospitals that don’t earn satisfactory HCAHPS scores could be subject to a 1.5–2% reduction in Medicare reimbursements. This may not sound like a significant number, but it can easily equal millions of dollars for a single facility.
Reduce Hospital Readmissions
As communication between providers, pharmacies and patients affects readmission rates, where are patient communications stumbling in this dynamic?
Whether it’s a mobile network or a fixed landline, the telephone is one of the most ubiquitous communications tools in existence. Healthcare providers looking to maximize the capabilities of communication technology should plan to incorporate phone-based communication in some capacity.
Here are some AI-programmable solutions to common communication problems that will reduce readmissions:
Hospital Follow-Up Care Instructions
Going home is probably the best part of any hospitalization. However, just because a patient is sent home doesn’t mean that post-surgery or post-visit transition of care is done. Typically, there is a protocol to be followed at home to ensure that the patient makes progress on the road to recovery.
The protocol may include a medication regimen, physical or occupational therapy exercises or follow-up appointments with a general practitioner. Depending on the course of treatment, follow-up care can be complicated and confusing. Success depends on both healthcare professionals effectively communicating follow-up care instructions and patients fully understanding what they need to do. Without a good communication flow and mutual understanding, there’s a chance of increased hospital readmission rates.
There are a couple of different ways to build and utilize automated care instructions. First, determine which post-care instructions are the most common. The patients that require this information could then take advantage of Then, build a voice application ,using the Plum Fuse tool, that contains and can relay those instructions to the patient. The system could either make outbound calls to discharged patients, or allow patients to call in, whenever they needed a refresher on proper care or course of treatment.
Second, outbound calls and SMS text alerts could be automatically linked to a patient’s medical record so that the system connects the correct set of instructions to the patient. Similarly, with inbound calls, a patient could receive their follow-up care information by simply their identity. Any system tied into patient medical records needs to be HIPAA compliant, such as the Plum Voice platform and software products, so take extra care to ensure your solution fits the bill.
Patient Medication Usage
The phrase ‘medication regimen’ suggests a level of complexity above and beyond simply “take one pill, three times daily.” Whether it’s creating a new routine, even for a short period of time, or simply forgetting to take one’s medication, adhering to a medication routine can be difficult for some people.. Failure to take medication correctly could have detrimental effects on a patient.
Designing an application that helps patients to remember to take medication on time or refill a prescription is feasible. It would make it possible to call patients with a pre-recorded reminder to take their medication or send a text message that simply asks whether they took their medication. Using an application like this could also keep track of when refills are needed to maintain care and prevent readmissions.
Understanding Treatment Instructions
Some treatments are easier to follow than others. Taking a pill once a day may be easier for a patient than doing leg exercises. Understanding what enables a patient to adhere to or abandon a prescribed treatment plan is imperative because it has an impact on the patient’s long-term prognosis. This is also important as it can help improve treatment plans for others with the same or similar ailments in the future. Without this type of information, providers can’t make informed decisions going forward.
Post-hospitalization treatments are not limited to only medications. Speech, physical, occupational and other therapy departments may wish to track patient adherence to treatment plans. To ensure optimal progress, a programmable AI voice application can serve patients with reminders to take medications, perform exercises, attend therapy sessions, report critical health diagnostics, etc..
Missed Patient Appointments
Missed appointments create a whole slew of problems for healthcare providers, including hospital readmission rates and lost revenue generation management. A missed appointment is also a bygone opportunity to adjust a patient’s care plan.
The failure of test subjects to show up for clinical trials can be extremely frustrating for medical researchers, and missed appointments create headaches for doctors and staff at family health practices.
Short of making house calls, the best way for primary care physicians to understand how a patient is progressing is through a follow-up visit. Using a voice application to help schedule, reschedule, verify and remind patients about upcoming appointments can save both time and money for healthcare facilities that deal with a high volume of patients.
An AI-programmable voice application can even be used in tandem with self-service web portals and other technologies to ensure all communication channels are covered, and that reminders can be sent regardless of how the appointment was booked.
Our Appointment Scheduling app on the Fuse platform provides a way for healthcare providers to automate appointment management over the phone. It lets companies offer their patients the ability to schedule new appointments, look up existing appointments, reschedule appointments, and cancel appointments. This is especially useful for patients looking to schedule appointments after-hours.
Medicine is complex. Many patients are intimidated by doctors and don’t feel comfortable or think that it’s acceptable to ask questions. Patients may not even know what questions to ask. With this as a baseline perspective in many cases, it can be challenging to get useful patient feedback which could prevent avoidable readmissions. If doctors don’t know what their patients think about the care they provide, then how can they be expected to improve?
Hospitals that want more granular patient feedback than what is generated by the HCAHPS survey can easily reach out directly to patients with their post-op survey. Advanced survey technology from Plum Voice can deliver surveys through multiple channels, allowing providers to leverage a combination of voice with SMS/MMS and the web This gives patients the convenience of responding via their preferred medium to help enhance readmission reduction in the hospital.
A solution like Plum Insight has pre-built applications that allow you to deploy surveys in both the web and voice channel so that all the customer data is collated into one report and shared with your CRM. While you can customize surveys, our survey creation tools also come preloaded with 19 question types, both qualitative and quantitative, so you can create and launch surveys within minutes.
Just because someone follows their treatment plan,it doesn’t mean it’s working. For some patients, it would be helpful if their doctors monitored their progress daily. Are things progressing, regressing or staying the same? Few, if any, physicians have the time for that kind of individualized attention That can lead to a breakdown between the usefulness of the information given and the ability of both parties to communicate easily.
In the absence of daily appointments, the best way to get a status update from patients is to ask them. A voice application can easily solicit this information from patients. For instance, it could send a text message to a patient asking for a pain index on a scale of 1 to 5. The response data can then be sent back and added to the patient’s medical record. This makes it easier to identify recovery trends.
This type of application is very useful to prevent excess readmissions. When pain indexes are used in conjunction with patient medication usage data and adherence to other treatment regimens, physicians have a better picture of the patient’s health and recovery.
Linguistic and cultural differences can exacerbate any of the above communication problems even further. While it may seem that patients understand a doctor’s instructions while under the direct supervision of medical professionals, that may not be the case when they are discharged to go home.
Even if your voice application doesn’t need to support multi-languages at the outset, it might be necessary to add them later. Do your due diligence at the beginning and opt for a flexible and scalable platform that can support multiple languages. Plum Voice works with development vendors who have experience deploying multi-language voice solutions customized to a practice’s best course of action.
All of these examples illustrate a need for clear and effective communication between healthcare providers and patients. Taking the extra time to make sure patients understand and follow their post-hospital care plan can pay dividends, in terms of both patient well-being and the revenue cycle management.
Plum Voice Programmable-AI Communications for Healthcare
Because time is limited, taking time to automate these types of communications deserves serious consideration. The ability to save time,improve communications and save on operational costs simultaneously isn’t outside the realm of possibility when using the right tools.
Automation can streamline many communication issues in the healthcare industry. When deployed strategically, these types of applications can provide critical information to physicians for improved patient care, leading to better patient outcomes.