While much of healthcare reform involves providers and other organizations within the sector improving upon what they’ve been doing for quite a long time, there’s one aspect of reform that could be considered new: patient engagement.
That might seem strange to say, given that doctors and patients have been “engaging” for years, but in many ways “patient engagement” as it’s currently understood means something very different from what it’s usually meant in the past. Specifically, healthcare organizations are now being called upon to incorporate into their businesses the “customer service” thinking that has long been a staple of other sectors of the economy.
As Laura Bramschreiber, vice president of marketing strategy for West Healthcare, summed it up recently, “Healthcare organizations are realizing that in order to succeed, they need their patients to do the right thing. Come to the doctor. Take their meds. Do the things that promote health and well-being. Their success, then, involves activating and engaging patients across the continuum of care and beyond the four walls of the healthcare organization.”
With more than 25 years of customer engagement experience in sectors as divergent as financial services and travel, to name just a couple, West has identified four critical areas where the company believes it can help healthcare organizations meet the complex communications challenges involved in getting the new patient-consumer engaged.
Patient Access Center
“The contact, or access, center is the front door to many healthcare organizations,” Bramschreiber observed. “The problem, however, is that many contact centers operate on platforms and technologies that reflect an old school approach to patient engagement.” Among other things, she continued, this can mean that there are multiple 800 numbers and access points, and “it’s not uncommon for callers to be repeatedly transferred, boomeranged from one access point to another, and then finally lost in the shuffle.”
A problem that can require both technological and organizational/cultural solutions, Bramschreiber said West is bringing its customer service and contact center modernization background to bear helping healthcare organizations figure out what needs to be put in place.
Routine Care Management
Of course, patient engagement means much more than just smoothing the way for an initial contact. It’s about understanding where patients are on the care continuum and driving outreach, in their channel of choice, to drive desired behaviors. Whether its ensuring immunizations and screenings are current or providing greater levels of support around smoking cessation, keeping healthy patients healthy, deepening patient relationships and proactively capturing revenue opportunities are key goals. Bramschreiber says that many providers simply lack the means to do effective outreach and this is an important focus and application of West’s technologies.
Transition Care Management
As Bramschreiber describes it, this solution area is “all about keeping patients from going back into the hospital during that critical 30-day post-discharge timeframe.” To that end, West helps providers manage patient transitions of care beginning as early after discharge as possible. In view of the potential impact on penalties and reimbursements, Bramschreiber said West has seen a significant increase in “people thinking, ‘How do I more effectively manage transitions of care?’” To that end, West designs patient-centered programs, focused specifically on the first 30 days, that leverage a combination of technology enabled communication and clinical resources to monitor key aspects of post-discharge care such as patient medications, ensuring necessary follow up care is received and detecting possible complicating issues as soon as possible.
Chronic Care Management
Another area where West’s recent expansion of its clinical resources is having an impact revolves around chronic care. “Many transition of care patients end up in chronic care programs,” Bramschreiber said, “so in this area we focus more on longer-term and continuous engagement of patients.” She said specific services can include applying remote tele-monitoring and leveraging outsourced clinical resources to help manage follow-up care and lab needs, while adding scale and capacity to their in-house care coordinators.