improve patient outcome

Strategies which help ACOs to improve patient outcomes

The individual entities in any Accountable Care Organization (ACO) are always under the pressure to reduce their costs as well as strengthen their healthcare strategies to improve patient outcomes and maximize the benefits of being a part of the ACO. Thus, they are familiar with the fact that they need to develop strategies for accomplishing these targets- reduce costs, improve patient data sharing, care coordination, and improve patient outcomes as well, with an emphasis on post-discharge patients via reduced hospital readmission rates.

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Take post-acute care networks as an example- north of 40% of Medicare patients receive post-acute care after they are discharged from the hospital, costing more than a whopping $60 billion back in 2015. Variation in post-acute care also caused Medicare spending variance by more than 73%- these variances were tied to healthcare costs, outcomes, and quality- the better the quality, the lower the costs, and vice versa.

If these standards are not satisfied, then the ACO receives penalties in the form of lower payments or fines. Thus, any given ACO needs to generate an exceptional patient experience via better healthcare, improving the coordination among the organizations regarding data sharing, reducing the readmission rates and minimizing the costs incurred. 

Here are some strategies which will help the ACOs to achieve these targets: 

Use biometrics for patient identification

Biometric patient identification systems are being used by over one hundred health systems and are reported to increase patient matching significantly- something which is sorely needed within the healthcare industry currently. In the case of ACOs, a single patient’s data is shared by all the systems within them, such as health systems, hospitals, physician groups, and insurers. Thus, interoperability is a must-have feature. EHRs are already known to cause identification errors and have unintuitive interfaces, inherently low patient match rates, and lack of interoperability, which is why health systems are using add-ons like RightPatient to accurately match the patient with his/her appropriate medical record. EHRs are supposed to cause physician burnouts as well, as they need to click through the interface thousands of times. Thus, adopting a solution like RightPatient will not only improve the match rates but also improve the patient experience as well as reduce physician burnouts, generating improved coordination. Patients only need to get their irises scanned to retrieve their accurate medical record for usage. Thus, faster matching creates better coordination and sharing of uniform and clean data among the organizations funded by Medicare. 

Ensure proper medication adherence 

One of the biggest problems for ACOs is ER (emergency room) visits, which generate hospital readmission rates- occurring due to the unhealthy population under their care. According to a study, two-thirds of the patients who are supposed to take medications are non-adherent; that is, they do not take their medications properly. This non-adherence creates around 50% of treatment failures among those patients and causes up to 125,000 deaths per year. The fact is that these deaths could have been prevented if the patients were adherent to their medications. All these generate up to an unbelievable $300 billion in costs. Apps like CircleCare have a feature which could have ensured medication adherence- Medicine Box- a medicine reminder where patients can easily set reminders for their medications.

 

Thus, even if the medication regimen is complex, CircleCare makes it easier than ever for the patients to take the right medicine at the right time.

Provide patient education

Another challenge for ACOs is that their patients are not adequately educated regarding their medical conditions. Research shows that over 50% of adult patients experience difficulty in using and understanding their health-related information, whereas around 40% forget most of the data. CircleCare provides health-related information which is customized according to the patient’s disease(s)- this helps to keep the patient up to date with the latest information regarding his/her medical condition so that informed decisions can be made. This ensures effective patient education, leading to better patient outcomes. Once an ACO registers with CircleCare’s service, all it needs to do is direct the patient to download it. Afterward, the patients can schedule their medicine, track steps, record blood glucose levels, record blood pressure, and communicate with their healthcare provider- all of which helps to improve patient outcomes, lower readmission rates, and reduced costs as well as higher quality healthcare. 

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Patient engagement apps are reducing hospital readmission rates

According to a recent study, patient engagement technologies like patient retention apps are more likely to lead towards better healthcare outcomes. Patients who used these apps contributed to reducing hospital readmission rates compared to those patients who did not use engagement apps.

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Patient engagement technologies like CircleCare, a patient retention app, have shown that they aid patients having chronic diseases to visit their healthcare providers more prudently. Rather than going to the EDs (emergency departments of their hospitals and spending a significant amount of money which could be preventable, they used these patient engagement technologies to take care of themselves and also contact their physicians whenever required, regarding their health updates and asking for assistance directly within the app. The latter is much more desirable as it saves money from a preventable hospitalization and where the patients have tools provided by their healthcare providers, thus, reducing hospital readmission rates. 

According to the study, patients suffering from chronic conditions face some challenges getting a cohesive healthcare service- they need to go through several primary and supporting facilities for the full experience, thus are bombarded with different data points and care sites, which result in a disrupted and broken healthcare experience.

The research also showed that tools which provide the patients with facilities like access to their health information, tracking their activities, are helping to deliver superior quality healthcare and help the patients to stay on track regarding their post-discharge guidelines, all of which leads to only better patient outcomes.

Patient engagement tools and better patient outcomes are positively correlated- the more the use of these tools like CircleCare, the more active participation is seen from the patients, and thus, the better are the patient outcomes as hospital readmissions are fewer for these engaged patients. Even if the patients had multiple diseases, as long as they had access to the tools and were using them actively, the research showed these patients contributed to reducing hospital readmission rates. 

The research was carried out by grouping patients by their chronic conditions, hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and so on. As previously mentioned, patients with chronic or complicated cases who had access to patient engagement tools were readmitted fewer times compared to those who did not have access or did not use it. 

These results show that patients are becoming health conscious than ever and are opening up to useful patient engagement tools. It is a positive outcome overall, as the patients are choosing to pursue an active and healthy lifestyle and not resort to hospital readmissions, which can be expensive and inconvenient. The study also demonstrated that unless it is too severe, the patients choose to communicate with their physicians via the engagement tools instead of opting for readmissions or similar actions. This way, they can talk about any discomfort or situations they are facing and get instant advice, which helps them save a trip to the ED. Thus, patient engagement tools are taking healthcare out of hospitals and making it accessible via mobile devices, which is very much convenient for the patients themselves. 

So, what are these patient engagement tools that are pushing healthcare to better heights? One of the prime examples is CircleCare, a patient retention app which doubles as a patient engagement app. It has all the features of a perfect patient engagement tool. CircleCare can track steps, schedule medicines reminders, record glucose level, blood pressure, and also provide a community where the patients can engage with one another for exchanging health tips- a social media for patients. Moreover, it is also a means for patients to communicate with their healthcare providers; thus, they can contact them whenever necessary, without any hassle. Once a hospital registers to the service, they direct their patients to download the app to their smartphones/tablets and register as their patients, and that’s it! Patient engagement tools like CircleCare not only help the patients to communicate with their physicians but also help them lead and maintain a healthy and active lifestyle, which in turn generates improved patient outcomes and results in reducing hospital readmission rates, making it a must-have engagement tool.

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Patient engagement is the key to improved patient outcomes

Why might any healthcare provider contact their patients after their discharge? It’s simple- to encourage patient engagement so that the patients can be proactive and thus healthier, which in turn causes improved patient outcomes and lowers readmission rates, simultaneously reducing costs. 

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There’s a catch to this- if it’s so easy, why is effective patient engagement still out of reach for most healthcare providers? Let’s analyze.

A recent survey consisting of several healthcare systems sheds light on some interesting facts- 70% of the participants stated that less than half of their patients are involved in engagement activities, whereas a mere 9% said that they observe more than 75% effective patient engagement. 

Why are some successful and some unfortunate? It mostly reflects the fact that many are still confused by what patient engagement means. Many think that patient engagement refers to just giving a patient a scheduled time and making sure they know the patient’s name, and that’s all- but that is a far cry from what patient engagement entails.

Patient engagement refers to the healthcare provider learning about the patient’s interests, medical records, background, and anything relevant that is there to know about the patient as much as possible. What do the healthcare systems do with such data? They provide customizable tools to the patients which can be used for active patient engagement- to ensure improved patient outcomes and experience. There are many tools already available at the disposal of the healthcare providers to use for active patient engagement like CircleCare. Thus, patient engagement means providing a patient with tools and facilities which the patient can then use or participate in, if he/she chooses, to ensure better health and lead a healthier lifestyle, with its primary goal being improved patient outcomes and better patient retention rates.

Even large and reputed healthcare systems sometimes need the assistance of such tools for patient engagement, which is reflected in the survey’s findings. There are many examples that tell the same story repeatedly- a reputed healthcare system thinking that it was providing entirely satisfactory patient engagement until it started looking at the results and then teaming up with an external party who understands patient engagement better, and later on, the healthcare system actually seeing marked improvements because of using the new tools.

With the extensive knowledge and technical know-how of such third parties regarding patient engagement technologies, these healthcare providers saw that instead of using conventional facilities like patient portals, which can be clunky, unresponsive, and tedious to use, the patients used tools like apps which are available for both tablets and smartphones. The patients not only use it for better health and checking their records, but they also use it to communicate with their providers, exchanging crucial information, if required.

According to a healthcare official, patient engagement is very integral to their services, and they need it to ensure they have a healthy, mutually beneficial relationship with their patients. Such tools like CircleCare provide the window to ensure active engagement. Using CircleCare, patients can easily communicate with their doctors to let them know of any discomfort or updates in real-time. 

CircleCare is a patient retention app which doubles as a patient engagement app. It ensures maximum patient engagement, as it has features like tracking steps, recording blood glucose level, recording blood pressure, and also scheduling and reminding one about medicine. Not only that, it has all the features previously mentioned above, like communicating with physicians, exchanging information in real-time, and so on. Best of all, if the patient maintains an active, healthy lifestyle, which is shown as the patient completes “goals” and earns points within the app, they can also win exciting prizes which they can exchange with the coins. Once a healthcare provider subscribes to the app, they can direct the patient to download and use them for active patient engagement, ensuring lower patient readmission rates due to positive outcomes. 

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Can hospitals achieve better patient outcomes through patient engagement tools?

Let’s face it- no patient thinks about going home and logging into a web portal. It is ancient at this point. During a recent event focusing on all things related to healthcare improvement, that was the opinion shared by a respected healthcare official. The rest of the executives from different healthcare systems who were participating with him nodded in agreement. On the contrary, they laughed, because they are accepting the fact that patient portals are just not practical. Not only for this small group of officials but by now, it is common knowledge that such patient portals did not turn out to be one of the effective patient engagement tools as they were once hoped to be. Where did it go wrong? What’s next? If this didn’t push patient engagement, what kind of patient engagement tool will? These are the questions on the minds making up the healthcare system.

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During the event, the group sat down and had a lengthy discussion regarding healthcare and patient engagement tools, and the following are some of the critical things that were revealed.

Patient engagement is of utmost importance

This was stated by all of the executives present. Patient engagement is one of the top three organizational objectives for them. They also believe the fact that their organization’s value patient engagement as they see patients who are more participative to have better health outcomes than those who don’t, along with increased satisfaction, retention, and revenue.

Priorities are not reflected in the results

Another notable finding during this discussion was that there is a massive difference between the amount of importance healthcare systems place on patient engagement and the level of results they deem successful- they interpret 15% as a good number. One may then ask, how can such a vast difference between objectives and results be possible? One official from a healthcare system said that they need to be completely digital regarding everything being done in their hospital- from the moment the patient decides to use their services until the follow-ups are complete. Naturally, they require a patient portal which the healthcare providers have, and they observe approximately 15% of patient engagement through it, which they believe is more than an acceptable number.

Even though considering such a small number as success is very peculiar, it is not uncommon. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology states that less than one-third of the patients who had access to portals used it only one or two times per year. The ones who did not use the portals had a variety of reasons- they wanted to speak with their healthcare providers directly, did not deem it necessary enough to view their records online, were worried about the safety and privacy of the portals, or could not use them due to various issues.

Not enough advancements in patient engagement tools

The healthcare officials who were present in the event think that the motivation for effective patient engagement needs to come from the patients themselves. However, as the findings specified already, it is not always in the hands of the patients themselves, but in the hands of the healthcare providers- the latter are the ones who develop the patient engagement tools, strategies, and technologies to support them. For instance, no matter how participative a patient is willing to be, he/she will not be able to effectively engage with the healthcare provider if the patient portal is complex, faulty, or inefficient. Another drawback the officials stated was the perception of patients regarding the portals’ contents and features- if they were inconsistent and irrelevant, patients would not use them.

 Another official added that even though patient engagement is a top priority for any healthcare system, the ones running them do not utilize the tools available to make better use of technology and come up with something more innovative and productive than patient portals. They do not invest in the necessary places and do not hire the people who can bring about a change to patient engagement tools.

Is patient engagement actually possible?

Yes, of course. Patient portals may be clunky, complicated, and the fact that people use their browsers less nowadays does not help the matter. No, the solution lies somewhere else. People are always on their phones using apps, and this is the key- a patient engagement app like CircleCare. The patients do not need to go to browsers and sign in; all they need to do is unlock their phones and tap on the app- they are in! CircleCare is an app which helps the patient stay fit- it can track their steps, schedule alerts for their medicine, and record their blood glucose level as well as their blood pressure, thus, helping them to stay proactive and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Not only that, but the app also connects the patients with their physicians so that they can communicate with each other whenever required- to share critical information, updates, tips, and additional information regarding their health can be exchanged. Once the hospital subscribes to the app, all the patients need to do is download it and use it, which will not only help them maintain a healthy lifestyle, but also ensure active patient engagement, and as a result, hospital readmission rates will go down due to better patient outcomes and active patient engagement.

patient experience improvement causes satisfied patients

Process Improvement Methodologies are used for Patient Experience Improvement

Healthcare organizations are continually pursuing ways to improve their processes to enhance the patient experience they provide. However, the biggest problem is that they need to measure patient experience improvement, and there is no specific way to do so. The challenge is to gain access to timely and relevant data. Nevertheless, in spite of this roadblock, they have found another way to measure their success.

patient experience improvement causes satisfied patients

According to a survey, the participating healthcare systems have stated that the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) or similar CMS surveys are their most preferred tools to track the patient experience provided. These are followed by phone calls made before a patient’s discharge and assistance from third-parties, or non-CMS surveys.

These healthcare providers have also increased their use of social media monitoring because of their needs for accurate and timely patient experience data, which is why using these methodologies do not seem that surprising. The number of healthcare systems utilizing process improvement methodologies is higher than the ones who do not use it, and the former ones stated that HCAHPS or CMS surveys are their preferred way of both tracking and measuring their organization’s success or failure regarding the patient experience they provide.

Moreover, the number of respondents who said they use tracking and are using it for process improvement methodologies is higher compared to those respondents who do not, with in-house surveys being an exception. This shows the amount of emphasis placed on performance measurement by process improvement, which no doubt the respondents believe leads to patient experience improvement.

They may have used several process improvements, like enhancing the patient identification system, since patient identification is a recurring problem in most healthcare systems, as 8% of the medical records are duplicates on average. Some hospitals are utilizing biometric patient identification like RightPatient, which does enhance the whole process, as physicians can focus on more critical tasks rather than take time identifying the patients. All of this ultimately leads to the healthcare systems providing a personalized patient experience.

These healthcare systems are correct in placing their trust in process improvement methodologies, and the report reflects that. It is favorable for patients and healthcare providers alike, as 87% of the respondents stated that their organizations had experienced significant improvements in the HCAHPS scores or similar measurements, which is a clear indicator of the efforts they have made to enhance the patient experience in response to their previous scores.

The report’s breakdown is as follows: 13% of respondents have observed significant improvements, 44% have noticed moderate gains, and 30% have experienced minor improvements, while 5% saw no increase.

However, the results reveal another aspect- there is a positive correlation between patient experience improvement and the use of such process improvement methodologies. A large number of respondents (16%) have stated that they experienced significantly improved HCAHPS scores after using the methods compared to those who did not use them (6%). Likewise, moderate improvements were noticed by a large number of respondents (47%) who used the process improvement methodologies compared to those who did not (36%). Accordingly, the respondents who did not use such methods are far higher in number (10%) than those who used it (3%) and reported that they did not see any improvements.

How are the healthcare systems improving their patient experience significantly? Other than process improvements, they can also utilize technology to enhance the patient experience further. They can use apps like CircleCare. It is a patient retention app used by hospitals for active patient engagement. Once a hospital subscribes, they can instruct the patient to use it for various purposes like communication with the hospital, keeping track of their steps, recording their glucose levels, scheduling their medicine, and receiving valuable health tips within the app. All these activities not only help to improve patient engagement but also cause patient experience improvement, resulting in an increase in patient retention rates due to better patient outcomes.

Patient experience

Patient experience and patient engagement: Is there any difference?

There are quite some differences between engagement and experience. However, in the healthcare industry, the terms patient engagement and patient experience are sometimes used interchangeably due to which people believe that they are the same thing, confusing. To clear it up- patient experience and patient engagement are not the same things.Patient experience

In the healthcare industry, hospitals are assigning more resources than ever to improve the patient experience. Likewise, both technology and employees are being utilized to find out how patient engagement can be improved. Patient engagement has been becoming increasingly important because the patients are playing an active role as they use more smartwatches, keep track of their data like steps, blood pressure, and others.

However, what are the actual differences in patient experience and patient engagement? Let us find out.

Patient experience

Patient experience is the summation of all the experiences an individual has during his/her interactions with the healthcare system. It starts right from the phone call until the checkups. In between, there are more parts of the patient experience, like the visit to the hospital, the quality of the care provided by the hospital, billing experience, and can be many more varying on the situation. To sum it up, all these small interactions make up the entire patient experience. A key feature of patient experience is that the responsible party is the healthcare system and not the patient. Thus, it entirely depends on the healthcare provider whether the experience will be good or otherwise.

Patient engagement

On the other hand, patient engagement, as per its definition, consists of the steps an individual must take to acquire the maximum benefits from the available healthcare services. See the difference? It is quite clear from the definition itself. It puts the patients in charge of their healthcare. Various services are made available to the patient from the provider’s end. However, it is up to the patient whether he/she wants to avail those or not- the patient needs to act or engage with those services. For instance, CircleCare is a part of those healthcare services- it is an app through which the patient can participate in various engagement activities effectively.

In short, patient experience is the responsibility of the healthcare provider, whereas patient engagement is in the hands of the patients, provided that the services are made available by the hospitals. However, it is beneficial for both the patients and the healthcare provider if the patient engagement is increased, as it causes the patients to become more responsible and make the whole healthcare process easier for themselves and the providers.

One key patient engagement strategy for hospitals to use is patient retention apps. These apps help to keep the hospitals be in constant communication with the patients, making the recovery process more streamlined and help to retain them. CircleCare is such an app. It helps the patients keep records of their health data, track their steps, share updates, learn health tips, and share useful information within their circle. Once the hospital subscribes to CircleCare, the patient can download, register, and use right away- it is that easy! While engaging within the app, it helps the patients be proactive, live more healthily, and helps the hospitals by assisting them to retain the patients, creating a win-win situation for everyone involved.

how patient engagement reduces hospital readmission CircleCare

Ways in which patient engagement strategies prevent hospital readmission

how patient engagement reduces hospital readmissionOne of the main determinants of performance in the healthcare industry is reducing hospital readmission. In layman’s terms, it means that the lower the hospital readmission rate, the better the services are of the healthcare system. Many healthcare systems are trying their best to lower their readmission rates to save costs as well.

Hospital Readmission Reduction Program (HRRP) was introduced by CMS in 2010 to deal with reducing hospital readmission rates. It has been successful, as it has helped to reduce readmissions by 8 percent.

On the surface, it might sound good and relatively easy. However, reducing hospital readmissions can be quite a challenge as it depends on several factors. Other than providing first-class care to the patients, the healthcare systems must also ensure the patients engage in post-discharge care management so that their condition becomes better, not worse.

How do the healthcare systems do that exactly?

Highlighting high-risk patients

During the post-discharge period, there are a lot of probable patients who might suffer from a medical issue. After identifying them, the task is to focus the engagement efforts towards these high-risk individuals. To determine the high-risk patients, the clinician can start looking at the healthcare conditions, which cause the highest readmissions. For instance, pneumonia, which is not caused by STIs or tuberculosis, causes 88,800 readmissions.

Not only medical conditions, but there are also other factors which can cause readmissions. Patients may have limited knowledge regarding specific topics. They may have limited health literacy, limited language skills, others may receive different information from different officials in the same healthcare system, and others can even be omitted from post-discharge care.

Patients can also be at risk of readmission if they are facing particular social determinants of health (SDOH). For instance, transportation issues, job security, and similar issues may prevent the patient from following up with the clinicians, which in turn will cause adverse health effects and thus readmission. Likewise, low earners will not be able to afford home care following the discharge.

The healthcare systems need to create follow-up procedures based on the above situations. By engaging with both the patients and their families and keeping in mind the SDOH, hospitals not only can make their follow-up strategies better but also help reducing hospital readmission.

Another solution to all these problems can be CircleCare patient retention app. It can provide essential health tips to the patients, keep track of their steps, maintain their medicine schedules, and also be a medium of communication with the hospital. After the hospital subscribes to CircleCare, the patients only need to download the app to use these benefits, which can help reducing hospital readmission significantly.

Engaging both patients and their family members

In the recovery phase, it is best to involve and engage not only the patients themselves but also their family members. This will help as the family members are aware of the patient’s preferences and thus can make him/her feel more comfortable as well as follow the instructions of the hospitals. This helps reduce the readmission rate by 25 percent for 90-day readmissions and 24 percent for 180-day readmissions.

Also, it is an excellent strategy to provide the guidelines in writing during the patient’s discharge, as it gives a detailed description for the patient to follow post-discharge. Statistics support this, as patients who were not provided with any detailed guidelines had 24 percent more chance to be readmitted.

Acknowledgment of SDOH

No matter the strategies, some patients may not be able to comply with the post-discharge and follow-up guidelines, which may not even be there fault. The SDOH can act as a barrier to their betterment.

According to Health Services Research, if the SDOH were factored into the HRRP, 21.8 percent penalty reduction would take place.

SDOH is not considered in the HRRP. The hospitals can provide questionnaires to the patients or their family members to find out whether they face any of the SDOH or some other barrier while availing post-discharge healthcare and follow-ups.

CircleCare

As there are various problems which might be faced by the patients- SDOH, lack of written instructions, or others, the best possible solution would be to give them something which they can access according to their convenience. CircleCare can not only engage the patients, but also keep track of their information like blood glucose, blood pressure, and remind them of their medicine intake. It also provides the patients with health tips and rewards and can be used to provide detailed instructions post-discharge as well as share health updates with the hospitals. All this will not only help improve the health of the patients, but it will also be a platform where the patients can be more engaged with the hospital by sharing their health-related statistics so that the officials can provide proper feedback. This, in turn, will cause patient satisfaction to rise, and ultimately, patient retention will be achieved.

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EHRs: Why are physicians and patients dissatisfied with them?

Electronic health records (EHRs) are supposed to make things easier for doctors, improve health outcomes for patients, and create a better experience for everyone. However, most research indicates the opposite. There is a high level of EHR dissatisfaction among practitioners and the impact on patient experience has been underwhelming. So, what has gone wrong?

When EHR system use became mandated, clinicians were expected to experience initial growing pains as they were forced to learn new skills. However, as comfort levels grew, their perceptions were expected to change over time, resulting in better communication and care. Unfortunately, doctors are still complaining about EHRs even after several years of widespread implementation and use. In fact, research shows that EHRs have become a major contributing factor to physician burnout.

Physician Dissatisfaction with EHRs

Too much manual data entry causes physician dissatisfaction with EHRs.

The aforementioned Mayo Clinic Proceedings study also found that as many as 84.5% of physicians are using EHRs and the majority of them are not satisfied. Most physicians feel that EHRs are inefficent and require too much manual data entry where time is spent on clerical tasks rather than patient interactions.

Likewise, patients are also not satisfied with EHRs as they notice doctors spending more time looking at the computer screen during their visits. Research shows that gaze time (amount of time the doctor looks at the patient) is directly related to patient satisfaction.

Apart from data entry issues, a RAND study identified many other reasons for EHR dissatisfaction among physicians. For example, most physicians agreed that EHR interfaces were not intuitive, thus hampering their workflow instead of augmenting it. They also complain that EHRs are not implemented well enough to facilitate the proper exchange of information. Many physicians feel overloaded with irrelevant information.

Doctors also noticed that templates provided with EHR systems degraded the quality of their reports. Even more worrisome is that most physicians found that EHRs are not improving over time. 

Undoubtedly, these studies indicate the need for a system update and technology that frees doctors from having to spend time on routine clerical or data entry tasks. This technology would ideally enable clinicians to focus on their primary responsibility – carefully listening to, observing, and getting to know their patients so they can provide the highest level of care.

This is where RightPatient can help by providing an AI system that automatically identifies patients when they arrive and then engages with them to collect useful information that is pushed into the EHR system. This enables clinicians to understand much more about a patient’s condition while reducing their data entry burden. With RightPatient, doctors receive concise, relevant, and real-time information regarding their patients to save time, increase efficiency, and improve the patient experience.

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Making the most of patient wait times

The U.S. healthcare system has long suffered from the problem of excessive patient waiting times. In 2015, 32% of visits to the ED resulted in patient wait times of up to an hour. Obtaining an initial outpatient appointment with a physician can take a month or more. The fact is that waiting times can be unbearably long for patients and doctors are often helpless in solving the issue.

Long waiting times can have a negative impact on a patient’s health by causing delays in consultations. Furthermore, wait times reduce patient satisfaction scores with healthcare service providers. Research has shown that patient satisfaction scores were affected across almost every aspect of care delivery when waiting times were long, with patients reporting lower levels of confidence in the care provider. Longer waiting times not only impact overall patient satisfaction, they also negatively affect the way that patients perceive the information, instruction, and care provided by their caregivers and physicians.

Clinics have adopted various methods to improve satisfaction while a patient is waiting for an appointment. These typically involve providing information regarding different disease conditions, tips on practicing a healthy lifestyle, etc.; essentially, they their best to make waiting areas comfortable and informative. Additionally, some clinics use office staff to gather information from the patient. However, in many cases, the information provided by the clinic may not be relevant to the patient. Similarly, gathering information about the patient through staff is an expensive activity with limited benefits.

As we have seen, patient wait times can have a negative impact on both patients and their clinicians. However, what if there was a way to utilize these waiting times more productively? Can patients be engaged in a more meaningful way while they are waiting? This is precisely where RightPatient can help.

RightPatient can help to improve the patient experience and optimize wait times through its autonomous check-in process. When patients arrive for scheduled outpatient visits, RightPatient automatically recognizes them and engages through an AI-driven chat session. This enables patients to learn about their conditions as important clinical information is collected, which is automatically fed into the EHR. The clinical team can review this information prior to the consultation, saving time and increasing efficiency by eliminating the need for manual data entry into the EHR system. Physicians can then spend this time interacting directly with the patient to bolster satisfaction and clinical outcomes.

RightPatient enables doctors to spend more time focused on what they want to be doing – listening to patients, addressing their emotional and physical well-being, and spending less time worrying about data entry into health records. Satisfied and engaged patients also respond more favorably to more personal interactions with their caregivers, creating a win-win environment.

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Reducing opioid abuse by knowing the right patient

The US is enduring a massive opioid abuse epidemic. Not only are they widely prescribed, but prescription opioids are now more widely abused than street drugs. If we look at the anatomy of the opioid crisis, it is genuinely frightening. In 2016, 116 people died each day due to opioid overdose, resulting in more than 42,000 fatalities in a single year.

The question is, why is this happening? How are 11.5 million individuals misusing prescription opioids? How is it that each year, 2.1 million people misuse opioids for the first time? It seems that, at present, there is no clear path to stunting this epidemic. Opioid abuse is already costing the US economy more than half a billion dollars annually.

How did we get to this point?

Since the 1990s, the pharmaceutical industry started pushing opioids and assured doctors that these drugs were safe. Consequently, doctors began widespread prescription of these drugs. However, blaming the pharmaceuticals industry and doctors alone ignores many other pertinent factors.

There have been many changes regarding the prevalence of various diseases over the last three decades. Slowly and steadily, medicine has become dominated by chronic and painful health conditions. It is estimated that one-third or the U.S. population or 100 million Americans are living with a chronic and acute pain condition. Among them, one-fifth are living with moderate to severe pain. Considering these statistics, it follows that opioids would be widely prescribed. However, 8-12 percent of those prescribed opioids result in patients developing an addiction.

Opioid misuse is not just limited to those living with painful conditions. Many of the prescribed opioids end up in the wrong hands. Many addicted to opiates hide their identity or medical conditions and visit various clinics under different aliases. For doctors, it is challenging to identify the right patient.

How can we reverse the epidemic?

To bend the trend downwards, efforts must be implemented at every level. At the community level, we must educate the public and raise awareness about the health risks of opioid abuse. Policymakers should advance legislation to address the problem. Above all, there is a need to change the way medicine is practiced; healthcare providers must take higher precautions at the clinical level.

Clinicians cannot and should not deprive people in pain from drugs that can bring them needed comfort. However, big data and technology can assist them in differentiating between the right patient and the wrong one. This is where RightPatient can play a vital role. Powered by artificial intelligence, the platform can help clinicians to thwart medical identity fraud and ensure that a patient’s complete and accurate medical history can be retrieved.

By recognizing the correct patient, clinicians can better understand the validity of patient complaints along with a patient’s disease history. When and where was the patient last prescribed an opioid? Did the patient rightly identify himself/herself?

RightPatient can be one way to prevent opioid abuse.