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When most of us think about health care’s Triple Aim, I’d venture to bet that improving quality and reducing costs are the first two aspects that come to mind. Although patient experience has traditionally played third wheel, the movement toward population health management has brought it directly into the spotlight.
As providers know all too well, satisfying patients is much more easily said than done. And let’s face it—The odds are already stacked against providers, because most people go to the hospital only when they are sick or injured, and they’re looking to physicians, nurses, and other clinicians to make them feel better. Those providers that provide services for patients who have high-acuity conditions or who are experiencing great stress or depression start even further behind the eight-ball.
Nonetheless, through Medicare’s value-based purchasing program, 30 percent of a hospital’s payment will be based on patient satisfaction. And in this world of transparency, patients have more and more options of where to receive care. The reality is that health care is becoming a service business, and providers need to approach how they deliver care in that manner.
So what if patients were … happier?
There’s a growing body of evidence suggesting happiness not only influences the patient experience, but also serves as a protective and predictive health factor, both in individuals and communities. According to a recent study from the University of California, Los Angeles, people who are happy are likely to have healthier immune systems than are those who are unhappy. Happiness is also associated with lower heart attack rates and longer, healthier lives overall.
San Francisco-based Dignity Health is putting this theory to the test. To them, happiness is an attitude, not a situation. Earlier this year, the health system launched Hello Humankindness, a campaign founded on a novel premise: If we’re happy, we’re likely more satisfied and healthier.
Hello Humankindness strives to “champion humanity” by providing health care “with a little more care.” Its website, www.hellohumankindness.org, features video clips and stories about random acts of kindness—everything from a perfect stranger covering the cost of another’s cup of coffee, to the donation of a kidney by someone who is only a generally acquaintance of the patient. The campaign invites anyone and everyone to tell their stories of kindness.
Studies have shown a patient’s experience is influenced most by interaction with provider employees, most notably nurses and physicians, underscoring the need for these individuals to have strong interpersonal skills. With this finding in mind, Dignity is training each of its 56,000 employees to be more effective and attentive listeners to patients and families. Employees are being educated not to pass a lit call light without stopping to help the patient.
Anyone who has cared for a child knows that children are happiest when they are doing something that interests them. Lying completely still in a tunnel for up to two hours is not at the top of the list—unless they’re watching “Despicable Me.”
At Mission Children’s Hospital in Asheville, N.C., children wear state-of-the-art “pediatric goggles” that allow them to watch movies during MRI scans. Technicians also can interact with them using the goggles, further making the procedure less scary and more relaxed. This approach increases MRI accuracy and reduces the need for sedation. In fact, at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the use of these goggles led to a 35 percent reduction in pediatric sedations.
Of course, there’s no happiness associated with medical emergencies, especially in the pediatric population. Such emergencies are terrifying for children and their families alike, often requiring weeks away from home. The Hollywood, Florida-based Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, part of Memorial Healthcare System, is confronting this fear head-on.
For pediatric patients and their families, the facility not only features state-of-the-art pediatric technology and world-class care, but also includes classrooms with a full-time teacher for kids to keep up with their school curriculum; daily movie screenings; a play area for children with disabilities; and a residential clown.
Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital also engages families and patients through advisory councils, allowing for direct input and influence on policies, programs, and practices. It comes as no surprise that the facility has consistently ranked among the top 5 percent of the nation's leaders in patient satisfaction.
Improving the patient experience—and effectively managing population health—requires the right care to be delivered at the right time and in the right place. Increasingly, this requirement means providing care outside of a traditional care setting.
For example, Mercy Health in Cincinnati has introduced a coordinated care program that works in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Care management team nurses communicate with patients at home and through regular phone calls, providing coaching as needed. The nurses also teach health education classes and refer patients with mental health and life management issues to behavioral health counselors for additional assistance.
Mercy Health has found that the best means of treating a patient may have nothing to do with clinical care. In some cases, improving patients’ mental outlook could be all that’s needed to keep them from being admitted. For example, when Mercy Health nurses discovered that one of their patients with a chronic condition had no furniture at home, except for a bed, the organization supplied the patient with a chair, promoting mobility while allowing her to look out the window and gain a different perspective.
At the end of the day, we need to leverage every opportunity we can to manage the health and wellness of a population successfully. Exploring innovative solutions as to where, when, and how to deliver care is central to this approach.
In some cases, the best way to treat a patient may have nothing to do with traditional clinical care; instead, the best cure could be to help the patient improve his or her mental outlook.
In “Travels with Charlie: In Search of America,” John Steinbeck wrote, “A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ.” Personally, I find the point of view espoused by Hello Humankindness to be a healthier alternative: “Humanity holds the power to help people heal.”
Michael J. Alkire is COO, Premier healthcare alliance, Charlotte, N.C.
Publication Date: Tuesday, November 19, 2013
A leader from McKesson discusses how healthcare reform is forcing hospitals and health systems to take a different approach to capacity management and patient flow.
Patient financial engagement is more challenging than ever – and more critical. With patient responsibility as a percentage of revenue on the rise, providers have seen their billing-related costs and accounts receivable levels increase. If increasing collection yield and reducing costs are a priority for your organization, the metrics outlined in this presentation will provide the framework you need to understand what’s working and what’s not, in order to guide your overall patient financial engagement initiatives and optimize results.
Emad Rizk, MD, president and CEO of Accretive Health, discusses the uncertainty facing hospitals and the transitions affecting revenue cycle management.
No two patients are the same. Each has a very personal healthcare experience, and each has distinct financial needs and preferences that have an impact on how, when and if they chose to pay their healthcare bill. It’s no longer effective to apply static billing techniques to solve the complex challenge of collecting balances from patients. The need to tailor financial conversations and payment options to individual needs and preferences is critical. This presentation provides 10 recommendations that will not only help you improve payment performance through a more tailored approach, but take control of rising collection costs.
Jim Bohnsack, vice president, solution & corporate development for Conifer Health Solutions, explains how the company helps healthcare providers leverage data to deliver better outcomes while optimizing reimbursement for all payment arrangements.
This white paper, written by Apex Vice President of Solutions and Services, Carrie Romandine, discusses the importance of patient segmentation and messaging specifically related to the patient revenue cycle. Applying strategic messaging that is tailored to each patient type will not only better educate consumers on payment options specific to their billing needs, but it will maximize the amount collected before sending to collections. Further, targeted messaging should be applied across all points of patient interaction (i.e. point of service, customer service, patient statements) and analyzed regularly for maximized results.
Steve Scibetta, senior director of channel sales for Ontario Systems' healthcare product line, shares insights into effectively managing receivables.
This white paper, written by Apex President Patrick Maurer, discusses methods to increase patient adoption of online payments. Providers are now seeking ways to incrementally collect more payments due from patients as well as speeding up the rate of collections. This white paper shows why patient-centric approaches to online payment portals are important complements to traditional provider-centric approaches.
Elena White, vice president of risk, quality, and network solutions for Optum, discusses how healthcare providers can leverage data and technology as they enable risk in their organization.
Increased electronic engagement between healthcare providers and patients provides significant opportunities for improving revenue cycle metrics and encouraging patients to access EHRs. This article, written by Apex Founder and CEO Brian Kueppers, explores a number of strategies to create synergy between patient billing, online payment portals and electronic health record (EHR) software to realize a high ROI in speed to payment, patient satisfaction and portal adoption for meaningful use.
Somnia President and CEO Marc Koch, MD, MBA, explains how hospitals can drive transformative change in the perioperative experience for outstanding clinical and financial outcomes.
Faced with a rising tide of bad debt, a large Southeastern healthcare system was seeing a sharp decline in net patient revenues. The need to improve collections was dire. By integrating critical tools and processes, the health system was able to increase online payments and improve its financial position. Taking a holistic approach increased overall collection yield by 10% while costs came down because the number of statements sent to patients fell by 10%, which equated to a $1.3M annualized improvement in patient cash over a six-month period. This case study explains how.
PMMC President Roger L. Shaul discusses the effects of healthcare reform on revenue cycle management and how PMMC's products help clients adapt to a changing financial environment.
With the ICD10 deadline quickly approaching and daily responsibilities not slowing down, final preparations for October 1 require strategic prioritization and laser focus.
Greg Burgess, Founder and Chief Product Officer at Burgess Group shares insights and opportunities for payment integrity in the rapidly changing healthcare IT landscape.
Read how Gwinnett Medical Center provides clear connections to financial information, offers multiple payment options for patients, and gives onsite staff the ability to collect payments at multiple points throughout the care process.
Read how Orlando Health was able to perform deeper dives into claims data to help the health system see claim rejections more quickly–even on the front end–and reduce A/R days.
To maintain fiscal fitness and boost patient satisfaction and loyalty, healthcare providers need visibility into when and how much they will be paid–by whom–and the ability to better navigate obstacles to payment. They need payment clarity. This whitepaper illuminates this concept that is winning fans at forward-thinking hospitals.
Financial services staff are always looking for ways to improve the verification, billing and collections processes, and Munson Healthcare is no different. Read about how they streamlined the billing process to produce cleaner bills on the front end and helped financial services staff collect more than $1 million in additional upfront annual revenue in one year.
Effective revenue cycle management can be a challenge for any hospital, but for smaller providers it is even tougher. Read how Wallace Thomson identified unreimbursed procedures, streamlined claims management, and improved its ability to determine charity eligibility.
Before launching an energy-efficiency initiative, it’s important to build a solid business case and understand the funding options and potential incentives that are available. Healthcare leaders should consider taking the steps outlined in the whitepaper to ease the process of gaining approval, piloting, implementing, and supporting sustainability projects. You will find that investing in sustainability and energy efficiency helps hospitals add cash to their bottom line. Discover how hospitals and health systems have various options for funding energy-efficient and renewable-energy initiatives, depending on their current financial structure and strategy.
Health care is a dynamic mergers and acquisitions market with numerous hospitals and health systems contemplating or pursuing formal arrangements with other entities. These relationships often pose a strategic benefit, such as enhancing competencies across the continuum, facilitating economies of scale, or giving the participants a competitive advantage in a crowded market. Underpinning any profitable acquisition is a robust capital planning strategy that ensures an organization reserves sufficient funds and efficiently onboards partners that advance the enterprise mission and values.
The success of healthcare mergers, acquisitions, and other affiliations is predicated in part on available capital, and the need for and sources of funding are considerations present throughout the partnering process, from choosing a partner to evaluating an arrangement’s capital needs to selecting an integration model to finding the right money source to finance the deal. This whitepaper offers several strategies that health system leaders have used to assess and manage capital needs for their growing networks.
Copyright 2016, Healthcare Financial Management Association.
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