In an era of electronic communications, providers have more ways to stay in touch with their patients, convey key messages, and personalize information. 

Under accountable care, participating organizations need to pave new paths to secure payment for the care they provide to patients. The days of the traditional fee-for-service model are gone; payment for accountable care organizations (ACOs) is now contingent on measurably improved health outcomes. The pressure is on to identify effective ways to connect with patients to get better results and earn the most complete, prompt reimbursement possible.

Thankfully, the era of ACOs is aligned with the era of electronic communications. Providers have more ways than ever before to stay in touch with their patients, convey key messages, and personalize information. Even the patient e-statement, sent via email, is now a tool for advanced communications that can support ACOs in their efforts to achieve better outcomes and, thus, receive optimum payment from third-party payers.  

Communication through Patient Statements

Just how can providers use electronic communications to help pave a new path to payment? By adopting electronic delivery of patient statements, providers extend their message-sharing possibilities well beyond the conveyance of basic data. Digital messages sent via email have the potential to be interactive when they are embedded with customized, multimedia tools that can reach recipients in unique, response-inspiring ways. Such interactive messages have the potential to support the ACO model and population health management. 

How is this possible? Electronically delivered statements and communications come as attachments in emails. When recipients open the attachments, they are actually accessing secure, personalized online payment portals. These portals can be populated with rich content designed to address specific issues. With videos, hyperlinks to relevant web pages or other websites, customized discharge instructions, disease management tips, or compliance reminders, the options are wide ranging and filled with opportunities to essentially extend patient care beyond the hospital or physician’s office.

Incorporation of Health Information

Here are three ways to make the most of digitally delivered patient communications.

Communicating with patients with diabetes. Digital messages targeted to patients with diabetes remind patients about suggested ranges for blood sugar levels, recommended testing schedules, and lifestyle choices to support disease management. Messages are timed to be sent at customized intervals for patients. Video content about how to correctly test blood sugar is included, along with interactive question-and-answer sessions to help patients strengthen their knowledge about their disease. 

Providing post-surgical follow-up. A hospital can supplement the printed discharge instructions sent home with patients released post-surgery by providing the information again via email. The electronic version of the communication can be enhanced by hyperlinked information about post-surgical care and wellness tips. The discharge information is then followed by additional digital messages that remind patients of upcoming appointments and share information regarding wellness fairs and tips for enhancing health. 

Sending breast cancer screening reminders. Providers can prompt patients who are due for breast cancer screenings. The messages may include links to a video for self-screening techniques as well as information on guidelines for having mammograms. The communications also provide information about local Susan G. Komen events. 

E-Delivery Advantages 

These kinds of targeted communications aid providers in engaging patients meaningfully to inspire follow-up, wellness, and preventive practices that can lead to enhanced overall outcomes. In addition, digital messaging offers other advantages for providers and patients alike.

Immediacy. Electronically delivered messages get information to patients quickly, offering effective supplements to printed materials that may be distributed at the point of an encounter. Also, e-delivery offers immediate tracking and insights for providers into patient engagement, as data is captured about email opens and click-throughs. This helps to know what is and isn’t working so future messages can be honed to improve interactions.

Affordability. Digital delivery is a cost-effective way to stay in contact with patients over the long term. It eliminates the expenses involved in communications that are printed and mailed to patients’ homes, allowing resources to be channeled elsewhere as needed.

Improved engagement. Digital delivery is on target with the way patients/consumers are coming to expect and accept communications with service providers. As more people receive information on their smartphones, digital delivery grows in relevance, importance, and efficacy.

The effectiveness and efficiencies of e-delivery are highly beneficial in ACO and traditional models of healthcare—for both providers and patients alike.

Three Steps for Online Patient Communication

How can providers get started? Getting started takes commitment, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

Identify technology solutions to support digital delivery. There are technology providers that can offer turnkey solutions to take patient communications digital, including the offering of customized messages specific to recipients’ needs/circumstances. From statement creation and distribution to targeted messaging, technology solutions are available to providers to make the process seamlessly integrated into total patient financial and clinical communications.

Integrate email acquisition at every point of patient communications. Make it standard practice to capture and consistently confirm patient email addresses. Just as physical addresses must be updated, email addresses must be requested and affirmed at every point possible.

Create rich content. Collaborate internally to create/collect quality content to share through digital messaging. As providers offer useful information, articles, and videos, patients will be motivated to trust and interact with messaging. Also, make digital communications two-way communication devices by including methods by which patients can respond, ask, and share; this aids in relationship building that results in deeper interactions over time.

The era of ACOs and electronic communications is a chance for patient-friendly billing practices to shine like never before. And that can lead to better outcomes all around—for patients who need to get and stay well and providers who need to maintain the healthiest revenue cycle possible.

Emdeon is a provider of revenue cycle solutions that combine technology and professional staffing to help ensure healthcare business success. 

Publication Date: Friday, January 17, 2014