- CATEGORIES: Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs),Doctors and Hospitals,Improve Your Practice
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By Charu Raheja, Chair TriageLogic
For medical providers interested in becoming part of an ACO: What are some of these best practices, and how can your organization be as effective as possible in meeting these increased demands for cost savings and improved care?
1. Ensure that patients have access to the right level of care at the right time. Research has shown that patients with healthcare problems, especially during the night, often consider going to an emergency room. However, with the help and advice of a trained healthcare professional on the phone, there may be effective home care options until they can see a physician the next day or shortly thereafter. Telephone nurse triage such as that provided by TriageLogic offers patients access to trained nurses who use established, gold-standard medical protocols to help patients determine when they need emergency care and when they can safely wait to see their own physician. All telephone encounters are documented with the patient’s Electronic Health Record, and doctor’s orders can include the use of telephone nurse triage to ensure proper follow-up care.
One of our recent studies shows that about 70% of the patients who thought that they needed to seek emergency care were actually recommended home care or to see their physician the next day after being triaged using Dr. Schmitt and Thompson protocols. More alarmingly, almost 10% of the patients who thought that their symptoms were not serious enough to seek immediate care ended up receiving instructions to go to the ER and in a few cases, call 911. Getting emergency care when necessary can have huge implications on improved overall patient health and decreased future complications and expenses.
2. Find effective means of communicating with your patients. The huge development of communication devices has increased people’s connectivity. Patients today expect the same level of communication with their physicians as they have with family and at work. However, patients may not be aware of HIPPA requirements that limit healthcare providers’ ability to send messages on standard telephone lines due to patient confidentiality requirements. The responsibility is on the providers to ensure that there are safe HIPPA compliant portals to allow for patient communication with caregivers. It is not sufficient to have phone access alone, patients need to be able to communicate by other means such as email or text. Better communication allows care providers to educate patients, communicate crucial information, and prevent illnesses from getting serious before a patient receives care.
For example, TriageLogic employs the latest technology to provide HIPPA-compliant text messaging between providers and nurses, which again helps reduce the need for unnecessary doctor visits by connecting patients with a healthcare provider before they leave home. This same technology can be expanded for communication between providers and patients.
3. Collect information and study your sources for improved health and cost savings. As we all know, ACOs are rewarded based on improved health and cost savings. ACOs need to keep track of data so that they can show the cost savings and understand their population better. A better understanding of the population will allow practices to provide education and resources for patients to help them keep themselves healthy.
Data can also be used to show cost savings to insurance companies to help ACOs negotiate their fair share given all their improvements to health care. ACOs have the potential to significantly improve patient outcomes and decrease health care costs. It is imperative that the ones that are effective be rewarded appropriately and receive more resources so that they can continue improving healthcare.
It is however, up to the ACO organizations to show the cost savings. Effective data collection and analysis are required to be able to calculate the numbers.
ACOs can meet their quality and cost control objectives by leveraging TriageLogic’s multidisciplinary team of physicians and nurses, finance and software experts who go beyond just handling phone calls. Today, effective telephone triage also includes patient-provider text messaging, notes in the Electronic Health Record and physician’s orders, and even the development of patient education materials that can be made available on the provider’s website. All of these strategies, along with the development of cost savings and outcome studies that demonstrate real results, can help ACOs meet their goals – just what the doctor ordered.