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Beth Israel Deaconess Launches Health Innovation Center

Posted on May 7, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

In yet another example of a health system bringing innovation home, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has launched an in-house center combining the feel of a startup incubator and the vast reach of a globally-known provider.

It’s not clear yet whether this emerging model will be more powerful than plain old incubators, but there are a lot of resources at play here. (It’s worth pointing out that only one of the factors that distinguish it is that the center will be based at a Harvard teaching hospital.}

The Health Technology Exploration Center will be led by John Halamka, MD, MS, chief information officer of the Beth Israel Deaconess system. As the health systems press release rightly notes, Halamka already has his fingerprints on many important advances in health IT, including patient portals, unique web-based medical records, and advances in secure patient data exchange. It also notes that he has brought together collaborations with global HIT thought leaders such Google, Amazon, Apple and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (Did we mention that the man is non-stop?)

The HTEC’s first focus areas will come as no surprise. They include helping patients manage their own health using mobile application; improving patient education and care through natural language interfaces; optimizing medical decision-making with dashboards and analytics; and enhancing patient/clinician communication using new devices and programs.

Though the press release doesn’t make a big thing of it, the website makes it clear that a lot of what its leaders would like to do haven’t been paid for just yet. However, the health system has already laid out its plans for when it gets enough contributions to support the program.

If the HTEC is fully funded, the system would make investments in faculty, staff and infrastructure that would help it take on local national and international partnerships. HTEC would also generate research intended to usher in breakthrough healthcare technology options.

I’d like to take a minute and say that not only is this great, it should be more commonplace than it is. Yes, few healthcare organizations have the clout and resources that a system affiliated with Harvard has, and that’s unlikely to change. But that doesn’t mean smaller facilities are out of the running.

What I’d like to see for virtually every facility to capture more of the value it creates during the process of everyday patient care. Given the extent to which healthcare data is shareable, recordable and integrable, providers don’t have to stop what they’re doing to amass data and expertise that benefit everyone in the profession. I believe it’s not only possible but necessary.

Henry Ford Rolling Out Analytics In Neuro ICU

Posted on April 25, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Not long ago, the chair of neurology at the sprawling Henry Ford Hospital decided it was time to bring his idea to life. Dr. Stephan Mayer, who had previously created a data analytics system at New York Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, felt he could bring what he learned to Henry Ford Hospital — and that it could save lives.

According to a story in Crain’s Detroit Business, Mayer was convinced that if the hospital analyzed data generated by patient monitors, it could reduce mortality and complications by predicting negative patient events.

“This is all about lost opportunity and making the most of the data we have,” Mayer told Crain’s. “There is nothing unique about the data we have. We have EMRs connected to pharmacy, radiology, billing, this and that, but there is a doughnut hole. The empty spot is the ICU, where the sickest  of the people are.”

Acting on that belief, Mayer put together an initiative bringing such tools to the health system’s neuro ICU.

After searching for a partner that could make this happen, Mayer settled on Medical Informatics Corp.’s FDA-cleared clinical intelligence platform, Sickbay, which monitors real-time vital signs issued by any connected device. The Sickbay product also comes with related apps such as Multimon, which allows clinicians to view multiple patients remotely across units, the hospital or multiple facilities.

Once deployed, Sickbay collects patient monitor data, stores and organizes it in a manner making it easier for clinicians to predict future patient events. For example, it can produce data on patient alarms that fall within specified critical ranges. This allows clinicians to see and act on patterns more quickly, Mayer said.

Working with Henry Ford’s IT Department, Mayer is rolling out Sickbay. Starting in June, Henry Ford will launch Sickbay and begin storing patient data. Over the next six months, the neuro ICU should collect data on 600 patients. Hopefully, this data will offer clinicians the insight and context they need to help patients.

If Mayer gets the results he’s hoping for, this could be just the first in a series of rollouts, potentially across the 22 ICUs operating across the five-hospital system. “Our organization is eager to push boundaries,” he told the magazine. “What we are doing, if it works as planned…it will change the way we round in the ICU.”

This sounds great, but Mayer is still lucky he’s at Henry Ford rather than other less-entrepreneurial organizations. The health system has worked to promote technology innovation for many years. Its efforts include an innovations program rewarding employees for standout inventions in areas like clinical applications for wearable technology.

UW Medicine, Valley Medical Center Reduces Medical Errors With Better Clinician Communication

Posted on April 20, 2018 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

Improving patient safety while simultaneously reducing clinician workloads, increasing efficiency and elevating the patient experience is an almost impossible task. Yet the team at University of Washington Medicine, Valley Medical Center found a way to do just that. Using a secure communications platform from Voalte, the Valley Medical Center team implemented processes that not only reduced the occurrence of pressure ulcers but also improved staff morale.

It is not obvious that improving the communication between patients, clinicians and administrators can lead to better outcomes, but for James Jones (BSN, MSN, NEA-BC), Vice President PCS & Nursing Operations at UW Medicine, Valley Medical Center, he believed it could:

“Being a nurse I realized that if you want patient care to be successful, better patient outcomes and improve the patient experience, you need to start with clinicians first. Without the clinicians, you cannot be successful. They are the entryway for the patient into the organization.”

Jones felt that by investing in clinicians and reducing their workload, they would have more time and energy to focus on improving patient experience as well as patient outcomes. To verify his theory and to gain buy-in from the organization, Jones and his team met with clinicians to ask what they wanted and how THEY would go about improving patient outcomes.

After many meetings, the Valley Medical Center team found that improving internal communications was high on everyone’s priority list. Many clinicians truly believed that better communication would lead to safer patient care – especially in the area of skin-integrity related adverse events (medical errors).

The impact of adverse events and medical errors on US Healthcare are staggering:

  • 10% of all US deaths, approximately 250,000 per year, are due to medical errors [1]
  • $20.8 Billion annually in additional (direct) healthcare costs [2]
  • $250 Billion annually in additional (indirect) healthcare costs [2]

One of the best ways to improve patient outcomes is to reduce the number of preventable adverse events. Pressure ulcers, skin wounds that are caused by sustained pressure on area of the skin – usually as a result of sitting or lying in the same position for long periods of time, are classified as a preventable adverse event.

“Prior to the implementation of Voalte there was a 10-step process to document and assess a pressure ulcer,” explained Jones. “With Voalte we were able to streamline the time and workflow related to pressure ulcers by 40%. Our Wound Care NRP is now able to be anywhere in the hospital and still be able to help patients and clinicians.” Something that would have been impossible with their legacy processes and communication technologies.

The streamlined process and improved communications not only improved patient outcomes, it also had an impact on staff morale and clinician burnout in two specific ways.

First, clinician workload is often cited as a leading cause of burnout. According to a JAMA study published last year, the 25% of physician that felt burnout cited the following contributing factors:

  • 1 percent felt their job environment led to symptoms of burnout
  • 1 percent felt a lack of time for documentation
  • 4 percent reported stress as a common factor
  • 1 percent reported spending time on electronic medical records (EMRs) at home was a significant contributor

When clinicians feel burnt out, it has an impact on patient safety. A Swiss study published in 2014 found a linkage between burnout and adverse events. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) issued the following comment on the study:

The investigators propose that the linkage between burnout and safety is driven by both a lack of motivation or energy and impaired cognitive function. In the latter case, they postulate that emotionally exhausted clinicians curtail performance to focus on only the most necessary and pressing tasks. Clinicians with burnout may also have impaired attention, memory, and executive function that decrease their recall and attention to detail. Diminished vigilance, cognitive function, and increased safety lapses place clinicians and patients at higher risk for errors. As burned out clinicians become cynically detached from their work, they may develop negative attitudes toward patients that promote a lack of investment in the clinician–provider interaction, poor communication, and loss of pertinent information for decision-making. Together these factors result in the burned out clinician having impaired capacity to deal with the dynamic and technically complex nature of ICU care effectively.

Second, by reducing the occurrence of adverse events at Valley Medical Cetner, Jones and his team were helping to reduce clinician anxiety and improve mental health. A report published in 2007 measured the emotional impact on physician that were involved in an adverse event or near miss (adverse events that were caught BEFORE harm came to a patient). The findings were stark:

Source: The Emotional Impact of Medical Errors on Practicing Physicians in the United States and Canada

This study, combined with the prior body of work, shows that there is a “virtuous cycle of benefit” when it comes to burnout and adverse events. Reducing workload and improving morale means clinicians are less likely to feel burned out which in turn means they are less likely to be involved in an adverse event, which means they are less likely to suffer the deep negative emotions associated with medical errors…and round and round it goes.

The team at Valley Medical Cetner is beginning to reap the benefits of being in this cycle. By focusing on improving communications, streamlining documentation requirements and reducing skin-integrity related adverse events, they are directly impacting a key contributing factor to burnout.

“Our goal is to help make it easy for clinicians to do the right thing for patients,” said Jones. “Clinicians are on the front lines. It’s the job of IT to give them the tools and the resources they need to be successful.”

For Valley Medical Center, one of those tools was the Voalte Platform which simplifies care team communication and collaboration. Deployed through smartphones, the Voalte solution gives physicians, nurses and administrators a secure way to communicate via voice and text within the walls of the hospital – eliminating the need for pages over the PA system.

Jones disclosed that Valley Medical Center chose the Voalte Platform because they believed “it was the best platform to help clinicians” and that culturally the team at Voalte was the one most closely aligned to Valley Medical Center’s patient-first approach.

“Voalte was really great to work with,” Jones stated. “They helped us through the transition and through the change management process. They were there in the command center, working alongside us during the initial roll-out. That was huge. It really helped with buy-in and with addressing the small changes that came up during that roll-out.”

In the three months following the roll-out, Valley Medical Center saved more than $50,000 just on their Renal Respiratory Unit and their patient satisfaction scores climbed to the 99th percentile.

Better patient experience. Improved patient outcomes. Lower costs. Reduced workloads. Valley Medical Center has definitely scored a quadruple-win.

You can watch my interview with James Jones on the Healthcare Scene YouTube channel or the embedded video below.

Voalte is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene.

Hospital Mobile Device Initiatives Can Improve Patient Satisfaction

Posted on April 17, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Without a doubt, hospitals have many reasons to implement mobile technology, which can offer everything from improved communications to logistical support. But the benefits of these rollouts may offer more than operational benefits. At least according to data gathered by the following survey, hospital mobile initiatives almost always improve patient experience and satisfaction.

The study, conducted by Vanson Bourne on behalf of Apple-based mobile device management company Jamf, draws on a survey of 600 global healthcare IT decision-makers based in the US, the Netherlands, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Respondents worked in both private and public healthcare organizations.

Researchers found that 96% of healthcare IT decision-makers currently implementing a mobile device initiative felt that it had a positive impact on patient experiences and satisfaction. Also, 32% reported that they saw a significant increase in patient experience scores.

The survey also found that among institutions currently implementing or planning to implement a mobile device initiative, the devices are most likely used in nurses stations (72%), administrative offices (63%) and patient rooms (56%). In addition, survey participants anticipate that mobile device use will expand to both clinical care teams (59%) and administrative staff (54%). What’s more, 47% of respondents said they plan to increase mobile device use in their institution of the next two years.

To exert better control over these efforts, hospitals can leverage a mobile device management solution. However, the survey found that only 48% of healthcare IT decision-makers had full confidence in their MDM solution’s capacity to do its job. That’s down from 59% in 2016.

Also, as data sharing increases via mobile devices and apps, data security becomes even more important. However, many health IT leaders aren’t sure they can pull this off. Their biggest challenges included data privacy (54%), security/compliance (51%) and keeping software properly patched (40%).

But they don’t think MDM tools can solve the problem. Ninety-five percent of respondents said their current MDM solution could stand to offer better security options, and almost a third (31%) of respondents thinking about mobile device initiatives were holding off because they weren’t sure they could secure the devices adequately.

Unfortunately, the health IT world seems to have made little progress in securing mobile devices over the past year. In a similar Jamf study conducted last year, 88% of respondents were concerned about managing security, data privacy (77%) and blocking inappropriate employee use (49%).

Mayo Clinic Creating Souped-Up Extension Of MyChart

Posted on March 19, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

As you probably know, MyChart is Epic’s patient portal. As portals go, it’s serviceable, but it’s a pretty basic tool. I’ve used it, and I’ve been underwhelmed by what its standard offering can do.

Apparently, though, it has more potential than I thought. Mayo Clinic is working with Epic to offer a souped-up version of MyChart that offers a wide range of additional services to patients.

The new version integrates Epic’s MyChart Virtual Care – a telemedicine tool – with the standard MyChart mobile app and portal. In doing so, it’s following the steps of many other health systems, including Henry Ford Health System, Allegheny Health Network and Lakeland Health.

However, Mayo is going well beyond telemedicine. In addition to offering access to standard data such as test results, it’s going to use MyChart to deliver care plans and patient-facing content. The care plans will integrate physician-vetted health information and patient education content.

The care plans, which also bring Mayo care teams into the mix, provide step-by-step directions and support. This support includes decision guidance which can include previsit, midtreatment and post-visit planning.

The app can also send care notifications and based on data provided by patients and connected devices, adapt the care plan dynamically. The care plan engine includes special content for conditions like asthma, type II diabetes chronic obstructive heart failure, orthopedic surgery and hip/knee joint replacement.

Not surprisingly, Mayo seems to be targeting high-risk patients in the hopes that the new tools can help them improve their chronic disease self-management. As with many other standard interventions related to population health, the idea here is to catch patients with small problems before the problems blossom into issues requiring emergency department visit or hospitalization.

This whole thing looks pretty neat. I do have a few questions, though. How does the care team work with the MyChart interface, and how does that affect its workflow? What type of data, specifically, triggers changes in the care plan, and does the data also include historical information from Mayo’s EMR? Does Mayo use AI technology to support care plan adaptions? Does the portal allow clinicians to track a patient’s progress, or is Mayo assuming that if patients get high high-quality educational materials and personalized care plan that the results will just come?

Regardless, it’s good to see a health system taking a more aggressive approach than simply presenting patient health data via a portal and hoping that this information will motivate the patient to better manage their health. This seems like a much more sophisticated option.

Roche, GE Project Brings New Spin To Clinical Decision Support

Posted on January 10, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

The clinical decision support market is certainly crowded, and what’s more, CDS solutions vary in some important ways. On the other hand, one could be forgiven for feeling like they all look the same. Sorting out these technologies is not a job for the faint of heart.

That being said, it’s possible that the following partnership might offer something distinctive. Pharmaceutical giant Roche has signed a long-term partnership deal with GE Healthcare to jointly develop and market clinical decision support technology.

In a prepared statement, the two companies said they were developing a digital platform with a difference. The platform will use analytics to fuel workflow tools and apps and support clinical decisions. The platform will integrate a wide range of data, including patient records, medical best practices and recent research outcomes.

At least at the outset of their project, Roche and GE Healthcare are targeting oncology and critical care. With a pharmaceutical company and healthcare technology firm working together, providing tools for oncology specialists in particular makes a lot of sense.

The partners say that their product will give oncology care teams with multiple specialists a common data dashboard to review, which should help them collaborate on treatment decisions. Meanwhile, they plan to offer critical care physicians a dashboard integrating data from patient’ hospital monitoring equipment with their biomarker, genomic and sequencing data.

The idea of integrating new and possibly relevant information to the CDS platform is intriguing. It’s particularly interesting to imagine physicians leveraging genetic information to make real-time decisions. I think it’s safe to say that we’d all like it if CDS systems could bring the rudiments of precision medicine to thorny day-to-day clinical problems.

But the truth is, if my interactions with doctors mean anything, that few of them like CDS systems. Some have told me flat out that they end up overriding many CDS prompts, which arguably makes these very expensive systems almost irrelevant to hospital-based clinical practice. It’s hard to tell whether they would be willing to trust a new approach.

However, if GE and Roche can pull off what they’re pitching, it might just provide enough value it might convince them. Certainly, creating a more flexible dashboard which integrates data and office workflows is a large step in the right direction. And it’s probably fair to say that nothing like this exists in the market right now (as they claim).

Again, while there’s no guaranteed way to build out useful technology, bringing a pharma giant and a health IT giant might give both sides a leg up. I wonder how many users and patients they have involved in their design process. Let’s see if they can back up their promises.

Hospital Mobile Strategy Still In Flux

Posted on January 8, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

The following is a look at how hospitals’ use of communication devices has changed since 2011, and what the patterns are now.  You might be surprised to read some of these data points since in some cases they defy conventional wisdom.

The researchers behind the study, communications tech provider Spok, Inc. surveyed about 300 healthcare professionals this year, and have tracked such issues since 2011. The report captures data on the major transitions in hospital mobile communications that have taken place since then.

For example, the report noted that in 2011, 84% of staffers received job-related alerts on pagers. Sixty-two percent are using wireless in-house phones, 61% desk phones, 77% email on their computers, 44% cell phones and 5% other devices.

Since then, mobile device usage in hospitals has changed significantly. For example, 77% of respondents said that their hospital supports smartphone use. The popularity of some devices has come and gone over time, including tablets and Wi-Fi phones (which are nonetheless used by 63% of facilities).

Perhaps the reason this popularity has risen and fallen is that hospitals are still finding it tricky to support mobile devices. The issues include supporting needed infrastructure for Wi-Fi coverage (45%), managing cellular coverage infrastructure (30%), maintaining data security (31%) and offering IT support for users (about 30%). Only 11% of respondents said they were not facing any of these concerns at present.

When the researchers asked the survey panel which channels were best for sharing clinical information in a hospital, not all cited contemporary mobile devices. Yes, smartphones did get the highest reliability rating, at 3.66 out of five points, but pagers, including encrypted pagers, were in second place with a rating of 3.20. Overhead announcements came in third at 2.91 and EHR apps at 2.39.

The data on hospitals and BYOD policies seemed counterintuitive as well. According to Spok, 88% of facilities supported some form of BYOD in 2014, or in other words, roughly 9 out of 10.  That percentage has fallen drastically, however, BYOD support hitting 59% this year.

Not surprisingly, clinicians are getting the most leeway when it comes to using their own devices on campus. In 2017, 90% of respondents said they allowed their clinicians to bring their own devices with them. Another 69% supported BYOD for administrators, 57% for nurses and 56% for IT staffers. Clearly, hospital leaders aren’t thrilled about supporting mobility unless it keeps clinical staff aligned with the facility.

To control this cacophony of devices, 30% said they were using enterprise mobility management solutions, 40% said they were evaluating such solutions and 30% said they had no plans to do so. Apparently, despite some changes in the devices being used, hospitals still aren’t sure who should have mobile tools, how to support them and what infrastructure they need to keep those devices lit up and useful.

New York Presbyterian brings ER to patients via Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit

Posted on November 3, 2017 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

After a year in operation, New York Presbyterian’s (NYP) Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit (MSTU) continues to be a shining example of how healthcare technology can be used to facilitate true patient-centered care.

“The MSTU program was started with the singular goal of reducing the disability resulting from stroke,” explains Dr Michael Lerario, Medical Director of NYP’s MSTU Program and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology at Weill Cornell Medicine. “There is a term we use when we talk about stroke: Time is Brain. Every minute that passes after blood flow is even partially cut off from the brain, 1.9 million brain cells die from the lack of oxygen. This loss can lead to severe cognitive and physical disability for patients.”

Two feet longer than a regular New York City ambulance, the MSTU houses a Samsung portable computer tomography (CT) scanner, a point-of-care laboratory, a complete mobile EHR station (with super-fast WiFi) and a Cisco tele-presence system. The MSTU is staffed by four team members who are specially trained:

  • 1 CT Technician
  • 1 Registered Nurse (RN)
  • 2 Paramedics

With this sophisticated equipment, the MSTU team is able to bring stroke treatment directly to patients where they are instead of waiting for the patient to be transported to the hospital’s ER. Those precious minutes can be the difference between a full recovery and months of rehabilitation (or permanent disability).

When a 911 call comes in, the operator quickly determines if it is a potential stoke situation using a predetermined set of criteria (Plerior referrs to them as “triggers”). This specific protocol was jointly developed by NYP and the New York Fire Department which handles all 911 calls. If the criteria are met, the MSTU is dispatched to the patient’s location.

Upon arrival, the MSTU team stabilizes the patient and quickly conducts a number of diagnostic tests using the equipment onboard: PT/INR test, hemoglobin test and a CT scan. The CT images are sent wirelessly in real-time to NYP’s PACS system where the on-call neurologist reviews the results with the MSTU’s RN via a tele-conference. Based on the scans and the onsite lab work, the neurologist and the onsite team can decide the best course of treatment.

If the scans show that the patient is suffering an ischemic stroke (an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain) and is not already taking anticoagulant medication, then tPA (tissue plasminogen activator – a clot dissolving medication) can immediately be administered. Often referred to as the “gold standard” of Ischemic Stroke Treatment, if tPA is administered quickly it significantly improves the chances for a full recovery.

“Right from the beginning we had complete buy-in and support from within our organization,” says Lerario. “The Neurology and Emergency Medical Services departments in particular were very excited about the MSTU program. They had seen the positive impact MSTU’s were having in Europe and the team wanted to bring that treatment to the people of New York City.”

In just one year of operation, the MSTU has been dispatched on 400+ calls and the response from patients has been universally positive. In fact, a number of cases have been highlighted as good news stories in the press including one about a famous Brazilian singer.

“It won’t be long before mobile stroke treatment will become the standard of care,” Lerario continues. “The benefits are now well documented and more and more people are becoming aware of the impact an MSTU can have on your quality of life following a stroke. People are starting to demand this type of care from their care providers.”

MSTUs are also fantastic for healthcare as a whole. It costs far less to operate an MSTU than it does to treat and rehabilitate patients who suffer disabilities because tPA was not administered quickly enough.

From a patient, provider and public perspective, New York Presbyterian’s MSTU is a winning combination of healthcare technology and patient-centered thinking.

RCM Tips And Tricks: To Collect More From Patients, Educate And Engage Them

Posted on November 1, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Hospitals face particularly difficult challenges when trying to collect on patient bills. When you mix complex pricing structures, varied contracts with health insurers and dizzying administrative issues, it’s hard to let patients know what they’re going to owe, much less collect it.

Luckily, RCM leaders can make major progress with patient collections if they adopt some established (but often neglected) strategies. In short, to collect more from patients you need to educate them about healthcare financial issues, develop a trusted relationship with them and make it easy for them to pay that bill.

As a thought exercise, let’s assume that most patients want to pay their bills, but may need encouragement. While nobody can collect money from consumers that refuse to pay, you can help the willing ones prepare for the bills they’ll get. You can teach them to understand their coverage. In some cases, you can collect balances ahead of time. Toss in some smart patient engagement strategies and you could be golden.

What will that look like in practice? Check out this list of steps hospitals can take to improve RCM results directly, courtesy of a survey of hospital execs by Becker’s Hospital Review:

  • Sixty-five percent suggested that telling patients the amount due before they come to an appointment would be helpful.
  • Fifty-two percent believe that having more data on patients’ likelihood to pay could improve patient collections results
  • Forty-seven percent said that speaking to clients in different ways depending on the state of the finances would help improve patient collections.
  • Forty-two percent said that offering customers payment plans would be valuable.

Of course, you won’t be doing this in a vacuum, and some of the trends affecting patient financial responsibility are beyond your control. For example, unless something changes dramatically, many patients will continue to struggle with high-deductible health coverage. Nobody – except the health insurers – likes this state of affairs, but it’s a fact of life.

Also, it’s worth noting that boosting patient engagement can be complicated and labor-intensive. To connect with patients effectively, hospitals will need to fight a war on many fronts. That means not only speaking to patients in ways they understand, but also offering well-thought-out hospital-branded mobile apps, an effective online presence and more. You’ll want to do whatever it takes to foster patient loyalty and trust. Though this may sound intimidating, you’ll like the results you get.

However, there are a few strategies that hospitals can implement relatively quickly. In fact, the Becker’s survey results suggest that hospitals already know what they need to do — but haven’t gotten around to it.

For example, 87% of hospital respondents said they had a problem with collecting co-pays before appointments, 85% said knowing how much patients can pay was important, and 76% of respondents said that simplifying bills was a problem for them. While it may be harder than it looks to execute on these strategies, it certainly isn’t impossible.

Predictive Analytics Will Save Hospitals, Not IT Investment

Posted on October 27, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Most hospitals run on very slim operating margins. In fact, not-for-profit hospitals’ mean operating margins fell from 3.4% in fiscal year 2015 to 2.7% in fiscal year 2016, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

To turn this around, many seem to be pinning their hopes on better technology, spending between 25% and 35% of their capital budget on IT infrastructure investment. But that strategy might backfire, suggests an article appearing in the Harvard Business Review.

Author Sanjeev Agrawal, who serves as president of healthcare and chief marketing officer at healthcare predictive analytics company LeanTaaS, argues that throwing more money at IT won’t help hospitals become more profitable. “Healthcare providers can’t keep spending their way out of trouble by investing in more and more infrastructure,” he writes. “Instead, they must optimize the use of the assets currently in place.”

Instead, he suggests, hospitals need to go the way of retail, transportation and airlines, industries which also manage complex operations and work on narrow margins. Those industries have improved their performance by improving their data science capabilities.

“[Hospitals] need to create an operational ‘air traffic control’ for their hospitals — a centralized command-and-control capability that is predictive, learns continually, and uses optimization algorithms and artificial intelligence to deliver prescriptive recommendations throughout the system,” Agrawal says.

Agrawal predicts that hospitals will use predictive analytics to refine their key care-delivery processes, including resource utilization, staff schedules, and patient admits and discharges. If they get it right, they’ll meet many of their goals, including better patient throughput, lower costs and more efficient asset utilization.

For example, he notes, hospitals can optimize OR utilization, which brings in 65% of revenue at most hospitals. Rather than relying on current block-scheduling techniques, which have been proven to be inefficient, hospitals can use predictive analytics and mobile apps to give surgeons more control of OR scheduling.

Another area ripe for process improvements is the emergency department. As Agrawal notes, hospitals can avoid bottlenecks by using analytics to define the most efficient order for ED activities. Not only can this improve hospital finances, it can improve patient satisfaction, he says.

Of course, Agrawal works for a predictive analytics vendor, which makes him more than a little bit biased. But on the other hand, I doubt any of us would disagree that adopting predictive analytics strategies is the next frontier for hospitals.

After all, having spent many billions collectively to implement EMRs, hospitals have created enormous data stores, and few would argue that it’s high time to leverage them. For example, if they want to adopt population health management – and it’s a question of when, not if — they’ve got to use these tools to reduce outcome variations and improve quality of cost across populations. Also, while the deep-pocketed hospitals are doing it first, it seems likely that over time, virtually every hospital will use EMR data to streamline operations as well.

The question is, will vendors like LeanTaaS take a leading role in this transition, or will hospital IT leaders know what they want to do?  At this stage, it’s anyone’s guess.