Unified patient communication is critical in today’s increasingly digital healthcare world. Inefficient communication can cost a hospital almost $2M due to time wasted according to a Ponemon study conducted in 2014. It is imperative that healthcare organizations implement an effective and efficient unified patient communication platform not only to save money, but also to provide better patient care.
Here are 3 best practices to follow whether implementing for the first time or moving to a new platform:
Balanced stakeholder engagement
When planning an install, make sure impacted stakeholders have a voice while also keeping the project core team a manageable size to keep decision making effective and on-track.
The core team should reflect all stakeholder perspectives and include representatives that represent the following groups:
- Clinical support staff
- Call center/ reception
- IT / IS — specifically EHR and integrations specialist
- Compliance/ legal
Begin with the end in mind
To prevent rework and delays during the install, begin with well-defined goals for the platform and understand how it will be integrated into existing workflows. This also is the best time to evaluate current workflows, policies and procedures for modifications given the new tools.
Understand all the decisions that need to be made
Design / install:
- Utilize name and DOB as the patient identification authentication mechanism
- Prioritize interface build, as design can influence workflow and build decisions while drastically reducing the manual intervention and workflow challenges after go-live
- Big bang go-lives reduce dual documentation while simultaneously decreasing change fatigue. If a go-live is not feasible, prioritize features with the highest potential ROI like:
- Appointment reminders
- Non-clinical bi-directional messaging
- Clinical bi-directional messaging
- Internal communication should begin early with a focus on workflow changes, project timeline and project objectives
- External communication should include:
- Notifying patients of any new phone numbers they will be receiving messages from
- Validation of patients’ communication platform preferences (e.g., text, email, or phone)
- Notifying external referral partners and pharmacies of upcoming change
Define metrics of success (KPIs)
- Patient utilization
- Create messaging templates for each team based on frequently asked questions to increase communication speed and follow standards.
- Convert existing patient forms into a fillable format for patient self-service. This will also enable information on the forms to be auto-populated into the EHR.
Patient communication office hours
- Align the office hours of the platform and out of office replies with messaging on your phone answering system.
- Provide second screens at each workstation for dual use of platform and EHR.
- Hardware needs to be ordered early, as most is on back order, even if not, it can still take ~6 weeks to arrive
- Utilize a train-the-trainer approach
- Create recorded training modules for each step of the workflow to enable easy updating of materials and ease training for new hires
- Add platform access and training to the onboarding plan for new employee
- Plan for manual reminder calls to patients with appointments (on the day following go-live) to eliminate duplicate reminders
- Turn on the system the night prior to the go live date after the last scheduled appointment so there is a clear cut ove
By considering these best practices, healthcare organizations can avoid wasted time and install a unified patient communications software that will stick.
Nick Loftin, Director of Virtual Care, brings a breadth of healthcare IT experience and skills to his new role, including Epic analyst and trainer certifications. He has successfully led the implementation of telehealth and patient communication platforms at more than 500 sites around the country. As a telehealth and secure communication expert, Loftin will lead telehealth planning, product selection, implementation, EHR integration, workflow optimization and technical support.