What happens when COVID and cancer treatment collide?

For 73 year-old Bonna Nelson, 2020’s unpredictability took her from a routine annual mammogram to sitting in a breast cancer surgeon’s office within days.

Receiving her diagnosis in June, Nelson initially sought care at another University of Maryland Medical System affiliate before transitioning 90 minutes away across the Chesapeake Bay for further treatment. Now in radiation therapy at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, Nelson chose to fast-track her treatment because of the pandemic, not in spite of it.

“Who knows what the future may bring,” she says. “I wanted to undergo treatment while the doctors and facilities were available and open to treat.”

A few months earlier, LaVera Davis, a patient at the NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center in Illinois, had a mastectomy nearly 18 years after her first bout of cancer.

Speaking about her experiences handling both the pandemic and her treatment, she says “it’s a strange experience to constantly wonder – even sitting in a waiting room — if the chair had been cleaned and if I had done what I needed to do before arriving in order to protect others.”

When everything comes under scrutiny

With a cancer diagnosis, there’s always an added sense of caution when looking at actions once thought as normal.“It changes you. It changes the way you think forever,” says 50 year-old breast cancer patient Lisa Taylor.

Under current conditions combined with the risk of being immunocompromised, uncertainty becomes amplified a thousand times over.

The inability to control your surroundings when you leave the house is one thing. In any other time, seeing loved ones would’ve helped comfort patients, but not this year.

Taylor, diagnosed at the beginning of September, went to visit her teenager at university before starting radiation therapy. When she returned, she got a call saying she might have come into contact with COVID-19 on the visit, putting the schedule of her treatment plan up in the air.

Easing the burden on anxious patients

The pandemic has seen second and third waves in the U.S. But, as more time passes, we’re normalizing rather than cracking down. As a result, 67 percent of respondents in a survey from The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network felt added amounts of anxiety towards keeping themselves safe as some social distancing measures were relaxed.

In that sense, telehealth has helped health systems give cancer patients another option for care. “It’s the best PPE out there!” says Dr. Jeff Metts, COVID-19 Incident Commander for Cancer Treatment Centers of America and Chief of Medicine for the Atlanta branch.

As opposed to in-person treatment, where stricter visitor regulations have been set, telehealth has also allowed patients to feel supported during visits.
“The stress of cancer treatment can cause someone to forget the conversation you had only moments before” says Metts. Because of this, Nelson says, “it was important to prepare for those appointments as I do for in-office visits. I prepared questions in advance and had my husband join me as a second set of ears and to take notes.”

Delays in care

Elective surgery delays have caused huge backlogs as OR volume dropped close to 35 percent from March to June. When Davis’ mastectomy date was pushed from March to April, she notes her doctor advocating for her to get the date she did as something that helped reassure her during this process.

Early detection

Had Lisa Taylor been scheduled for her annual mammogram earlier in the pandemic, she would’ve strongly considered delaying it, citing her almost-canceled annual physical in May. Her past mammograms had all been clean. How likely was it that this year would be any different?

Thankfully, she went in on time for her mammogram scheduled for July. A 6 millimeter mass was found, biopsied, and later confirmed to be early stage breast cancer. The tumor had an Oncotype DX test score of 0, meaning skipping chemotherapy was actually the safer option. Her friend, who happens to be a breast cancer surgeon, called her “a poster child for early detection.”

The shadow curve

Then, there’s the opposite scenario. The pandemic caused screening rates and appointment volumes to plummet across specialties. Metts believes this is where the “shadow curve” comes into play.

Coined by CTCA President and CEO Pat Basu, the term describes the results of undiagnosed and untreated diseases due to missed preventive care. “This means more cancers going undetected and more that will become fatal,” says Metts.

According to the same survey as above by the ACS CAN, nearly 80 percent of patients receiving active treatment said they experienced delays in their health care. Whether they know it or not, their cancer could return or progress, with 20 percent of respondents sharing this concern.

Getting used to new protocols

A breast cancer diagnosis is already difficult in its own right, but during a pandemic? An even greater challenge to contend with amidst all the changes to treatment protocols.

Taylor mentions confusion caused by new pricing schemes for telehealth services, as well as misunderstandings between her and hospital staff about whether her husband could wait with her before and in-between appointments.

Sometimes, Nelson says it’s as simple as not being able to hear and understand conversations when wearing masks.

Other times, it’s the mundanity of “answering the same questions every single time about being tested, travel, contact,” says Davis.

Speaking of tests, in comes the infamous COVID-19 nasal swab test to top off all the other cancer-related ones. “I can’t ever have that done again,” Taylor says vehemently.

The social aspect of cancer treatment

Empathy and human connection have long been shown to positively impact healing.

Despite Nelson, Davis, and Taylor all taking a breast cancer diagnosis in stride, all also discussed how the lack of an in-person social network has challenged them throughout the course of their respective treatments.

In any other situation, they would be able to go out with friends to a movie and get their mind off things for sometime. They would’ve had visitors at their bedsides, holding their hands.

“My chemotherapy was different this time around,” says Davis. “Because of social distancing, I communicated less with other patients than during the last time I went through this when we talked more…and hugged.” ♥

How better digital communication can improve population health management

Looking to part with the idea of “sick care,” a growing number of hospitals prioritize the proactive approach — population health management.

We owe a majority of our health status to factors outside the domain of traditional medical care. Social determinants of health, or SDOH, include environment, race, gender,  genetics, education, and income. 

CHCs and FQHCs have always been intrinsically aligned with population health management. For other healthcare organizations, it’s taken time for mindsets to shift. 

Value-based care incentivizes a proactive approach

With the rise of value-based care contracts, reimbursement is tied to patient outcomes rather than fee for service. This incentivizes proactive approaches — the foundation of population health. For example, closing gaps in care could save health systems up to 500 billion dollars a year

Unfortunately, the sickest five percent of Americans contribute to 50 percent of total healthcare costs because they don’t receive the care they need at the right time.  Earlier intervention for a large majority of these sick patients will improve outcomes and reduce costs. 

Digital communication plays a key role in patient outreach and engagement for population health management strategies. 

Identify at-risk groups

In order to address gaps in care, health systems must identify vulnerable groups based on population health risk factors by optimizing the data stored in the EHR. With the help of a patient communication hub that integrates with the EHR, specific gaps in care can be found and targeted through personalized patient outreach.

For example, use data to identify patients who are not up to date on vaccinations and create targeted population health message campaigns around receiving vaccinations to close the gap in care.  

Help patients manage their care 

Texting has established itself as a flexible, convenient, and effective way to engage patients in their care. Especially for chronic care management and treatment plan adherence, texting has the power to educate, inform, support, and guide patients in their health care journeys. Similar to immunizations, texting can promote population health and address medication non-adherence, low preventive screening rates, and improvements in chronic condition risk factors. 

A 2017 study from researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found conversational messaging improved the rate of self-reported medication adherence. Patients received reminders to take medications and were prompted to explain reasons for missed doses. If problems arose, providers could triage the situation in real-time. 

Increase access through transportation 

Some patients can’t receive care because they just can’t get to it. Transportation issues, including lack of a vehicle, contribute to nearly 30 percent of no shows. As a result, more than 3.6 million individuals forego medical care each year, according to the American Hospital Association. This particularly affects the elderly, who listed transportation as the third most common barrier to accessing health services. 

Help patients get to the door by arranging the ride through a ride-share program. With a patient communication platform, automation allows patients to request and coordinate a ride all via text.  

Leverage telehealth

Telehealth increases access to care while reducing ER visits, rehospitalizations, and the total cost of care. For example, Frederick Memorial Hospital created a telehealth program geared toward population health improvement, piloting it on a group of 150 high-risk patients with chronic conditions. Within two years, the program cut ER visits and the cost of care for program participants by half and reduced rehospitalizations by 90 percent. 

The importance of reducing unnecessary ED utilizations in population health management can’t be understated. Patients continuously finding themselves in in-patient settings and ERs drive up the cost of healthcare. Preventable ED visits amounted to 8.3 billion dollars as of 2019, an increase of nearly four billion dollars since 2010. Increased readmissions and ER utilization also display a decline in health outcomes rather than an improvement — something value-based care won’t reward. 

Engage patients post-discharge

Thirty-day hospital readmissions have come to the forefront as a value-based care outcome metric. Research shows that when patient activation measure (PAM) scores — a way to assess patient engagement — are higher, the odds of hospital utilization within 30 days of discharge decreased by 18 percent. 

Lower stages of PAM indicate patients do not feel an active role is important in their health care and are not confident in their knowledge to make health-enabling decisions. Giving patients an avenue to ask their questions and receive any education, support, or guidance needed during recovery periods can improve PAM and hospital readmissions as well. 

At WELL, we believe digital patient communication is the key to better population health management. 

6 strategies to maximize digital health solutions

Physician use of digital telehealth solutions has increased by 167 percent in the last 2 years, a Merrit Hawkins survey finds. 

Let’s be clear: telehealth technology did, in fact, exist before 2020. But nothing pushes people to get on a bandwagon quite like a raging pandemic. Wariness of the technological lift fizzled as the necessity to serve patients and recover revenue came to the forefront. Combined with FCC grants and relaxed reimbursement regulations, digital telehealth solutions emerged as a clear answer to new demands placed on healthcare delivery. 

With no signs of the pandemic ending in the U.S., multiple reports show telehealth — poised to be a $250B industry — is here to stay.  As a result, more and more health systems are looking to implement a long-term telehealth solution. While this is currently happening because of immediate needs, telehealth’s versatile uses continue to grow. 

Each telehealth strategy should be different depending on the needs of the health system. Part of this is also about picking the right technology out of the many existing competitors. 

In order to make the most of this service for both you and your patients, consider these six strategies: 

Understand your patient population

It would be a shame to make a service available only for patients not to utilize it. Understand your patients and what they value. 

For example, successful telehealth adoption might require other complementary services or information such as language translation assistance. Providing support staff such as patient navigators may be eligible for reimbursement depending on the insurer and type of health system. 

For patients who lack wifi or webcams, some health systems allow devices to be used by appointment in clinic parking lots with free wifi hotspots.  

When live video isn’t possible and language barriers are a problem, store-and-forward (asynchronous) telehealth may be more suitable — and cheaper — for cases that aren’t urgent. 

Similarly, the needs of a small private practice doing mostly routine preventive care visits (well-checks, annual physicals, etc.) will differ greatly from a large health system servicing out-patient, in-patient, and emergency care. 

Make an outreach plan

On the note of patient adoption, inform patients of their options to receive telehealth services, especially if they weren’t easily accessible prior to the pandemic. One way to do this is through connected care services that can reach a large number of patients at once through text or email.  

Aim for seamless staff workflows

There will always be challenges when implementing new technology, but it doesn’t hurt to look for something that will cause minimal hassle. After all, maximizing telehealth means it doesn’t create more trouble than it’s worth in the long run.

When demoing products, look for ease-of-use. Specifically, seek out digital telehealth solutions that unify workflows. This means it integrates with your EHR and existing third-party vendors. 

Consider in-house telehealth support if possible

A recent KLAS report found that many health systems adopted telehealth solutions too quickly, without properly vetting them. This coupled with the existing challenges of successful implementations required significant tech support.

Additionally, daily operations such as data handling and claims are of timely importance as reimbursement under the CARES Act shifts.

Be warned of all-in-one digital telehealth solutions

It’s natural to want a one-stop shop when it comes to healthcare technology such as telehealth and supporting functions. In this case, quality usually always beats quantity.

Healthcare IT vendors who hastily added telehealth to their digital offerings performed poorly in the KLAS report. Instead, choose a product dedicated solely to providing the best telehealth experience possible

All-in-one solutions tend to compromise user experience and encounter frequent system crashes as the volume of patient visits increase

Look at the solution, but also at the company

Consider the company behind the solution to determine whether a long-term relationship is possible: 

  • Does it have tech and customer support teams? 
  • Do they explain their product in an easily understandable way? 
  • Does it provide data insights on how to reach goals and improve upon them? 

At WELL, we strive to help you make the most of your digital telehealth solution

Our dedicated patient communication hub enables seamless automated message delivery to maximize the value of existing digital telehealth solutions. 

WELL’s Telehealth Integration informs, reminds, confirms, coordinates, and links to patient appointments. This eliminates manual outreach and data entry by staff and reduces no-shows through conversion from in-person to virtual appointments. 

Patient centered communication in the digital age

Up to 80 percent of patient expectations aren’t met during doctor visits. Digital patient-centered communication is trying to fix that.

The average medical appointment lasts less than 11 minutes. And providers interrupt patients an average of 11 seconds after they begin speaking. Not surprisingly, patient-centered communication takes a back seat and concerns linger past the appointment. 

What is patient-centered communication?

Like the name suggests, patient-centered communication correlates with patient-centered care — one of the six elements of high-quality health care outlined by the Institute of Medicine. It aims to “acknowledge the whole person,” similar to the reasoning behind holistic medicine. This includes personality, history, lifestyle choices, and social context. As a result, both patients and providers gain a shared understanding of treatment goals. 

But how is that possible in just 11 minutes? 

Digital patient centered communication

More and more healthcare interactions happen digitally. Removing the personal touch of face-to-face conversations may seem counterintuitive to the reasoning behind patient centered communication — actively engaging patients in their own care. But, it can address all of the unanswered questions that stem from lack of time. 

Even if they don’t say so during in-person treatment, patients always have questions. To meet this need, many patient interactions now happen electronically outside of appointment times through patient portals and patient-centered communication software

Numerous studies show positive patient communication correlates with higher patient satisfaction, improved health outcomes, and better bottom lines

A new avenue to connect

A 2017 Patient Education and Counseling study examined the content and sentiment of 193 messages from 58 message threads between patients and providers in a large health system. It found that while digital patient-centered communication had the potential to strengthen relationships, less than half of provider messages used language that would support this. 

Digital messaging can fill the void of increasingly short appointment times and facilitate communication. For health systems to not get left behind in the technological or customer service race, they need to know how to transfer patient-centered communication from the office to the screen. 

Make it easy for patients to open up

Some health concerns are embarrassing to discuss with someone you don’t know personally. But when patients don’t share, providers have a tough time accurately diagnosing illnesses and advising patients. However, research has shown that digital encounters — essentially having a screen as a stand in — help ease shyness and promote openness in patients who may have struggled in in-person healthcare settings.  

Giving patients the chance to ask questions digitally allows you to clue into concerns unsaid during a normal appointment. 

For example, if a patient wants to switch cholesterol management medications because of side-effects, use patient-centered communication to gauge personal preferences. Then, ask if the patient has another medication in mind already. If not, facilitate a conversation about finding alternatives that lessen the impact of the side-effect. 

Provide context and clarity

Sometimes all patients want is a little context. For instance, patients often ask what their lab results mean. An interpretation may be all they’re looking for. Providing clarity on care management in relation to daily lifestyle choices, such as eating habits, goes a step further toward patient-centered communication that proactively addresses future concerns. 

Even digital communication can show empathy

When a patient sends a text message, they deserve an answer fitting of the emotions it contained. For example, if the message shows a patient in distress, they deserve a personalized response. When a patient says, “Help, my mom’s meds aren’t working,” you wouldn’t respond, “Please schedule an appointment by clicking here.” Not very empathetic! Bidirectional texting enables patients to reach out with real concerns and staff to respond with compassion. 

It may take an extra few moments, but responding with encouraging and supportive language can make all the difference to struggling patients. In fact, several studies have shown compassion can improve treatment adherence and decrease medical procedure recovery times. There’s no reason this shouldn’t also apply to digital interactions as well.  

Patient-centered communication with WELL

At WELL, we believe that technology can revolutionize patient communication for the better. Our conversational messaging platform gives patients a voice in their care while creating lasting connections between health systems and their patients.

Reassure patients with touchless patient intake

 

 

Health system revenue recovery hinges on changes to the conventional patient intake process.

In late March, medical appointment cancellations reached up to 80 percent. Now, months after the first lockdown orders, more than half of US health systems are still under 75 percent of pre-pandemic patient volume, finds an MGMA Stat poll. 

Health systems need a new approach to recover even some of the over $200 billion dollars and counting in lost revenue from COVID-19

Patients continue to delay care

Patients fear contracting and transmitting COVID-19 while waiting in a waiting room or elsewhere in the healthcare facility.  

Just 31 percent of patients feel comfortable about the idea of going back to the doctor, finds a survey conducted by the Alliance of Community Health Plans. In addition, nearly 40 percent of respondents planned to delay future care as of May 2020. 

Unfortunately, delaying care results in disastrous outcomes. On the population level, preventive care measures — think vaccines, screenings, and annual physicals — dropped by as much as 94 percent in some specialties. The burden of this could be catastrophic as more cancers get diagnosed later and measles cases surpass normal levels. 

Touchless patient intake

In order to ensure social distancing guidelines are met, many health systems have asked patients to wait outside for their appointments. But without a system for managing patient intake, this creates operational inefficiencies as nurses and receptionists have to run in and out to just to keep the patient intake process going. 

But waiting outside the waiting room has potential. “If we can allow people to remain in their vehicles instead of congregating in waiting rooms, we can adhere to that social distancing to help decrease the community spread,” says Jane Arnold, Senior Vice President of Hospital Operations at UnityPoint Health

It simply requires automated patient communication. 

Virtual waiting room to facilitate touchless patient intake

What health systems need right now is a platform built to streamline the process of patients waiting outside of the waiting room when they arrive for appointments. WELL’s virtual waiting room feature is designed to do just that. 

“That is a huge benefit of WELL,”  says Dr. Cibu Panicker, a family medicine practitioner at Vista Community Clinic. “Because that’s really the only way we’re going to be able to treat patients while reducing the actual contact with other people.” 

The virtual waiting room allows patients to text their provider upon arrival and then wait safely in their car until the provider is ready to see them. It also accommodates digital patient intake forms and touchless payment options.

How it works

  • An hour before the appointment, the patient receives a reminder message with instructions to wear a mask and to text when they arrive. 
  • When the patient arrives at the provider location, they send a text indicating they have arrived. 
  • The provider sends an automated confirmation response, along with a link to patient intake forms if needed. 
  • Co-pays and balances can also be settled via text message through electronic payment options
  • The patient waits in their car until they receive a text message indicating that a room is ready.

At WELL, we make it our mission to help you help your patients

With a touchless patient intake process, health systems can progress with revenue recovery efforts while also ensuring patients are as safe as possible. 

7 communication strategies to address gaps in care

 

Gaps in care cost patient lives and health systems close to 500 billion dollars a year.

A gap in care is the discrepancy between recommended best practices and the care that is actually provided — essentially, when patients don’t get the care they need.

For example, poor treatment adherence is a well-established gap in care. And medication non-adherence accounts for approximately 125,000 deaths in the U.S. per year.

Innovative verbal and digital communication practices can help health systems bridge this and other gaps in care.

1. Frame risk communications

The information patients receive about their health impacts the decisions they make — such as whether to take their medication as prescribed or attend a routine screening. Hence, deliberate communication around risk can help reduce gaps in care.

Dr. John Paling, founder of The Risk Communication Institute, suggests the following approaches for framing risk communications:

  • Statistics are better than vague terms. Instead of telling a patient they are at a “high risk for liver disease,” say, “Roughly half of men who drink more than 8 ounces of alcohol a day for 20 years develop cirrhosis.”
  • Present data with visual aides. Sometimes it’s easier for a patient to visualize their risk of developing a condition if they see a line graph showing a steady risk increase associated with their behavior.
  • Be consistent when comparing. For example, don’t mix fractions and percentages, and use absolute numbers.
  • Give both sides of a statistic, such as chances of survival and chances of death.

2. Incentivize good health with patient-centric communication

Patient-centric communication touches on a patient’s personal values beyond their health, such as family, self-esteem, and personal growth.

A patient-centric communication style may involve motivational interviewing strategies. Use the OARS acronym: Open-ended questions, Affirmations, Reflective listening, and Summarizing. This helps nurture potentially straying patients by fostering more empathetic patient-provider interactions.

This style of communication can help close gaps in care. In patients whose providers received patient-centric communication training, odds of adherence increased by more than 150 percent.

Consider a patient who takes medication for a heart problem. They may say, “I can never remember to take my pills.” The doctor can then affirm the patient is capable of taking control of their health, engage in reflective listening, and suggest a routine that easily fits into their lifestyle.

3. Use texting to reduce gaps in care

Text messages can help healthcare organizations bridge gaps in care in two ways. First, texting patients can improve treatment adherence. For example, research on patients with coronary heart disease showed daily text reminders increased medication adherence by almost 3x and improved blood pressure outcomes. Second, text message campaigns can be sent to specific patient population groups. The messages can prompt them to enroll in risk-based programs or provide patient education specific to their condition.

4. Improve patient communication with technology

Health systems miss more than 30 percent of all phone calls. And it’s estimated less than 20 percent of those callers leave a voicemail. This leads to information gaps, no-shows, and negative phone experiences. In the short term, it may cause patients to reevaluate where they get their health care. There are two consequences to this: The health system loses a patient. And the patient experiences a gap in care as they look for a new provider and wait for an appointment or potentially neglect care altogether.

Reduce hold times and improve show rates by implementing a conversational text messaging patient communication platform. Four out of five smartphone owners want their healthcare providers to text them, and 90 percent of texts are read within three minutes. Texting patients — and making sure they can text you back — eliminates the frustration and missed calls of relying on the phone.

5. Guide the conversation

More and more patients are doing online research prior to doctors appointments. While online information is a great source of patient empowerment, it can also cause tension and disagreements with providers when it comes to concluding a diagnosis or treatment plan.

Steer patients in the right direction by sending patient education by text message. Patients will feel at ease openly discussing the topics at hand, and not blindside providers with questions or concerns.

6. Reduce no-shows to reduce gaps in care

Numerous studies have shown that some form of appointment reminder, especially text messages, helps close gaps in care caused by appointment non-adherence.  In a 2016 study including 186 pediatric clinic patients or parents, those who received a single text reminder were 15 percent more likely to attend their appointment. WELL clients have seen even greater improvements with customized cadence of appointment reminders. For example, Eisenhower Health reduced its no-show rate by 71 percent.

A customizable appointment reminder system can help your patients get in the door while also preparing them with relevant pre-appointment instructions.

7. Coordinate care with unified communication

On a single day, a patient with a chronic condition may have an appointment with a specialist, get a scan, have blood work done, pick up a prescription, and receive a patient survey. They could receive multiple calls and messages from different numbers about these services. The result is confusion and “message fatigue” — contributing to gaps in care.

Instead, ensure patients receive all correspondence in a single text thread. Send from a secure, trusted source — a number from within your health system. Not only does this build trust — patients know who’s texting them — but also it allows you to combine messages into a single text. The better patients understand their care, the easier it is for them to follow through. ♥

Patient outreach solutions in a COVID era

 

Before the pandemic, health systems depended on call centers to manage a significant volume of patient outreach.

In response to rising expectations around communication, 62 percent of healthcare organizations had created call center strategies as of 2018. Call center representatives managed patient outreach, scheduling, and other administrative tasks with continued reliance on phone calls as the primary means of communication.

In March and early April 2020, COVID-19 put those patient outreach solutions to the test. Health systems and patients cancelled a staggering 80 percent of appointments, resulting in thousands of phone calls per week. At the same time, overburdened call center staff and even providers had their plates full trying to reach patients with COVID test results. Further jamming up phone lines, call centers fielded a glut of inbound calls from patients concerned about the virus. Frustrated patients waited on hold or for a call back for hours.

Patient outreach solutions built around the call center cracked under the pressure of a global pandemic.

For effective patient outreach solutions, listen first

For patient outreach to be effective, you have to listen to patients first. How do they want to receive outreach? What are their preferences and behaviors?

For example, four out of five people prefer to communicate with their healthcare provider via text message. But the vast majority of healthcare communication still takes place over the phone.

“Millennials especially have grown up in an age of consumer-grade digital experiences. They cannot understand why healthcare would be different,” says Deb Gordon, author of the book “The Healthcare Consumer’s Manifesto: How to Get the Most for Your Money.”

Because patients are consumers of healthcare, knowing what drives them should be reflected in health systems’ patient outreach solutions.

Technology should strike the right balance between innovation and ease-of-use. By nature, texting hits that sweet spot, and it’s exactly what consumers want from healthcare, both young and old.

Make it unified

Patients are skeptical. They want to know messages are actually coming from their provider. When patients receive a random message from a number they don’t recognize, they’re probably going to ignore it. For example, outreach won’t be effective if patients receive it separately from a forms vendor, a billing department, and front desk staff — all from a different numbers.

Sending patient outreach from one number within the health system eases these concerns. Whether you’re sending survey forms or educational video links about COVID-19, make sure they come from the same trusted source.

Make it personal

Patient outreach before an appointment should reflect the catered experience a patient will receive during the appointment. For example, use first names in your written communication instead of “dear patient.”

Ideally, patients should be able to text back their thoughts and concerns — not “Y for Yes, and N for No.” Patients don’t like robo-calls and texts that don’t allow them to intelligently respond. In a time where it’s only natural to have a thousand questions, patients want conversational messaging. It lets them ask questions about scheduling, billing, or that nagging cough and get the answers they need quickly.

Especially during COVID, patients need their concerns addressed.

Send targeted message campaigns based on patient characteristics

Tailor patient outreach to specific populations by ensuring communication platforms are synced with the EHR. This allows you to target select groups of patients based on screenings or vaccinations needed or their current conditions.

During the early weeks of the pandemic, WELL client, Community Memorial Health System (CMHS), sent texts to patients enrolled in its chronic care management program. The messages informed them about their care options during the pandemic.

Patients in this group needed care but were on state-mandated lockdown orders. “They were told to stay home, and there was significant concern that their medical conditions may worsen without timely interaction with their medical team,” said Kristine Supple, CMHS Director of Population Health.

“Patients felt more anxious because of the access issue. And what we’ve heard over and over again is how much they’ve appreciated the connection.”

At CMHS, patient outreach solutions involve proactive communication from nurses to patients in the program. “It’s the proactive approach to patient care,” Supple said.

Send broadcast messages to groups

In addition to being personal, patient outreach solutions can also be used to reach large groups.

These should be short, concise, and contain the appropriate information. For patients who have appointments on the books, broadcasts can give them last-minute updates about changes at the hospital. For example, text instructions on what entrance to use, the importance of wearing a mask to your visit, or a COVID-19 symptom checker the day prior to an appointment.

Patient education

Patient outreach solutions can also be used to send patient education. Vista Community Clinic uses WELL campaigns to send educational materials to patients, combining personal communication with interactive online health resources. Sending videos discussing safety measures healthcare facilities are taking during COVID-19 or information on virtual care options, for example, is particularly important to restore trust in health systems as patients consider returning to in-person care.

Make it scalable

COVID-19 has highlighted the value of scalable patient outreach solutions. For example, Houston Methodist increased telehealth visits by 50x during the pandemic and sent over 260,000 texts in a single day to inform patients of care options. Similarly, CMHS ramped up its chronic care management program in under two weeks. Patient outreach solutions require a proven ability to scale quickly.♥

WELL Health recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in Healthcare in 2020

WELL Health has been selected by Modern Healthcare as one of the 2020 Best Places to Work in Healthcare.

The Best Places to Work in Healthcare award program identifies and recognizes outstanding employers in the healthcare industry nationwide. Modern Healthcare partners with the Best Companies Group on the assessment process, which includes an extensive employee survey.

“It has been an especially trying year for the world, and healthcare in particular as COVID-19 ravages our communities and your workplaces,” said Aurora Aguilar, Modern Healthcare’s editor. “But the organizations recognized on this year’s list rose to the top and continued to be a source of strength for their teammates.”

“We congratulate the Best Places to Work in Healthcare for continuing to serve their workforce and communities during such an unprecedented time.”

WELL Health is ranked 56 on the Best Places list and was celebrated at the 2020 Best Places to Work in Healthcare awards gala virtually on October 8 in conjunction with the Workplace of the Future Conference.

“We strive to create an inclusive, collaborative workplace where innovation thrives and employees love coming to work every day,” said Emily Flinn, WELL human resources lead. “Being named to the Best Places to Work in Healthcare list alongside so many excellent organizations is a testament to that effort.”

What makes WELL such a great place to work? We asked some of our teammates across the organization for their take.

Mission

“I really like the mission — the way WELL is addressing communication in healthcare. I like the opportunity to solve one of the worst journeys that exists — the patient journey. It’s the pinnacle of journeys to solve because it affects everybody when they are the most vulnerable.” — Tom McIntyre, VP of Operations.

Impact

“While my initial goal was to work in clinical medicine, in my current position I feel I have an immediate impact on many patient lives, and that’s rewarding. I’m excited to come to work every day because our team strives to make going to the doctor as easy as meeting up with a friend.”— Grant Lilya, Client Success Manager

Opportunity

“The great thing about being at an early-stage company is that you can play a large part in shaping how the product works and see your ideas make their way into the product. There was a lot of freedom and opportunity to wear many hats while we rapidly prototyped and expanded.” — Zack Leman, Senior Backend Engineer

Collaboration

“My co-workers’ willingness to help is so refreshing. It’s great to go and grab a coffee with someone and also know they have my back at work too.” — Alexx Hoholik, Client Success Executive.

Join the team!

We are always eager to bring new people into the company who share our values. If this sounds like you, head on over to our WELL careers page to see current open positions! ♥

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