Patient Satisfaction

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Meeting Consumer Expectations in Healthcare

We could talk about this all day, and we do! We’re glad to see healthcare executives start to take ownership of the digital experience, and understand that consumer and patient engagement is key to outcome success.

Consumer expectations are indeed hitting healthcare – hard. Patients are no longer shy about telling physicians and payers what they want and how much they’re willing to pay for it. While these expectations can seem overwhelming to those insiders who have long become accustomed to healthcare’s glacial pace, we shouldn’t be discouraged. These greater expectations can indeed be met, provided we take the time to develop and offer physicians and patients tools that meet their needs and fit their workflows.

Here’s the latest take on this topic from HISTalk

 

Posted in: Healthcare transformation, patient engagement, Patient Satisfaction

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Patient Experience Versus Patient Engagement

As a volunteer session reviewer for the Patient and Consumer Engagement track for HIMSS 2018, I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between engagement and experience, and also what it means to deliver connected health. While Wellpepper is a platform for patient engagement, a session based on Boston University’s study using Wellpepper with people with Parkinson disease actually suited the definition of Connected Health better and was submitted in that track.

As I’ve been reviewing sessions submissions for the track, I noticed that quite a few focus on patient experience rather than engagement. The difference really is about commitment and action. Patient experience is what happens when someone engages with a health system or physician office. Patient engagement is what happens when someone actively participates in their own care as a patient. You could argue that patients can’t help but be engaged because whatever is happening is happening to them, but it’s a bit more than that. (Also that argument gets a bit existential.)

Both engagement and experience are important. With a crappy experience then people may not engage with you, your system, or their own health. This can be as simple as not being able to find parking. Good experience is the pre-requisite for engagement, but it is not engagement on its own. Engagement happens when you empower the patient and treat them as an active participant in their care.

There’s a continuum from experience to engagement, and often the same digital tools represent both, although both also include the physical experience, and both will help you attract and retain patients but more importantly engagement will also help improve outcomes.

If you’re interested in this topic, this article in NEJM Catalyst from Adrienne Boissy, MD of Cleveland Clinic does much better job than I do of explaining it.

Posted in: Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, M-health, patient engagement, Patient Satisfaction

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Consumerization Is Not A Bad Word

When you say consumerization, especially with respect to healthcare, people often jump to conclusions about valuing service over substance. There’s a lot of confusion over the meaning of consumerization, whether it’s possible in healthcare, and whether it’s happening. I recently had the privilege of speaking at the Washington State Health Exchange’s Annual Board Retreat on this topic. (Perhaps you saw it, the event was live-streamed to the public. 😉 ). The Health Exchange is pondering questions of how to attract new users, how to better serve their needs, and how to make the experience more useful and engaging. And, this my friends is consumerism, or at least one facet of it: user focus, better service, understanding needs. Doesn’t sound bad at all, does it? In fact, it sounds like something any good service or organization should be doing for its customers.

Consumer-centered pain scale. Baymax from Disney's Big Hero Six

Consumer-centered pain scale. Baymax from Disney’s Big Hero Six

And there’s that word, customers. That’s the debate. Are patients really customers? Not really, often they don’t have a choice, either because of their insurance coverage or from the necessity of an emergency where decisions are often made for patients. However, patients, and everyone else for that matter (except people in North Korea), are consumers, and they judge healthcare experiences both service delivery and technology as consumers. Think of it like this, your patients will judge your experiences through the lens of any other service they’ve interacted with. Fair or not, they will do that. Why do they do this? It’s human nature to remember positive experiences and try to seek them out. Although there’s another reason: high-deductibles are also driving people to examine where they are spending their healthcare dollars, and they evaluate based on outcomes, convenience, and the overall experience.

Since healthcare technology is my area of expertise, let’s stick to that rather than critiquing hospital parking, food, or beds. (Although these are often things that impact HCAHPS scores.) Consumerization when applied to health IT means that patients have an expectation that any technology you ask them to engage with, and especially technology you ask them to install on their own devices, will be as usable as any other app they’ve installed.

Consumerization also impacts internal health IT. Doctors were the first wave, when they pushed using their own devices to text with other providers within the hospital setting. (In IT this is often referred to as “bring your own device.”) The pager became obsolete and replaced with our own always on, always connected mobile devices. (Sadly, the fax machine, like a cockroach, keeps hanging in there.)

Patients are also bringing their own devices, and using them in waiting rooms and hospital beds. We’ve had patients reporting their own symptoms using Wellpepper interactive care plans from their hospital beds. This presents an opportunity to engage, and at a low cost: they are supplying the hardware. The final wave of consumerism will happen when clinicians and other hospital staff also demand convenient, usable, and well-designed tools for clinical care.

Consumerization is late to arrive in healthcare IT. Other industries have already reached tail end of this wave, and have already realized that technology needs to be easy to use, accessible, interoperable, and designed with the end-user foremost. However, consumerization is coming, both from internal staff demands and patients. Technology, healthcare IT, and the people that build and support it are facing scrutiny, being held to higher standards, and becoming part of the strategic decision-making healthcare organizations. This is a great thing, as it will result in better clinician and patient experiences overall, because at its core consumerism is about expecting value, and ease and getting it, and who doesn’t want that?

Posted in: Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, Interoperability, M-health, Outcomes, Patient Satisfaction

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Realizing Value In Patient Engagement

Patient engagement has moved from a theory to a reality, which means that evaluation criteria as evolved as well. It also means that instead of the early pilots where innovative organizations intuitively took the leap because helping patients self-manage just made sense, for enterprise-wide deployments questions of return-on-investment, and where and how to realize value are crucial.

Our customers are realizing value in 3 key areas:

Improving patient outcomes and satisfaction. This is practically a table stakes issue. If a solution doesn’t improve outcomes and patient satisfaction, don’t deploy it. We work closely with researchers, and analyze our own data, and in a randomized clinical study conducted by Boston University’s Center for Neurorehabiltation, people with Parkinson Disease showed positive physical outcomes and 9/10 patient satisfaction. We see these high levels of patient satisfaction in studies, and in real-world patient scenarios.

“This program has empowered me, lifted my morale, renewed my hope, and given me tools. Thank you for helping me regain my life!”

Parkinson’s patient, Boston University Center for Neurorehabilitation

Increasing access to care. Time is money, especially for specialists. We’ve been able to decrease follow-up visits by 10% because patients were able to self-manage. This means that the specialists had more appointments available for new patients, and were able to decrease wait times for referrals.

Decreasing and avoiding costs.  Through our automated message classifier, we’ve determined that 70% of patient messages in the system do not require a follow up. This decreases the need for unnecessary outreach to patients, while patients still stay on track. Other hard cost reductions are in the administration of patient reported outcome surveys—automating these processes deliver better completion rates, and frees your staff for more important tasks.

Possibly the most important way to decrease costs is to decrease readmissions. By analyzing patient-reported symptoms post-surgery, we are able to determine patterns that indicate a higher risk of readmission. Catching these issues early can prevent readmissions and deliver better outcomes.

You should see value in each of these three areas when deploying an enterprise-wide patient engagement solution. However, where you see the most value depends on a number of factors: 1. Your practice and reimbursement model. 2. The patient population. 3 The service line. We’ve found however, that one area of value will be the tipping point for either your organization or your patients.

For a consultation on return on investment and value of patient engagement, contact sales@wellpepper.com.

Posted in: patient engagement, Patient Satisfaction

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Comprehensiveness + Comprehension: effect of technology on discharge instructions

Whether patients are leaving the emergency department or being released from an extensive hospitalization, they need discharge instructions in order to solve their initial problem, better self-manage, and coordinate the appropriate follow-up. These instructions are typically written and are also articulated to the patient. We know that due to varying levels of health literacy, or the degree to which individuals have the capacity to process and understand basic health information needed to make appropriate health decisions [1], a patient is especially vulnerable during the process of discharge in terms of overall understanding and appropriate follow through. Can technology empower patients operating from a position of weakness in this transition?

  • According to the 2013 study entitled Information Technology Improves Emergency Department Patient Discharge Instructions Completeness and Performance on a National Quality Measure, researchers were able to show that electronic discharge instructions were more complete than paper-based information. The electronic discharge instructions had 97.3% compliance to a CMS quality measure while the paper-based discharge instructions were at 46.7%. This compliance is more than doubled with electronic discharge documentation (relative risk 2.09, 95%CI 1.75-2.48) [2]; however, there were no statistically significant differences in documentation of patient care instructions nor diagnosis between paper-based and electronic formats.
  • In a 2015 study entitled Readability of patient discharge instructions with and without the use of electronically available disease-specific templates, patient readability of a web based discharge module, which has diagnosis-specific templated discharge instructions, was assessed. Patients had better readability with electronic templated discharge instructions than those that were clinician-generated (p< .001). Furthermore, the primary reason doctors created discharge instructions by themselves was due to lack of disease specific template availability.

The most exciting time in medicine is now, where the application of information technology during vulnerable transitions can provide a patient more complete information that he/she can actually act upon. Taken together, these studies suggest enhancement of both comprehensiveness and comprehension; the former very important for the primary care physician who will assume care of this patient status post hospitalization and the latter important for the patient’s overall health literacy necessary for improvement. The next logical extension is to have web based applications assist a patient in the transition from the hospital to the outpatient setting, something that innovative companies like Wellpepper are doing.

References

  1. Nielsen-Bohlman, L.; Panzer, AM.; Kindig, DA. Health literacy: A prescription to end confusion. National Academies Press; Washington, DC: 2004.
  2. Bell EJ et al. Information Technology Improves Emergency Department Patient Discharge Instructions Completeness and Performance on a National Quality Measure: A Quasi-Experimental Study. Appl Clin Inform. 2013; 4(4): 499–514.
  3. Mueller SK et al. Readability of patient discharge instructions with and without the use of electronically available disease-specific templates. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2015; 22(4): 857-63.

Posted in: Healthcare Technology, Patient Satisfaction

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Exposure at a digital health startup

Physicians typically endure years of training by being put in a pressure cooker with no safety valve. They persist through sheer brute force and discipline within a highly regulated, high barrier to entry industry. The high stakes culture of medicine often lends to emotional immaturity and an inability to relate to most of the world around. Ironic and sad, given that one of the core principles in patient care is to demonstrate empathy towards the human condition. The information asymmetry that exists between patient and provider further puts more onus on the physician to have character and compassion. In addition to being out of touch with reality, physicians also grapple with the changing times. Technological advancements and accessibility of information through technology has influenced the way physicians learn and practice medicine. Physicians who are uncomfortable with technology tend to find it harder to keep up with the latest innovations and research that affects patient care.

I chose to do a rotation at a digital health startup because of the fear of being disconnected and clueless. Plus there are a few other beliefs of mine that I wanted to more fully explore during my time at Wellpepper:

  • Understanding patients in the aggregate is important. Understanding what patients want, feel, and expect is not just an interesting data set, but is essential for me in providing optimal care. While a physician still deals with a patient one on one and the experience is influenced by patient characteristics, knowing the context in where the patient is coming from provides the best chance for an optimal encounter.
  • Technology that enhances the patient-physician relationship is a top priority. The physicians I have respected the most have tier 1 communication skills and relationships with their patients. A good relationship can literally bend the physics of the situation (e.g. that’s why doctors who have good bedside manner don’t get sued).
  • Technology that promotes value based care is the current landscape. It is no longer around the corner. Every stakeholder in healthcare is interested in improvement of care from an outcomes and cost perspective. Current practices in medicine are rapidly adapting in order to keep up.
  • Betting against yourself is a great strategy for growth. Based on the culture of medicine, it has always been more important for me to implement care that is standardized and in service of saving a patient’s life rather than considering how he/she feels. Something as simple as a patient having to give five histories within the same hospital admission is normal to me and also has value due to the difficulties in eliciting accurate information. But what if I considered that a patient doesn’t want to hear the same question repeatedly and that ultimately effects his/her perception of care? What if their lives were saved but they didn’t believe that anyone truly cared for them in the hospitalization? Would this be a meaningful experience, or a shallow one sided win? Challenging the way I think, the way I was indoctrinated into thinking and behaving, is something I look forward to in this process.

In summary, I chose to do a rotation at Wellpepper because I have a growth mindset. I want to consciously be a part of the most exciting time in medicine, where the hard work of innovative and creative minds improve patient lives.

Posted in: Behavior Change, Healthcare motivation, patient engagement, Patient Satisfaction

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Home Sweet Home

Our goal at Wellpepper has always been to make sure patients have a top-notch experience with our Partners. What better experience can patients have than being in the comfort of their own home while rehabilitating from a joint replacement? An article was recently published in the New York Times that really hits home for us. Not only is in-home therapy more cost-effective than inpatient rehabilitation, but it significantly decreases the risk for adverse events.

More and more studies are showing that patients are generally happier and actually prefer being at home during their recovery from a joint replacement. A study published earlier this year in Australia found that inpatient rehabilitation did not provide an increase in mobility when compared to patients participating in a monitored home-based program.

Don’t get me wrong, inpatient rehabilitation is extremely valuable to have. In fact, we are starting to see more patients interact with their Wellpepper digital treatment plans in an inpatient setting and then continuing once discharged home.

Rehabilitation is not a one size fits all solution and much depends on a patient’s general health and attitude. The ability to be flexible and innovative in providing treatment is crucial when evaluating a patient’s needs for rehabilitation. With Wellpepper digital treatment plans, we enable health systems to bring the expertise and personalization of inpatient rehabilitation to their patient’s mobile devices, so that they may recover from their surgery in the comfort of their own homes.

Posted in: Behavior Change, Healthcare motivation, Healthcare Technology, patient engagement, Patient Satisfaction, Physical Therapy

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Wellpepper attends Episodes of Care Summit at Cambia Grove

Last week, Wellpepper CEO, Anne Weiler and I attended a half-day Episodes of Care Summit put on by Cambia Grove. It was great to see payers, providers and technologists come together to focus on initiatives that directly impact the patient experience. Here are some of our takeaways:

Horizon BCBS of New Jersey is an episodes of care pioneer

Focus on retroactive bundles before proactive. Episodes of care and bundled payments are often used interchangeably. An episode of care typically refers to a payment made retrospectively while a bundled payment typically refers to a payment made prospectively. Horizon BCBS of New Jersey first launched retrospective pilots in 2010 (total hip and total knee replacements). In this model, savings are shared with the physician or practice once quality benchmarks and patient experience thresholds are met and costs come in below budget. After 7 years of scale and success, Horizon is now launching more immediate, risk-based, prospective initiatives in 2017.

Drive success through quality. Horizon piloted with over 200 quality metrics with member-specific, risk-adjusted financial targets. Metrics are key in driving success. Identify 3-5 standard quality metrics and 2-4 episode-specific metrics.

Community involvement is imperative

It’s great to see continued focus on community involvement in innovation and healthcare. The Bree Collaborative is an excellent example of bringing together community and industry leaders to identify and promote strategies that directly impact patient outcomes, quality and affordability. Wellpepper firmly believes in the work that the Bree Collaborative is doing. In fact, our total joint and lumbar fusion care plans follow Bree recommendations.

The Episodes of Care Summit held breakout sessions that mapped out the ideal episode of care/bundle experience through the lens of people, process and technology. Think of people, process and technology as a three-legged table. Remove one leg and the table falls. If the three legs are not the same size, the table does not function properly. Effort needs to be allocated equally across people, processes and technology to drive behavior change. Reimbursement seemed to take a precedence in every conversation rather than the patient’s needs or the provider’s care. Until this mindset is fixed, it’s hard to focus on what healthcare is really about. Dr. Hugh Stanley, from the Bree Collaborative did an excellent job bringing the focus of the conversation back to the patient.

Memorable quotes from breakout sessions:

  • “Patients need to be at the center of episodes of care.”
  • “We need to capture patient satisfaction in real time.”
  • “I’m blown away I can get more info on a dog bed than a provider.”
  • “We need to rebuild the patient deductible and copay mindset.”
  • “The payer community has a responsibility to share information to publicize data that drives provider readiness.”
  • “Creating episodes vs bundles benefits providers and ultimately patients.”

Posted in: Healthcare Policy, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, patient engagement, Patient Satisfaction, Uncategorized

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The Disneyfication or Consumerization of Healthcare

I had the privilege of participating in my second panel hosted by Curtis Kopf, Senior VP of Customer Experience at Premera, at the recent Washington State of Reform Health Policy Conference. Curtis was formerly of Alaska Airlines and is new enough to healthcare to be able to point out idiosyncrasies of healthcare, and he led the audience, my fellow panelists, Elizabeth Fleming, VP of Group Health Cooperative, Tabitha Dunn, VP of Customer Experience at Concur, and me on a rollicking discussion of who excels in customer service, how to emulate consumer organizations, and how not to emulate consumer organizations.

I enjoy panels as they afford the opportunity to evaluate my own perspective based on the insights of others usually in extremely different roles. This panel was unique as we represented payer, provider, employer, and digital health/technology: practically a cross-section of the industry.

Both over coffee prior to the panel and on the panel, we talked a lot about the influence and guiding principles of Disney as the quintessential consumer experience focused organization. Tabitha had just returned from a holiday trip with her family, and Curtis had the opportunity to attend the Disney Institute for customer service training during his time at Alaska airlines.

Before getting into the takeaways from our experiences and thinking about what to take away from Disney, we started the panel by discussing why consumerization was a topic in healthcare at all.

A number of factors have converged to drive consumer or patient-centric approach we now see in healthcare:

  • 20M newly insured people offered an opportunity that brought new players, like Walgreens, Walmart, Medical One, and Zoom+ into primary and urgent care market
  • On demand services like Uber and constant communication through messaging apps, and the ubiquity of smart phones created an expectation of healthcare on demand.
  • High-deductibles made consumers evaluate more closely how they were spending their healthcare dollars
  • Getting over the hump of initial EMR integration made physicians ask why they couldn’t have consumer-quality tools to do their jobs

Regardless of what happens with the ACA with the incoming administration, we don’t expect many of these things to change, although there may be more competition in primary care as these new players put pressure on incumbents.

How do you react when there is more competition? A customer-centric approach is a good place to start, which brings us back to Disney. As a child, I did a school project on Walt and his empire, but have to admit I didn’t know as much about them as my fellow panelists.

Here are my key takeaways from the discussion:

  • Disney is extremely consistent, which provides autonomy for their staff to make good decisions within the 4 values that Disney holds. Although you may think that the brand is the highest value, it is actually safety. A Disney cast member is allowed to break character only when safety is at risk. Consider this as you think about the healthcare experience: safety and good experience are not mutually exclusive.
  • If you’re going to try to emulate an experience from another industry, make sure you fully understand that company’s or industries core values. The that resulted when executives managed to the HCHAPS survey: Nurses were given scripts to follow rather than making decisions, which is the exact opposite of how Disney actually operates. Nurses should have been given autonomy to work within the values of the health system and the needs of the patient.
  • Disney has an entire underground operations center that supports what guests experience above ground. This supports both the safety but also the experience of the park. Curtis toured this facility while at the Disney Institute. What struck me the most about this was the realization that the hospital has no back-office. We’ve met with administrators in their offices that are converted hospital rooms. First, think how uninspiring this is for employees as an office. Second, these are usually on active hospital floors, so patients experience random water cooler conversation as they are in care.

As an outsider to healthcare, it took me a while to get used to going to the hospital to have meetings, and it still makes me uncomfortable to pass patients waiting in hospital beds in the hallway while I’m going to negotiate a contract. This lack of a “back-office” impacts patients and staff alike, and really extends to every patient interaction. The EMR is essentially back-office software. Why hospitals run their patient-facing experience from this essentially line of business technology is beyond me.

Although at Wellpepper our client is the health system, our most important user is the patient. We want to ensure that the patient experience is as good or better than any popular-patient facing applications, and represents how the patient understands their care. As a result, we are able to enable patients to participate, and self-manage, and still deliver valuable information to help the internal health system operations center be more effective, which is why I’m always happy to talk about the consumer experience in healthcare.

 

Posted in: Behavior Change, Patient Advocacy, Patient Satisfaction, Seattle

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Not Patient Engagement with Jan Oldenburg

When it comes to talking about patient engagement, nationally recognized consumer health information strategy leader Jan Oldenburg of Participatory Health Consulting chooses to delve deeper into what it means to engage patients in healthcare. With her wide range of experience, she focuses on helping organizations create and implement strategies related to patient/provider engagement and activation with a focus on digital health technology.

In this podcast, Ms. Oldenburg addresses a variety of topics ranging from shifting the healthcare mindset to utilizing digital tools to assist physicians.

Also check out more of Jan Oldenburg’s webinars: “Patient Engagement: Creating Digital Programs that Work.”

Posted in: Behavior Change, Healthcare Technology, patient engagement, Patient Satisfaction

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Justin Sledge Transforms Senior Care at Aegis Living

When it comes to delivering quality care, Chef Justin Sledge rebels against the idea of senior homes being “retirement homes” by providing great nutrition and interactive design.

Justin aims to combine compassion and creativity to provide the best care for senior residents at Aegis Living. The chef has tremendous influence in the senior home’s decision-making process in nutrition and design due to his wide range of experience and passion to help senior residents. While it is often believed for senior care homes to be quiet and slow, Aegis Living – under Justin’s guidance – blossomed into lively space for the community.

“I believe the best treatment and care is through spending time with loved ones,” says Justin, chef of Aegis Living for five years. “We want to make this a place where everyone wants to visit.”

1028161200bAegis Living has several locations throughout the west coast – each with a different decorative theme, but same core values.  Justin is currently at the helm of the Victorian themed Aegis Living’s kitchen. Every detail that goes into the many floors such intricate dining room, archaic-style movie theater, and hand-painted pizza kitchen spoke volumes about the staff’s care and compassion towards the residents.

The chef of twenty-three years has made the decision to switch from restaurants to senior care and has been there ever since. Justin was also known for baking treats for Seattle’s charitable Queen Bee Café where profits are donated to the city’s selected charities.

I had the privilege to be Justin’s guest as he gave me a tour of what appeared to be a magnificent manor located in Seattle’s Queen Anne area. The windows are wide with a perfect view of the soccer field next door where children often come to play – and visit Aegis Living for tours and activities with the senior residents. A lavish private dining room seats sixteen guests and serves lobster for family holiday dinners. One floor hosts a game room with a handmade painted golf course for residents to play with visiting grandchildren. It seems the entire home was brimming with delightful activities for the senior residents and their guests to enjoy.1028161225b

At the large kitchen, the chef presented the menu of the day – Alaskan salmon, classic Caesar salad, and grilled beef tenderloin – all made with fresh local ingredients. Justin oversees the menus throughout all the Aegis Living homes.

Justin lead me through the Memory Care floor with a multitude of family paintings such as a grandfather laughing with his grandson on a fishing trip and an elderly couple smiling and walking together. He explained that photos like these help trigger good memories for seniors and improves their mood. All the décor and structure are carefully chosen to elicit positive emotions and memories in senior residents. There were also multiple studios for crafts and leatherwork, lavish salons and a beautiful pool. There were even rooms decked out to look like a jungle with screens that play hiking and wildlife documentaries for seniors to calm themselves from anxiety.

The tremendous amount of compassion in each care is what makes Aegis Living stand out most. There is a large social aspect that heavily influenced the design of Aegis Living homes and encourages frequent interactions with friends and family.

Lastly, I was able ask Justin a few questions about his work with Aegis.

 

Q: Why all the focus on design and aesthetics?

JS: Art helps to bring out positive emotions in our residents. It is not a place to put away some of the most important people in our lives who have helped shaped our future. We want to make it as nice an experience as we can for the residents.

 

Q: Why did you decide to choose Aegis Living over your previous career as a restaurant chef?

JS: This was the best decision of my life. I was a chef for twenty-three years and it was like Hell’s Kitchen. The job was demanding and the hours even more so – I hardly had time to see my kids. There would be countless weekends where I had to skip out on ballet recitals and family picnics because of work. This is much more fulfilling and I’ve never been happier. Here, I get the best of both worlds where I have more time to see my kids and I still get to do what I love – being a chef.

 

Q: How do you deal with competitors?

JS: We hope to inspire competitors to do what we do. We hope they try to recreate the same level of care towards their senior residents as well. This might mean switching to more local fresh ingredients or quality of life programs and activities.

 

Q: What are the next steps for you and for Aegis Living?

JS: We are expanding and building six more senior care homes throughout the west coast these next few years. I will be there to help train new staff and help plan everything from what the place should look like to what’s on today’s menu for our senior residents.

Posted in: Aging, patient engagement, Patient Satisfaction, Seattle

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Let’s Talk About Poop

The ups and downs of the first two keynotes at the 2016 Mayo Transform Conference were mirrored in the session The Challenges of Change which highlighted the story of Cologuard. Cologuard is a joint venture between Mayo Clinic and Exact Sciences whose sole goal for the venture was to create a less invasive way for early detection of colon cancer. They succeeded in this goal and were also the first product to receive FDA clearance and CMS reimbursement on the first day. Cologuard launched to much fanfare on national news.

Did they knock it out of the park? Yes. Are they wildly successful today? No. Why? Keep reading and I’ll tell you.

First let’s start with the problem. Colonoscopies, while effective, are not favored by most people. The preparation is extremely uncomfortable, they require general or partial anesthesia, and people need to take time off work. In addition, in some remote communities, it is difficult to get access to care from specialists. As a result, people put off or skip getting colonoscopies and by the time cancer is detected it is often too late. A clinical challenge with colonoscopies is that they are good at detecting left-side tumors but not right side tumors, the incidence of which has been increasing since the 1980s.

CologuardCologuard solves all of these problems. The test is designed to be used at home and is basically a nicely-packaged stool collection kit combined with specialized testing at Cologuard’s lab. No time, and no procedure required for an individual. As well, Cologuard is more effective than colonoscopy at detecting right side tumors, and comparably effective at left-side tumors. Since it’s a home collection, and all tests are processed at Cologuard, access to care is not an issue either and it’s widely used in the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, which was presented as a success story.

Sounds great, yes? Everyone (aka people who at some point will need a colonoscopy or have already had one) I talked to about it thought so. So what’s the problem? As usual, what’s preventing this innovation is an issue of reimbursement. Colonoscopies are a profit center for healthcare organizations, and they are effective, so this isn’t necessarily a case of a better technology losing. It’s the case of a more patient-friendly technology losing, except in Alaska where there really isn’t a viable option for delivering colonoscopies. As well in violation of CMS, some payers are refusing to cover Cologuard.

Cologuard CEO Kevin Conroy was evasive when asked about pricing, which is more expensive than other screenings but pales in comparison to the coimg_0060sts of a procedure that requires booking an operating room and an anesthesiologist.

Let’s hope that a shift to value-based care changes this. From a patient’s perspective it can’t come soon enough.

PS Apparently a lot of single Cologuard kits are being ordered by cardiologists and other specialists. Conroy thinks they’ve recognized the value and are using the kits on themselves. Harrumph.

Posted in: Clinical Research, Health Regulations, Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare Legislation, Outcomes, Patient Advocacy, patient engagement, Patient Satisfaction

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Cardiac rehab is effective, but patient-centered care needs to actually be patient-centered

With CMS’s new Cardiac Bundle, cardiac care (especially post-acute care), is the next service line to go under the microscope. As with total joint, variations in outcomes and costs are often seen in post-acute care so looking at how that care is delivered is key. For any bundle to be successful, engaging patients and ensuring their participation in follow up is a driver of success.

I have to admit, I haven’t read the bundle specs yet, just the news on the bundle. According to Becker’s Hospital Review’s “10 things to know about CMS’ new mandatory cardiac bundle”, the bundle includes provisions to test cardiac rehabilitation services, with 36 sessions available over 36 weeks. However, according to this article from NPR, although cardiac rehabilitation is proven to be effective, most people don’t participate. If you read through the comments on the NPR article (ignoring the trolls of course), you’ll start to see the reasons: cardiac rehabilitation care is built around the needs of the people providing the rehabilitation, not the patients.

From our experiences delivering post-acute care plans, as well as talking to payers and providers we’ve learned a few reasons why patients don’t follow up with their outpatient care:

  • Distance: In cardiac cases, patients are taken to the closest hospital, but this may not be the closest to their home or work. In other post-acute scenarios, they may have gone to a center of excellence that is also at distance.
  • Time commitment: These programs often require multiple days of treatment a week. Not everyone has the flexibility to take off work.
  • Timing: Programs are usually offered during 9 to 5, to accommodate the needs of the providers. Patients might prefer evening or weekend programs. We talked to one provider that focuses on lower income patients. People in hourly wage jobs don’t get to choose when they take breaks and their breaks are usually 15 minutes, and maybe 30 minutes for lunch. It’s next to impossible for them to attend in-person sessions.
Francis Ying/Kaiser Health News

Francis Ying/Kaiser Health News

The NPR article keyed in on these within the one example of Kathryn Shiflett (a healthcare worker herself!) whose distance and work hours (4:30 AM – 3:00 PM) pose a significant barrier: “She lives an hour away and is about to start a new job. Cardiac rehab classes happen Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with sessions at 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.”

While the bundles are definitely driving the right behavior in focusing on patient outcomes rather than procedures, they need to go further to promote patient-centered care. In this case, that should be testing new models like mobile health or community-based rehab programs that are adaptable to the unique needs of different patient groups.

Posted in: Adherence, Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare Legislation, Healthcare motivation, Healthcare transformation, Occupational Therapy, patient engagement, Patient Satisfaction, Rehabilitation Business, Uncategorized

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Intelligent Disruption in Healthcare

Two recent webinars tracking recent trends and outlooks on the future of digital health presented interesting perspectives on how the healthcare industry is evolving, but also trigger some concerns about such advancement. The first webinar, Digital Health Tech Vision 2016, hosted by Accenture Consulting, featured Kaveh Safavi, M.D, J.D. (Senior Global Managing Director of Accenture Health) and Jane Sarasohn-Kahn (Health Economist, Industry Advisor and blogger at Health Populi) addressing their prediction of the top five digital health trends in the coming year:

  • Intelligent Automation – the merger of humans and artificial intelligence in a health setting (citing an intriguing example of a company integrating AI into a therapy setting).
  • Liquid Workforce – technology enabling the application of healthcare across geographies.
  • Platform Economy – an economy based on multiple technologies to platform architectures that allow them to work together.
  • Digital Trust – the importance of ensuring patient information isn’t shared improperly by those who have legal access to it.
  • Predictable Disruption – industry leaders agree that the nature of healthcare services will change faster in the next ten years than the last thirty

The second webinar was the MobiHealth News Digital Health 2016 Midyear Review, featuring Brian Dolan (Editor-in-Chief of MobiHealthNews) and Ryan Beckland (CEO and Co-Founder of Validic), who spoke about the past year in digital health, including key acquisitions, policy news, and the importance of patient generated health data in the future.

Both webinars addressed the fact that there is significant consumer demand for digital health innovation. Patients want a more seamless and efficient experience that gives them a better “life-health balance” and does so inexpensively. From the physician point of view, MobiHealthNews pointed out that doctors have about seven minutes on average to spend in person with a patient, most of which is spent doing data entry on a computer, so physicians are looking for solutions that enable them to be more “present during care” and not miss out on any important clinical information. As for healthcare systems, the Accenture webinar touched on the “Predictable Disruption” trend, noting a recent poll showing 86% of healthcare executives feeling pressured to “disrupt” their business model or face disruption from the outside (e.g. companies like Wal-Mart, Apple, Google, and financial service firms are entering the healthcare space).

This high demand for digital health solutions is certainly good news for any companies operating in the space, especially in light of regulations pushing the industry more towards value based care. But is it good news for patients?

With such multipronged pressure facing hospital systems, a concern might be that in trying to keep up with the industry, they too quickly install digital health solutions that aren’t adequately designed for interoperability with other technologies and EMRs and in doing so, could make the patient experience worse. The American Medical Association CEO recently commented on the influx of “ineffective” and “mixed quality” digital health products, going as far as comparing them to modern-day snake oil, and Dr. Sachin Jain, the CEO of CareMore, said that most remote monitoring solutions are not currently working because they aren’t adequately integrated into a system of care, and are just “bolted on” to a current system.

In such a fragmented market, it will be important for healthcare systems to take the time to make decisions based on how well these solutions can integrate with the current systems and EMRs (which aren’t patient-facing, but need to integrate with these new technologies for a seamless patient experience), work with other digital products within the system (achieving the platform economy mentioned by Accenture), and enhance the patient and physician experience and interaction. Perhaps then the industry can claim a new trend: intelligent disruption.

Posted in: Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, Interoperability, Patient Satisfaction

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Taking the Fear Out of Total Joint Replacement

I’m not quite ready for a joint replacement but many of our Wellpepper users are, so I found myself spending a recent Saturday morning at a session called “Taking The Fear Out of Total Joint Replacement.” This patient-focused half-day workshop was free to potential patients and sponsored by an organization called SwiftPath that specializes in minimally invasive outpatient total joint procedures. Total joint procedures are feeling the crunch of reimbursement changes in the Affordable Care Act, and one way to lower costs is to perform them in an outpatient facility. However, due to the minimized time an outpatient candidate would spend under the supervision of a doctor, they must be highly engaged in their self-care efforts, including losing weight or quitting smoking if necessary. With people having replacements at younger ages, and often having both knees and hips replaced, the need for engaged patients continues to grow.

I attended the workshop to get an idea of the patient’s perspective on the information and on the procedure. Health systems frequently offer Total Joint Bootcamp but this was intended as an introductory session for people who may be undecided about getting a replacement. The sessions included information about good candidates for minimally invasive total joint replacement, expectations of patients and their caregivers for participation, learning, and recovery, and an overview of the physical therapy involved. The host for the day was Dr. Craig McAllister who is one of the principals of the SwiftPath method. With the exception of the initial opening sequence of surgeons talking about the effictiveness of the methodology, the day was primarily patient focused, starting with risk stratification as a means to determining the best candidates for surgery, through tracking patient reported outcomes, and ensuring patients and caregivers were equal participants in care. There was also a session on determining how a patient pays. Dr. McAllister noted at one point that this entire patient-centered approach was completely different than what he was taught in medical school.

Two of the most powerful sessions were also patient-focused. The first was a patient panel consisting of an OR nurse who had a recent knee replacement and biked to the session, a few people who had experienced both in-patient and outpatient replacements, and one who was not originally a candidate for surgery because he was a smoker. While quitting is a requirement for the surgery, he initially didn’t want to until he realized that he would lose his opportunity to have Dr. McAllister perform the surgery, concluding that he needed the surgeon more than the surgeon needed him: “If I didn’t do what he said, the next patient in line would.” I thought this was a really interesting approach to motivating change: be inspiring and selective, not punitive or even threatening. All of the participants talked about having low pain levels, and some not using the prescribed opiates. As part of the program, Dr. McAllister closely tracked their post-surgical pain, nausea, and opiate usage. One patient disclosed that he drove himself to his first post-surgery physical therapy appointment, and although this was not encouraged, his PT actually gave him the all-clear to drive home.

The final session of the day was possibly the most striking. It featured a police officer and the founder of a drug addiction non-profit, Amber’s Hope talking about opiate addiction. This session was sobering, both from the impact of the drugs but also because measures to control these dangerous substances have actually exacerbated the problem. Since opiates cannot be prescribed by phone, and post-surgery patients are not mobile enough to visit a physician, get a prescription, and take it to a pharmacy, physicians need to prescribe what they believe will be enough pills prior to surgery, which can lead to leftover pills. Most non-prescribed usage of opiates comes from these leftover pills, which means that educating patients on how to dispose of them is key. In Kirkland, Washington where this session took place, for example, the only way to dispose of them is to take them to the local police station. (FDA recommendations for disposal of prescription drugs can be found here.) At Wellpepper, we track the use of both over-the-counter and prescribed painkillers as part of treatment plans. We do this for two reasons: first, it’s a valuable piece of information about a patient’s pain levels and recovery time, and second, too often these pills are prescribed as needed and usage isn’t monitored, leading to a nationwide opiate problem.

I attended this event so I could better understand the people who will eventually use our software. I learned a lot more about changes in care delivery, and got some great ideas for continuing to engage patients that you’ll see in future updates to our products.

Posted in: Behavior Change, Opioids, Outcomes, Patient Advocacy, patient engagement, Patient Satisfaction, Physical Therapy, Seattle

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The Consumerization of Healthcare

While Healthcare is sometimes criticized as being behind other industries when it comes to technology, being behind this can have advantages. The first is that early adopters in other industries have worked the kinks out of new models like Saas or not-new models like single-sign-on. The second is that you can understand how technology and usage might evolve by seeing what happened in other industries, and the third is that you can skip steps in technical evolution and potentially move faster. This is what’s happening with the Consumerization of Healthcare IT, as evidenced by the proliferation of mobile and consumer-facing health technologies, topics at a few key healthcare events I’ve attended lately, and conversations I’ve had with senior healthcare leaders.

The concept of consumerization is the idea that consumer perceptions, expectations, and consumer technology can have an impact on an industry. This sometimes results in direct applications, like “it’s Uber for ambulances” or “Netflix for CPE credits” but more frequently it’s a subtle shift in thinking.

When I was working at Microsoft preparing for the launch of Office 2010, the consumerization of IT was a major theme of the release. We talked about the influence of the expectations of end-users on the tools they used every day: users were always on and always connected and they expected the same of their companies. We talked about the impact of BYOD on security and also the expectations to be able to communicate and collaborate from anywhere. The same is happening in healthcare today. Patients and physicians alike want to be able to communicate in the ways they communicate elsewhere and wonder why they can’t. They want applications that are as easy to understand and interact with as those on their phones.

One health system CIO I spoke to recently envisioned providing a “productivity stipend” and enabling all his staff to use whatever type of computer and smartphone they wanted. He would make sure they kept patient-health information secure but they would be responsible for choosing and maintaining their devices. Where BYOD was seen as a threat back in 2010, it’s now an opportunity. (I checked in with some of my former colleagues and they are seeing BYOD for phones but not computers, so this CIO is ahead of the industry pack and could even be seen as an example of skipping a step.)

When we started Wellpepper a little over three years ago, people commented on how patient-friendly and patient-focused our software was, and how it was a shame because it didn’t really matter what patients thought or what the patient experience was. (Not everyone said this, but we did hear it more than you’d hope.) Today, leaders in the industry are laser-focused on the patient/consumer experience. There are a number of reasons for that, which are both carrots and sticks.

  • Meaningful Use, while not always driving the best technology, has put an emphasis on communicating electronically with patients
  • High-deductible plans have made patients into consumers, carefully evaluating the service and value they can get for their healthcare dollars
  • New technology players like ZocDoc with online scheduling and MDLive with telemedicine delivered at Walgreens have trained people to expect on-demand services
  • New care delivery players like Iora and Zoom+ have set expectations for wellness and preventative care, and have attracted healthcare professionals who want to practice differently
  • We are all consumers. These supercomputers in our pockets and the constant connection and sharing they provide, and the ease of use of the applications that run on them have trained us to expect the same in our healthcare whether we are patients or providers.

At two recent conferences, I participated in conversations about the consumerization of healthcare service and tools. At the annual Health Evolution Partners Summit in Laguna Beach I had the opportunity to participate in a workshop where we were asked to imagine what it would be like if healthcare were run by customer-focused brands like Nordstrom, Amazon, Apple, and Uber for example.

@griotsyeye draws the consumer revolution in healthcare

@griotsyeye draws the consumer revolution in healthcare

At a local Seattle event hosted by the University of Washington Foster School of Business and sponsored by Providence Healthcare and Premera, I participated on a panel with Bill Frerichs, VP of Clinic Operations from Zoom+ and Paul Stoddart, VP of Marketing for Providence, and hosted by Curtis Kopf, VP of Customer Experience, Premera Blue Cross. We had all joined healthcare from other industries: Bill from running Target’s Store Operations and Paul from Microsoft, like me. We had all had personal experiences that had moved us into healthcare to try to change the system from within. Similar to many that choose healthcare as a career from day 1, we had become vocation-driven.

While it’s easy to come up with ideas for how healthcare can improve by looking at the customer focus from other industries as we did in these two sessions, for example, taking a concierge model like Nordstrom’s personal shopper or pattern-matching what’s important to each patient like Amazon’s “people like you also bought”, or using data to predict pregnancy like Target, it’s important to remember two things. First, if history of adoption of technology is any indicator, healthcare will evolve like other industries and will move to the cloud and more end-user and patient-friendly tools. It’s already happening. And second, that we need to remember the goals of healthcare while transferring best practices from other industries, and emulate only what’s best in healthcare settings: compassion and care, not greed and a ‘gig-based’ economy that is sometimes the focus in other industries. As well, while patients want to share data with their care teams, they want this data protected and used appropriately. Those who question the status quo, embrace change, and yet do it while remaining true to the ideals of healthcare should be the winners in this new consumerized world.

Posted in: Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation, M-health, patient engagement, Patient Satisfaction

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Every Patient Has a Story

I have just returned from my first Beryl Institute Patient Experience Conference 2016 (PX2016), and I’m inspired. At Wellpepper, we are focused on empowering the patient to feel ownership and accountability to participate in their healthcare journey. The Beryl Institute and their members are doing the same and it was great to connect with so many like-minded people. The PX2016 conference is just one way they bring together this community.

PX2016 is 6 years young and attended by mostly caregivers, nurses, doctors, regular people who were touched by a personal health experience and now are in the field, and patients. With only 1000 attendees, it’s possible to form relationships. There was lots of hugging, sharing, pictures and overall excitement to be in Dallas. I met several newbies and like me, they were inspired too.

The conference opened up with a real life patient story. Les, a heart attack survivor, told his story of how he was participating in a sculling exercise and went into cardiac arrest in the middle of the water. The following chain of events happened that allowed him to be standing in front of us to tell his story. A retired nurse was on board and jumped into action to do CPR (she was filling in for her friend who couldn’t make it), the bowman had his cell phone to call 911 (typically he doesn’t bring it on the boat), another rower in his own boat happened to be near the dock gate and had a key to unlock the gate (usually locked because it was 5:30AM) which allowed the paramedics to get to Les. If there was one break in that chain, Les would not be with us. He went on to share his experience about his care at UCLA Medical Center and how every touch point from the people on the boat, to paramedics, to the care team made a difference in his recovery. By this time, there was not a dry eye in the place. It was all about why we in this profession of healthcare really do want to make a difference in the patient experience.

This lead to the theme that every patient has a story. From the other keynotes to the sessions I attended, this theme was pervasive. The focus of PX 2016 is to share stories, best practices and ideas on how to bring together interactions, culture and perceptions across the continuum of care.

In the session, Removing Complexity from the Post-Acute Care Patient (one of our passions at Wellpepper), it became clear that the long term care model needs to be reinvented for simplicity. True simplicity comes from matching the patient’s experience with the patient’s expectations. As an example, The New Jewish Home is renaming its post-acute rehabilitation to The Rapid Recovering Center which supports setting a different tone for the patient and ultimately in their experience. When a patient is sent to a post-acute rehabilitation center it can suggest a long and difficult recovery. But, naming it the Rapid Recovery Center aligns with the patient’s expectation of wanting to get better as soon as possible.

Another session that hit close to Wellpepper’s core values was how University of Chicago puts family and patients first in their patient experience strategy. Enhancing Patient Experience and Engagement through Technology Innovation by Sue Murphy, RN, Executive Director- Patient Experience and Engagement Program and Dr. Alison Tothy, Associate CMO – Patient Experience and Engagement Program at University of Chicago suggest the ability to capture real-time opportunities for engaging patients in their care and in their service expectations with innovative technology and techniques can lead to overall happier patients. Such technologies like rounding, discharge call centers and interactive patient care have led to substantial outcome improvements. However, just implementing technology did not solve the patient experience challenge. A culture shift in the staff was required which inspired them focus on individualized care for each patient. Combining a culture shift with innovative technology has allowed the University of Chicago to increase patient satisfaction scores, reduce readmission rates and improve outcomes. Furthermore, leadership is engaged and excited about the power of technology to improve the patient experience.

To bring it to a close, we were inspired by another personal patient story from Kelly Corrigan. She is a New York Times best-selling author who shares her most personal stories, including her health challenges. She has had more than her share of health encounters between herself and her family. She read an excerpt from her book, The Middle Place, where her and her Dad where both diagnosed with cancer in the same year. It was a compassionate and funny rendition of when she just starting her chemotherapy sessions and her Dad came across country for support. She talked about how in the middle of crisis, magnificent can happen. She was amazed to witness how all the people around her, including herself, able to conform into the new reality – cancer. Although a happy ending for her, not so much for her father. He passed away last year. She emphasized how at the end of her father’s journey, she made a point to thank all the caregivers for they really did make a difference in a very difficult time. Then looking out at all of us in the audience at that moment, almost with a tone of authority, she challenged us to hold on to the feelings of why we went into healthcare.

For some of us, it was a personal experience. For others, it was the opportunity to make a difference. Regardless, as Kelly so eloquently put it, people want to feel as if they have been felt and be a good listener because every patient has a story.

Posted in: Behavior Change, chronic disease, Healthcare transformation, Managing Chronic Disease, patient engagement, Patient Satisfaction

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